Portland State to work with city of Portland as part of national 'Smart Cities' research initiative

Portland State University and the city of Portland will partner on a series of “smart city” projects over the next year as part of a national MetroLab Network initiative, announced at the White House on Monday, Sept. 14.

PSU and Portland are among 20 city-university pairings throughout the United States taking part in the initiative, in which partners will research, develop and deploy innovative technologies to address challenges facing the nation’s urban areas.

The White House statement about the MetroLab Network was part of a larger event announcing other smart cities programs being launched on the federal level. The Smart Cities Initiative will invest more than $160 million in federal research and leverage new technology innovations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of climate change and improving the delivery of city services.

The projects that Portland State and the city will focus on center around Portland’s mass-transit system, including a new bus rapid transit line along the Powell-Division corridor that Portland and TriMet plan to put in place in 2019. PSU researchers will work with the city and other partners to test air quality and traffic along the corridor using the latest sensor technology. They also will use sensors and traditional surveys to collect data showing how the new rapid transit line affects the character of neighborhoods it passes through. A third project will engage artists and educators to design lighted art installations at stations near PSU and along the Powell-Division corridor. 

One of the projects of the initiative involves deploying sensors to measure weather, air quality and noise along with traffic information. This information will be compared to data stored in Portal, TREC’s multimodal transportation data archive, allowing researchers to study correlations between air quality and the type and volume of traffic. Portal Director Kristin Tufte has been involved in this project since its inception and is also participating in an effort as part of the initiative looking at equity and socioeconomic consequences along the transit corridor. TREC researchers John MacArthur, Miguel Figliozzi, Linda George and David Maier are also involved in planning and research agenda building for the initiative.

 “Through its land-use, transportation and climate policies, Portland, in collaboration with PSU researchers, has become known as one of the nation’s greenest and most livable metropolitan areas,” said Jonathan Fink, PSU’s vice president for research. “Our participation with the City in the MetroLab Network will assure that our region remains on the forefront of urban innovation.”

The MetroLab Network will provide opportunities for the participating cities and universities to share information on the successes and challenges of their projects. By becoming part of MetroLab, the City of Portland and PSU are committing to collaborate not only with themselves, but with other cities and universities in the nationwide network.

The initial launch of the MetroLab Network is funded by a $1 million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The grant is one of a small number of investments by the Foundation to support data and information technologies to better understand how cities work and to improve the urban condition.

-- John Kirkland




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