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Guest Blog Post by JM Rayburn of Forge Columbus. Last month, Forge Columbus released a 90-page framework called Forge Ahead, a community-driven transportation campaign that serves as a visioning document and resource book. You can read the full report here.

A smart city is one that is both clever and restless. It’s a city that works 24 hours a day to provide services and pay bills yet still sets aside time and money for that constant side hustle of becoming something other than what history had intended. It’s a city that aspires to something greater. A smart city and an entrepreneur are two sides of the same coin. They relate to each other and need each other.

Columbus continues to lead the state in both population growth and job creation, attracting the best and brightest from around the world. The driving force behind this exciting demographic shift is the convergence of opportunity, affordability, and accessibility that our city offers. Young professionals use these quality of life yardsticks to determine where to call home. Transportation is vital for making our city accessible, attractive, and affordable.

Cities such as Columbus depend on effective and reliable operation of infrastructure systems to deliver energy, mobility, water, sanitation, shelter, information, emergency response, and other critical services. Across the globe and at home in Columbus, governments, businesses, and communities are beginning to see the impacts of climate change. These events are playing out as population growth continues and urbanization accelerates. While most see these as challenges, smart cities and entrepreneurs only see opportunities.

columbusmap_mockup(photo by Michael Tyznik)

For Columbus, there is a tide coming that is robust population growth and job creation. The latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the 15 cities with biggest population increases were in the South and West — with two exceptions: New York City and Columbus. The good news is investments are in the pipeline for a variety of infrastructure systems. The bad news is that Columbus leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to smart, multi-modal transportation investments.

The very presence of a convenient and accessible multi-modal transportation system will help attract and retain a skilled and creative workforce. The growth of the region cannot be accommodated by expansion of the highway system alone. As the costs of car ownership and fuel continue to grow, there is a need to provide an expanded, more intelligent transportation system to sustain the social and economic well-being of the Columbus Region. Investment in new and expanded pedestrian, bicycle, and transit services can ease growing congestion while providing an equitable transportation system. As for nascent transportation technologies, Columbus is right to take a leadership role in their development. Why? Because that’s what world-class cities do. Columbus Startup Weekend is here to provide those leadership opportunities if you’re feeling clever and restless.

This has been years in the making to arrive where we are now. COTA is undergoing the NextGen initiative and building the CMAX bus rapid transit line; MORPC is updating its Metropolitan Transportation Plan; The Columbus Green Team has recently come out with Green Memo III, calling for smart transportation investments; and Forge Columbus, in partnership with Transit Columbus, Civic Artworks, the Create Columbus Commission, has launched Forge Ahead—the largest participatory transit plan in the nation.

As many of you know, