Greetings from the Mile High City!

When the Bronco’s won Super Bowl 50 last month, a million happy fans gathered downtown for a victory parade and rally in Civic Center Park. Transporting a million people around a city the size of Denver, in a matter of hours, is no easy task. That day saw the largest one-day total ridership in the 40 plus years of service by Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD). Light rail use was up 82% over a typical weekday. Though many people used mass transit, I-25, the main artery leading into downtown and other roads were still heavily congested.

This week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx gave Denver another reason to celebrate as he named Denver one of seven finalists in the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge.  Ok, we may not get a million people downtown to cheer on our city leaders as they vie for this coveted award. But, winning the $50 million grand prize would go a long way towards improving transportation and mobility for the 3 million Denver Metro area residents. Not to mention the 15 million people who visit each year.

Denver’s proposal is all about “connecting more with less”. The plan focuses on creating a more connected multi-modal system to connect residents, systems and infrastructure with technology and information to provide more flexible, affordable, and accessible transportation options and a higher quality of life.

So, what is a smart city? The Smart Cities Council says a smart city “uses information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance its livability, workability, and sustainability. And, also that a smart city “has digital technology embedded across all city functions.” Smart cities may digitize city services, public safety, healthcare, education, lighting, and so forth but transportation is at the heart of every smart city. It is hard to imagine a modern smart city without an intelligent transportation system of connected roadways, vehicles, mass transit, airports, stations and ports. Many cities exist today because of transportation and Denver is the city it is today, thanks to the arrival of the railroad in 1870, which literally saved it from demise.

According to the USDOT, the U.S. population is expected to grow by 70 million people over the next 30 years, making it imperative for cities to adapt and update their transportation systems – and soon! Americans already spend an average of 40 hours stuck in traffic each year, which makes digital network connectivity of roadway infrastructures even more critical for cities of the future.

Ninety-eight cities met the criteria for the USDOT Smart City Challenge, and 78 cities submitted proposals, far exceeding expectations. Secretary Foxx stated, “after an overwhelming response, we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

Smart City Challenge 7 finalists image - CopyThe other six finalists are: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA. All finalists will receive $100,000 to help fine tune their proposals before the winner is announced in June. You can be sure that some of the greatest minds in transportation will be  busy in each city with $50 million at stake.

Cisco has a presence in all seven of the finalist cities, with current deployments in place or through formal letters of support for the implementation of each city’s proposed plans for network connectivity.

Cisco’s robust portfolio of products forms the foundation for a secure end-to-end digital IP network for transportation. The Cisco IoT System, includes ruggedized switches, routers, wireless access points and high-definition video cameras designed to withstand harsh environments. Of course, it takes an integrated and sometimes diverse ecosystem to build a truly connected transportation infrastructure so Cisco also works closely with trusted industry-leading partners to complete the picture.

RTD bus in front of Denver’s historic Union Station. (This photo and title photo provided courtesy of Denver RTD)

Good luck to all – yes, even you Columbus. I don’t believe this lifelong Michigan Wolverine fan has ever said good luck to the Buckeyes.  But, the fact is, everyone wins when more smart cities and intelligent transportation systems are built.  On that note, I’ll end with Go Denver!

Learn more about the USDOT Smart City Challenge

Learn more about the Cisco Connected Roadways and Cisco Connected Mass Transit solutions

Watch the Cisco Connected Transportation and Smart Cities video



Barb Rigel

Marketing Manager

Internet of Things, Connected Transportation