Digital Infrastructure & USDOT SMART Grants

October 28, 2022

Last year, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law established the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grant program, providing funding for public agencies to deploy “smart” community technologies and systems aimed at improving transportation efficiency and safety. This purpose-driven approach to innovation targets real-world challenges where the use of new technologies and approaches can create public benefits.

The Open Mobility Foundation (OMFs)’s mission is to transform the way cities manage transportation infrastructure in the modern era using well-designed, open-source technology. We develop and steward tools like MDS and CDS that are integral to cities’ digital infrastructure and help dynamically manage mobility services and curb space. We also work to equip cities with the support and resources they need to implement these data standards and keep the information they handle safe and secure. As part of this work, the OMF is convening a cohort of public sector members to apply for SMART grants using a collaborative approach to a common problem: the need for better curb management to address congestion, safety, climate, equity, and economic development.

For agencies that are considering using MDS or CDS as part of their own SMART grant projects, or wish to work with the OMF as a project partner, read on for more resources and information.

DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE: A COMMON LANGUAGE

Cities want transportation systems that are safe, equitable, efficient, accessible, and sustainable – all while protecting the individual freedom and privacy of the traveling public. To create systems that can keep up with the rapid pace of change requires new tools and approaches. Governments must adopt some of the digital, data-driven, dynamic approaches that drive much of the evolution we are experiencing. For cities, curb users, mobility operators, and technology providers to deliver better outcomes, they need a common language.

While the goals of government are clear, the tools we’ve been using for the past 100 years aren’t well-adapted to today’s technology-driven mobility landscape. Core to the future of mobility is the development of a set of digital tools for public entities – like departments of transportation or metropolitan planning organizations – to manage the public right of way. These are part of our digital infrastructure; the tools that are necessary to enable the use of data, manage connected services, and build transportation systems in the modern era.

For example, the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) meets this need by serving as a widely-adopted, standardized means of digital communication between the public entities that manage our streets and sidewalks and the organizations that use them to provide transportation services. Similarly, the Curb Data Specification (CDS) meets the needs of cities by serving as a digital communication mechanism for public agencies to express static and dynamic regulations, measure activity at the curb, and develop policies that create more accessible, useful curbs for all. These tools are common languages, integral to our digital infrastructure.

 

INVESTING IN OPEN SOURCE TOOLS

Public agencies around the world are investing in digital infrastructure to better manage public space for the public good, including through new programs like USDOT’s SMART grant. But, unlike a traditional approach of investing in physical infrastructure like traffic signals or a bridge in one community, investing in open source digital infrastructure tools like MDS or CDS has the potential to benefit all communities that use the tool.

Open source is a key part of building trusted and effective digital infrastructure. Both MDS and CDS are freely available for all public agencies to use, allowing them to more seamlessly partner with operators and technology providers to manage public spaces. These tools are stewarded by the OMF and developed through an open source process. That process is led by municipalities across the country that are united in finding solutions to shared transportation challenges. Joined by experts, advocates, and other stakeholders, the OMF’s leaders work together through a proven governance structure that provides transparency, accountability, and incorporates the viewpoints and expertise from key groups and communities.

 

HOW MDS AND CDS APPLY TO SMART GRANT DOMAINS

Stage One of the USDOT SMART grant allows planning and prototyping a proof-of-concept that can move quickly and demonstrate capacity, awarding up to $2 million over 18 months. If applicants are awarded a Stage One grant, Stage Two allows implementation to scale prototypes to demonstrate benefits to the community, awarding up to $15 million over 36 months, opening next year. Both the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) and the Curb Data Specification (CDS) can support all of the USDOT’s eight tech areas (i.e. “domains”):

  1. Coordinated automation: MDS can facilitate the “use of automated transportation”
  2. Connected vehicles: MDS directly supports “vehicles that send and receive information regarding vehicle movements in the network”
  3. Intelligent, sensor-based infrastructure: CDS “allows sensors to collect and report real-time data to inform everyday transportation-related operations and performance“
  4. Systems integrations: Both CDS and MDS allow “integration of intelligent transportation systems with other existing systems and other advanced transportation technologies”
  5. Commerce delivery and logistics: CDS can directly help “efficient goods movement, … improve on-time pickup and delivery, … reduced fuel consumption and emissions”
  6. Leveraging use of innovative aviation technology: MDS supports three dimensional travel and could be expanded to support urban air modes
  7. Smart grid: MDS or CDS could be applied to “electric vehicle deployment, or freight or commercial fleet fuel efficiency”
  8. Smart technology traffic signals: MDS can facilitate the “use of connected vehicle technologies”

Per the SMART grant materials, applicants should address identified policy barriers, and clearly address data requirements. The USDOT is looking for innovative ideas in the transportation space, and MDS and CDS can help. Agencies collectively building on the OMF’s work allowing project scaling to multiple cities aligns with many of the SMART grant goals.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Both MDS and CDS are a key component of digital infrastructure and help cities digitize regulations and communicate with mobility operators and curb users. Browse the links below for more information about MDS, CDS, and the OMF:

Mobility Data Specification
About MDS
MDS Use Cases
Cities & Companies Using MDS
What’s Next for MDS: Developing Version 2.0
MDS GitHub Repository

Curb Data Specification
About CDS
CDS Use Cases
Cities & Companies Using CDS
CDS GitHub Repository

Open Mobility Foundation
About OMF
OMF FAQs
Why Open Source
About OMF’s Development Process

Have any questions? Drop us a line.

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