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Denver Secures $6 Million Grant to Advance Smart Transportation Initiatives

On October 7, 2016, Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced the City and County of Denver was awarded a $6 million federal grant to deploy technology that will address traffic congestion and safety. Denver applied for the funding as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program.

The funds will go toward three projects that utilize advanced technology directly to improve transportation safety, efficiency, and community health.

Project Descriptions

The City and County of Denver is proposing three Intelligent Vehicle (IV) Projects utilizing advanced traveler information systems; advanced transportation management technologies; transportation system performance data collection, analysis, and dissemination systems and advanced safety systems to address issues and challenges in safety, mobility, and sustainability while building a foundation for future projects to improve economic vitality and air quality. Denver, Colorado faces a myriad of challenges at the intersection of transportation, environment and people:

  • Rapid population growth: 10,000-15,000 new residents move to Denver each year
  • Traffic congestion: 80 percent of the population commutes in a single-occupant vehicle
  • Dangerous roadways: more than 15,000 crashes annually including 129 fatal crashes,
  • High percentage of residents living near or below the poverty rate: 23.9% of the population is living on less than 125% of the federal poverty level
  • Increased cost of living: 30 percent increase in cost of apartment rentals since 2010, and
  • Air pollution: Denver is an ozone and CO2 non-attainment area.

Although daunting, Denver’s obstacles are not insurmountable. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge gave Denver the opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan that will address these challenges and transform our region into a global model where transportation and technology can break down barriers and connect all people to mobility freedom and opportunity. The Smart City Challenge served as the seed and spark to identify innovative solutions to our toughest issues. Now, the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) Initiative provides the opportunity for the City and County of Denver to bring our most critical Smart City Program projects to life through the proposed IV Projects.

These proposed IV Projects will address and support alleviation of some of our most pressing challenges. In addition to our rapid population growth, Denver has an influx of an additional 200,000 commuters from outside the City traveling to Denver-based jobs during the workweek- with the vast majority driving single occupant vehicles. This creates considerable congestion, yet expanding and widening roads is extraordinarily expensive and traditional infrastructure improvements do not alleviate many of Denver’s other challenges. For this reason, we are prepared to match ATCMTD grant funds with City and County of Denver funds to focus first on such proposed IV Projects as the launch of our Smart City Program. These IV Projects will allow us to address our most pressing traffic congestion and safety issues and deliver measurable outcomes aligned with ATCMTD goals and focus areas. Implementing IV Projects will usher in a new era of transformational technologies for Denver and the region, bringing greater mobility safety, efficiency, and reliability to our transportation network. These benefits will also build a foundation for Denver to implement other Smart City projects to reduce costs, connect underserved communities with resources, and bring environmental and economic benefits to the City.

The Denver TMC currently operates and maintains over 1,200 traffic signals, 460 closed circuit TV cameras, and thousands of sensor and detection devices deployed citywide, but lacks the ability to communicate the valuable information that it gathers regarding roadway closures, construction, dangerous intersections, and other critical traveler information to the public. To meet this need immediately, Denver will partner with Waze (a community-based traffic and navigation application provider) to reduce congestion, improve safety and make data-driven urban planning decisions by connecting our TMC directly with travelers. To innovate today and prepare for the future, we will create a Connected TMC by building a Connected Vehicle (CV) operational environment to support current and future CV applications. As vehicles are a crucial part of a CV future, we will install dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) in 1,500 City fleet vehicles to jumpstart market penetration. The Connected TMC will allow us to innovate today by leveraging our existing ITS infrastructure while simultaneously preparing for a future with increasing CVs. Through IV-1, we aim to reduce crashes at identified Vision Zero intersections by 30% and reduce incident response times for citizen-reported crashes by 30%.

Denver has quickly become a hub for innovation, but it has long been a hub for regional and national freight movement. I-25, I-70, and I-76 are all federally designated high priority corridors that pass through metro Denver, and which converge in North Denver to form a dense freight corridor. However, many of our underserved communities are also located in this corridor and are significantly impacted by noise, pollution, and wandering trucks. Today, freight movement is a free-for-all in North Denver. For years, residents have complained about serious safety issues where trucks are traversing the same neighborhood streets where children walk to school. These issues create a barrier to existing linkages to ladders of opportunities in these areas.

This IV-2 project will transform North Denver into a Freight Efficiency Corridor to tackle these issues. Right now, trucks must travel without much consistent information on traffic or fastest routes to their destination. With DSRC-enabled freight signal priority, we can make the traffic lights work for trucks instead of against them. Denver will be the first in the nation to offer this type of City service to the freight industry if organizations follow new business rules, including avoiding congested freeways, staying out of neighborhoods, and equipping their trucks with DSRC. This improved efficiency will result in long overdue safety improvements for our underserved communities in this corridor. We will target a 20% reduction in freight travel during peak periods to alleviate truck congestion on interstate and state highways, and a 20% reduction in freight travel time on critical arterial routes using freight signal priority. We will also aim to reduce reports of interruptive freight movement in neighborhoods by 30% to increase safety and use of linkages to ladders of opportunity.

There are increasing demands to promote safer walking and biking to improve public health and air quality, as well as to reduce vehicle congestion. In 2015, 1,618 crashes involving pedestrians and 1,147 crashes involving bicycles occurred in Denver. Automated Pedestrian Detection (APD) technologies are a new solution to addressing pedestrian and driver interactions at difficult crossings. This project will deploy APD at four unprotected midblock trail crossings using Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons to enhance traditional pedestrian push buttons. Field data from these pilot locations will be continuously sent to the Denver TMC for research, field testing, and fine tuning of the APD system, and will be available to the public. The IV-3 project will also serve as a test for Connected Citizen pedestrian warning systems by allowing us to collect and disseminate pedestrian and bicycle crossing information via DSRC, increasing pedestrian safety.


