USDOT awards more than $94 million through SMART Grants Program

March 22, 2023
The first round of funding through the program will support 59 projects that will leverage technology to improve the safety, equity and efficiency of transportation systems.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded more than $94 million to 59 projects through its inaugural round of Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established the SMART Grants Program and authorizes $500 million over a five-year period to provide support to state, local and Tribal governments for technology investments that will improve transportation systems.

"Every major advancement in the history of U.S. transportation has involved technological progress,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The investments we are making today are about fostering innovations that improve people’s day-to-day lives, making transportation safer, more reliable, more efficient and more sustainable.”

USDOT explains the first year of the program was oversubscribed with $6 of applications for every $1 available for grants.

“We are thrilled to see the interest in SMART during its inaugural year. This shows the important role this new program can play in helping support state, local, and Tribal efforts to advance technology applications,” said Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and chief science officer.

The funding will support a diverse array of topics and communities, including projects that will improve worker and driver safety, improve transit reliability, speed and fare payment, implement smart traffic signal technology, leverage sensors and data to help cities understand and improve curb management practices, progress smart grid projects, enable new data collection and operational approaches to improve safety and improve vehicle connectivity.

A total of 13 transit projects were awarded funds through SMART Grant Program including:

  • $1.49 million to the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham in Alabama for the Community-Driven Regional Mobility Engine for Accessible and Equitable Multimodal Public Transportation in Central project that will convert existing public transportation systems in central Alabama into an integrated mobility system, leveraging cyberinfrastructure, route optimization and planning, service integration, trip dispatching and more.
  • $2 million to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its Event Integrated Ticketing Platform that will integrate transit trip planning, with the event ticketing process through an adaptable web program for safe access to events in Los Angeles, including the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • $1.6 million to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) for its Pilot Innovative Cloud-Based Transit Signal Priority project that will deploy a cloud-based Transit Signal Priority (TSP) system by integrating existing signal systems, new multimodal ITS devices and proactive signal operations to improve on-time arrival of OCTA’s Harbor Boulevard Bravo! Rapid Bus Route.
  • A total of $2.19 million for two projects managed by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), including $500,616 for the Wheels on the Bus – Real-Time Data project that will evaluate technologies capable of collecting and disseminating real-time use data for front-mounted bus bike racks and interior mobility device securement equipment on VTA’s bus route network. The second project, Transit Reliability Improvement and Performance System, will receive $1.7 million to implement a multijurisdictional and connected TSP system across Santa Clara County.
  • $2 million to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) for the Connecticut Integrated Transit Mobility Project that will develop a statewide multimodal public transit fare payment application.
  • $1.2 million to Chatham Area Transit (CAT) for the CAT EV Zonal Micro Project that will deploy an On Demand Multimodal Transportation System to introduce first mile-last mile microtransit to CAT’s existing fixed route and paratransit service in the Savannah area.
  • $985,000 to MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) for the Blandin Energy and Sustainable Storage Technology that will install solar power and battery banks for on-site energy and to power MWRTA's fleet.
  • $350,000 to Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit Committee (BSOOB) for the BSOOB Transit Smart Grid Transition that will demonstrate renewable energy production, on-site energy storage and electricity load management for Greater Portland’s transit agency.
  • $1.3 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation for the Advancing Rural Mobility: Michigan Public Transit Open Data Standards Program that will leverage open standard data to make real-time public transit information accessible in rural Michigan.
  • $2 million to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada for the Safer, Faster, Smarter: Pairing Cloud-Based Vehicle Preemption and AI Intersection Video Analytic that will prototype a cloud-based signal timing optimization system that supports Emergency Vehicle Preemption, TSP and AI analytics in the Las Vegas region.
  • $1.8 million to the city of Ithaca, N.Y., for the Dynamic Signal Priority for School Buses, Transit and Fire Operations that will deploy TSP to improve the efficiency of school buses, transit and fire operations in Ithaca.
  • $2 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the NY MTA - Inclusive Wayfinding through NaviLens that will implement a wayfinding application to allow visually impaired New York subway and bus customers to safely navigate their entire public transit trip.
  • $2 million to Sound Transit for the Rainier Valley Safe: Technology Investments to Improve Community Safety that will leverage smart sensing infrastructure and upgraded traffic signals to address safety at at-grade crossings and multimodal efficiency at signalized intersections in the Rainier Valley.

Two additional projects with the Arizona Commerce Authority and Gwinnett County Board include transit signal priority as part of a larger effort.

In response to Connecticut’s award, CTDOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said, “By making transit more accessible and easier to use, more people will use our public transportation system. This grant allows us to plan and create an easy to use, one-stop shop for all things transit in Connecticut.”

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) was awarded a $1.99 million grant for its Digital Curb Program: Revolutionizing Curb Management in San Francisco project. While not transit specific, it will improve alternative transportation by providing an accurate and up-to-date map of all curb regulations and integrate with the bike share service Muni Mobile and scooter share providers to give people better alternatives for getting around. It will also save thousands of hours of staff time while providing detailed regulation information that can be used by the public.

“The Digital Curb Program is helping us modernize how we manage one of our most scarce and valuable resources, curbside parking and loading spaces,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA director of transportation. “We can’t manage what we can’t measure. With better digital tools, we can direct all motorists to the closest available space – including ride hail, delivery and autonomous vehicles. We hope the result will be better convenience and less double-parking.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.