As the Portland team prepared for Secretary Foxx’s visit to the Rose City last week, we knew one thing for certain: We wanted to share the transformative potential of the Smart City Challenge with the community. That is why we chose to host Secretary Foxx at Portland Community College’s (PCC) Southeast Campus.
The entire PCC system is a strong rung on the region’s ladder of opportunity, educating over 89,000 students across the city at four large, full-service facilities. Their Southeast campus is on the Powell-Division corridor – one of Portland’s most important arteries and a priority area in our Smart City Challenge proposal. The proposed BRT line that will serve the Powell Division Corridor is currently in project development with the FTA. This corridor is also one of Portland’s most diverse areas, with growing and vibrant Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Latino, Russian, and Ukrainian communities. The Southeast campus’ student body reflects the cultural diversity of the area and promotes a strong sense of community. Our engagement with PCC shows what our Smart City application is all about: using the most advanced technology to help the most people connect with jobs, opportunity and a better future.
Fifth graders at Jason Lee School brainstorm ways Smart City technology could improve their neighborhood with Assistant Transportation Director Maurice Henderson.
In fact, schools have been a key part of Portland’s effort to engage the public and build excitement and awareness of the Smart City Challenge.
Weeks prior to the Secretary’s visit, we visited two unique Portland public schools to hear from students directly. What did we find out? For starters, the students, while still young, are already aware of and concerned with issues such as pedestrian safety, air quality and access to education and job opportunities. They quickly grasped that our future as a Smart City could be a catalyst for addressing these long-standing challenges.
Sunnyside Environmental School’s middle schoolers are currently planning their own city in class and, following our presentation on the Smart City Challenge, are now incorporating Smart City technologies. The students joined us at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry[external link]for a special Smart City Tech Expo, a showcase of Smart City technologies for Portlanders to experience firsthand. They spoke with Oregon-based companies participating in our proposal and took a ride with Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick in an electric shuttle bus designed and manufactured locally.
Portlanders take a close look at an electric vehicle on display at the Smart City Tech Expo at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
At Jason Lee K-8 School, fifth graders played the roles of different demographics and community roles and brainstormed Smart City solutions that would improve their lives. A local TV news station[external link] shared their ideas with the public. All of Jason Lee’s 431 students are eligible for free meals and 70 percent are students of color, and these students were keenly aware of the importance of public transportation, the challenges of non-English speakers trying to navigate the city and the need for safe crossings for the young and the elderly.
Portland’s youth were born in an era of unprecedented innovation and provide an important perspective on what the city needs to do to truly be Smart for everyone. They will be essential partners as we forge Portland’s unique Smart City vision. It is a vision that realizes the promise of a true transportation network: frictionless mobility and universal access to support an equitable, a sustainable and a prosperous Portland.