Make us your home page

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa and St. Pete don’t make cut for Smart Cities funding



Put the gondolas on hold, St. Petersburg. Dial back a bit on those gadgets, Tampa.

Neither city emerged as a finalist for a $40 million federal grant encouraging innovation and alternative transportation.

Seven were announced at the hip South by Southwest festival over the weekend. Austin, Texas, home of South by Southwest, is in the mix. So are Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Colo., Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh, Penn., Portland, Ore. and San Francisco, Calif.

Despite not moving on to the next round, Tampa officials still want to pursue the initiatives they proposed in their application.

“We’re going to take a look at different funding options and strategically look at what we can accomplish out of this plan,” city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said.

The city’s proposed “Smart Tampa” initiative would use technology, crowd-sourcing, sensors, data from networked vehicles and apps for projects to improve safety and give residents, drivers and officials real-time information about transportation conditions and options. Its elements could include free electric vehicle shuttles, sensor-aided parking, charging stations and an automated vehicle project on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway that would build on an existing federally funded connected vehicle program.

St. Petersburg had sought to capture the attention of U.S Department of Transporation officials with an application that highlighted a gondola line linking the Gateway to downtown, the gulf beaches and Eckerd College — a “bold and audacious” idea, according to Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The city is disappointed, but will regroup and figure out how to proceed with a scaled-down version. Clearwater’s interest in gondolas connecting its downtown with the beach would be a good demonstration project and could jump-start a wider application of the technology, said Evan Mory, the city’s transportation director.

Other aspects of the application like connecting drivers more efficiently with parking options will likely soon be a reality even without federal money, he said.

“We’re not going to give up,” Mory said.

The Tampa Bay area wasn’t alone in coming up short.  In Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee also didn’t make the cut. In all, 77 cities across the country applied for the money.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 9:41am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours