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The era of the “smart city” and “smart region” is here, using real-time data to solve community problems like transportation.

Florida Transportation Planning Organization Executive Director Jeff Sheffield surprisingly promised more than 170 business leaders and elected officials at the Thrasher-Horne Center that he wouldn’t talk about the First Coast Expressway or other Clay County road projects during the first quarter Clay Economic Development Corp. luncheon.

He instead touted road weather sensors, flood sensors in storm drains, sensors detecting pedestrian movement that relay information to first responders and commuters. First responders can receive notifications about trains in the area and the expected time of a train at an intersection.

“None of this stuff is futuristic, these are all technologies already being used, just not being integrated into communities to solve challenges,” Sheffield said.

There are apps that track how long lights stay red, how fast commuter have to drive to hit every green light and apps that tell them to get off their phones when the light turns green.

The North Florida TPO is a federally-funded transportation planning organization that oversees Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. Prior to Sheffield’s speech, EDC Board Chairman Egan thanked investors and Wantman Group Vice President Walter Kloss said Clay County’s future in economic development was bright and had a lot to learn from Sheffield’s remarks.

“It’s time to embrace innovation,” Kloss said.

One of the problems with public and private agencies is they operate in silos, Sheffield said. A smart region aims to connect them. Sheffield pointed to the $11 million, 20,000 square-foot Regional Transportation Management Center housing multiple agencies in downtown Jacksonville that opened in 2015.

“It’s literally home to FHP, DOT, fire and rescue, fish and wildlife and JSO. It’s a NASA-looking facility with lots of monitors and cameras where we manage everything in real time,” Sheffield said. “That’s how we got to the era of smart region.”

In addition to solving traffic problems, Sheffield defined a smart city by two other characteristics: ladders of opportunity and economic development. He pointed to the Bay Jax Innovation Corridor, a technology-oriented area with almost $40 million in state and federal funding. The corridor is focused on attracting young, tech-minded entrepreneurs who are fluid and less formal.

“It’s not pie in the sky. There’s really money attached to this. We have a real ability to deploy this,” Sheffield said. “It’s far more about the data behind it and the internet. Can you aggregate the data and create solutions to community issues in a way unique from what we’re currently doing?”

Mentioning the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s automated car testing on Gator Bowl Boulevard, Sheffield said a smart city wasn’t just about, “cool new toys.”

The city of St. Augustine implemented a parking system where users pay by app and see spots become available in real time. Though there are problems with pricing, he hopes the plan reduces traffic in the area.

“This is not now the story of, ‘As Jacksonville grows, the region grows,’” Sheffield said. “That’s not what this is. Any possible use is available in any locality.”

For Clay County, Sheffield broached the possibility of a pavement condition pilot project. A car with sensors would scan roads for cracks and ruts over 200 miles to see which roads needed resurfacing, costing $8,000 for a test run.

“Some had said they would rather watch a glacier melt, others thought it may be useful. It’s an immensely cost-effective, data driven process instead of subjective,” Sheffield said. “More importantly, they’ve already learned in some cities with historical data, they’re now able to predict the pothole before it happens. That’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about.”


Autor(en)/Author(s): Nick Blank

Quelle/Source: Clay Today Online, 06.03.2019

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