Come up with a solution to Austin transportation and get $100K for a pilot program


AUSTIN (KXAN) — People often complain about the traffic in Austin — but how many have ideas for how to get around it?

The city is looking for solutions to its transportation needs, and launched a program Monday with the Ford Motor Company to crowdsource ideas and potentially fund a pilot program of the best one.

“The City: One Challenge is built on the belief that we build a city in motion one person, one solution at a time,” the program’s website states. Right now it’s soliciting feedback from people on how they get around in Austin, according to Jeff Jones, Ford City Solutions’ vice president.

“As I go from party to party, or walking down the aisle in the grocery store, I know for a fact that almost everybody in Austin has a really good idea to solve mobility in the city,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at the announcement event Monday. “Because they bring them to me all the time.”

There will be a series of community workshops, the first of which is July 18 at the Asian American Resource Center at 8401 Cameron Road.

Starting Sept. 10, City:One Challenge will accept proposals, consider them and then announce a pilot program in January. The challenge will provide up to $100,000 to fund up to two winning ideas for Austin.

The program is launching in three other cities this year — Indianapolis, Mexico City and Detroit — after the inaugural contest in 2018 that featured Miami, Pittsburgh and Grand Rapids, Mich. People in those cities came up with 2,000 “actionable” ideas, Jones said.

One of the winning ideas in Miami aims to reduce congestion around school drop-off and pick-up. The solution, an app called Pikmykid, was developed by a parent and won $50,000 through the challenge to pilot the app in 10 schools.

Austin city leaders hope the contest leads to similar innovations, not just to reduce highway traffic. City Manager Spencer Cronk outlined three areas in which central Texas can benefit from new ideas: healthcare, mobility, and equity.

“Each of those areas can really be thought of differently as a result of this challenge,” Cronk said.

Adler expanded on two of those at the kickoff event Monday. The majority of people who commute to downtown do so alone in a car, he said, which will create even more of a traffic problem as the city continues to grow. How people access healthcare in east Austin compared to west Austin can also spur new ideas.

“We know that people that can’t get around don’t get the care,” Adler said. “They don’t initiate the care and then they don’t persist in whatever the care is that’s identified for them, much less getting to a grocery store to get healthy food and back home again.”

Contest administrators will pick 12 ideas out of the submissions to move into a second phase, in which mentors and minimal funding will be provided to help people flesh out their ideas. Up to two winning ideas will be selected from those 12, and they’ll split up to $100,000 in funding to create a pilot program.

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