Denver — A Smart City

From late 2015 through June 2016, Denver participated in the Smart City Challenge grant competition offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and was selected as one of seven finalists from the 78 cities that applied.

In June 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the City of Columbus, Ohio, won the Smart City Challenge funding and, while Denver was disappointed it did not receive the funding, our work created a clear roadmap that will help us pursue our vision to build a better city for all. 

Increased mobility freedom through improved, accessible choices is a longstanding goal for Denver and the Smart City Challenge accelerated our efforts to achieve it. The Challenge fostered national competitiveness among cities that spurred an unprecedented level of collaboration between city, public, private, non-profit and community stakeholders to develop truly innovative, effective, and meaningful solutions to Denver’s mobility challenges. The Challenge also was an opportunity to dream big – to think above and beyond normal budget constraints, knowledge barriers, and technological hurdles to identify a concrete path forward with a focus on innovative technologies, vehicle electrification and the need to better connect lower-income neighborhoods. Now that we have a plan in hand, along with the industry and community partnerships, we are working hard to identify 2017 budget priorities and outside funding opportunities that will allow us to turn the plan into action.

Denver thanks the industry and community partners that contributed to the Smart City proposal and looks forward to each next step towards turning our vision into reality. 

Read Denver’s final Smart City Challenge submittal (May 2016) to learn more about our vision.

Denver's Smart City Challenge Video, June 2016

Denver's Proposal

Read Denver's application to the
USDOT Smart City Challenge

Phase 2 - Final Application — May 2016

Grant Application — February 2016


Denver’s Smart City Challenge Proposal

Denver’s proposal aimed to overcome challenges caused by rapid population growth, increased traffic congestion, increasing numbers of serious crashes, environmental impacts, and widening income, housing and education gaps. A significant portion of the programs and demonstration projects are aimed specifically at delivering mobility freedom and better connections to opportunities for the 200,000 people living in 22 of Denver’s poorest neighborhoods in West, North and Northeast Denver.

Our Smart City proposal was composed of four integrated components with a dozen distinct projects to:

  • Create a powerful, intelligent data engine
  • Provide more and better mobility options to all residents
  • Electrify transportation throughout Denver
  • Lead to intelligent, connected and ultimately automated vehicles in Denver

The total value of Denver’s proposal exceeded $84 million. 

Enterprise Data Management (EDM) Ecosystem

This living, intelligent data engine will serve as a national model for gathering disparate data sets, incorporating new data from thousands of sources and providing a constant data feedback loop that continuously improves our understanding of where, when, how and why people are going places – so that ultimately we can improve their travel options and experiences. This engine will power our entire proposal.

MODE iconMobility on Demand Enterprise (MODE)

This component takes the data and makes it available in a universal mobility marketplace. 

This platform will allow us to:

  • Create a single smart-phone app that will include offerings from all public and private transportation service providers in Denver, including RTD, B-Cycle, Uber, Lyft, taxis, Car2Go and more. This will be a vastly improved and expanded version of the Go Denver app we launched in February with Xerox. Users will be able to search for trip information and pay for all modes using this one convenient app.
  • An expanded version of the existing “My Denver Card.” This smart card could be loaded with transportation “credits, giving users – children and adults alike -- without smart phones access to the same mobility options and services as those with a smart phone.
  • Install 50 sidewalk kiosks citywide – including 35 in underserved communities in West, North and Northeast Denver – that will provide the same kind of mobility information directly into neighborhoods. These kiosks will also serve as Wi-Fi hotspots and offer charging capabilities for phones.
  • Partner with local retailers so that low-income users without credit cards, bank accounts or smart phones can pay cash for mobility services at the cash register.
  • Install 10 B-Cycle bike-sharing stations in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Deploy a first-mile/last-mile subsidy pilot program to entice rideshare drivers into underserved areas of opportunity. We will partner with Lyft to offer drivers guaranteed fares and price discounts to passengers for trips that begin or end at a transit stop.

electrification iconTransportation Electrification

This component focuses on the electrification of City, transit and other commercial vehicle fleets; incentivizing greater deployment of electric vehicles for personal use; installing additional charging stations; and partnering with Xcel Energy to further de-carbonize the grid. We will:

  • Partner with RTD to buy nine electric buses that will run exclusively on Colfax Avenue, serving more than 10,000 passengers a day.
  • Purchase 103 electric vehicles for the City fleet, and ensure that half of all light-duty City fleet purchases are electric by 2020.
  • Partner with Transdev, owner of Denver’s largest taxi fleet, and Evercar to deploy dozens of electric taxis and TNC vehicles on Denver’s streets.
  • Install 387 electric vehicle charging stations citywide, including fast-charging stations, at large multi-unit housing developments, big employers and major business centers.
  • Launch an aggressive public outreach campaign to double the number of electric vehicle purchases, from an expected 15,000 to 30,000, over the next three years.

connected vehicle iconIntelligent Vehicles

This component will usher in a new era of transformational technologies that will connect vehicles to each other, traffic signals and other infrastructure, and ultimately will lead to driverless cars. This component will:

  • Establish the nation’s first high-tech freight efficiency corridor in North Denver – encompassing I-70, I-76 and I-25 – using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology that will provide travel time reliability for trucks and keep haulers out of neighborhoods. This will be crucial when the Central I-70 improvement project is underway.
  • Deploy DSRC and other advanced and dynamic traffic-signal technologies to improve traffic flow on two of Denver’s most congested arterials, Colorado Boulevard and Hampden Avenue.
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