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Team B’Smart Takes on Baltimore’s City Challenges

As consumers, many of us think of high speed, high bandwidth Internet as a tool that speeds up the pesky buffering icon while binging on Netflix. But what if it was more than that? What if critical infrastructure investments into advanced networks were the key to improving the quality of life for a whole city?

The city of Baltimore is home to many who face challenges when it comes to both transit and connectivity services. According to Jill Sorenson, the team lead for the B’Smart project, Baltimore residents have fewer options for cellular services, broadband Internet, and access to public Wi-Fi than neighboring cities like Washington D.C. The transit services are also a huge challenge; public transit to many parts of the city are limited. Bus routes are confusing and rail development is cost-prohibitive. As a result, residents and commuters prefer to drive, causing the traffic congestion to recently hit an all-time high. Combined with high crime rates and the fear of public transit being unsafe, slow, and inefficient, the city faces the most compelling challenge in its history, as retaining citizens and businesses becomes more difficult.

For this reason, B’Smart, an Action Cluster formed at GCTC 2016 Kick-off, is working on a solution to tackle these vexing challenges. The B’Smart Project is focused on planning and piloting Electric Vehicle (EV)-ready Transit Hubs in Maryland, starting in Baltimore — hence the name “B’Smart”. The B’Smart Hubs will combine the infrastructure elements of high speed Internet and Wi-Fi, clean energy (solar power, LED street and building lighting, battery storage and microgrid capability) and clean, active transportation connections (bus, rail, electric vehicle charging, car and bike share). These B’Smart Hubs will also serve as community centers that serve citizens by offering free Wi-Fi, places for local vendors to sell goods, perform, meet, do business or simply enjoy the open, public Smart space.

The B’Smart Transit Hub project will:

  • Streamline transit planning, land-use patterns and infrastructure by defining strategic Transit Hub locations across the State
  • Facilitate the development of Greenway routes between Transit Hubs for faster, safer and more efficient transportation, especially from Hub to Hub
  • Reduce traffic congestion
  • Improve air quality by promoting electric vehicles and active transportation (cycling and walking) to and from Hubs
  • Reduce energy consumption, producing transportation-related energy savings
  • Form the backbone for managing travel demand
  • Provide essential mobility for those who do not operate a private vehicle, including potential for command sites of autonomous vehicle fleets
  • Build community space
  • Design and operate each Hub as a microgrid capable of operating in power outages, fortifying the grid with back-up power
  • Promote Smart City design by incorporating broadband conduit and free wireless internet access as part of each Transit Hub and Greenway.

The B’Smart Transit Hub project team already has an excellent base of partners across key stakeholder groups – IT, energy, transportation, community relations, foundations, units of government, private sector, data management and research entities. However, the team is seeking partners that can assist them with planning and funding to ensure that they can continue to have a strong coalition and productive sets of expectations for B’Smart Project success.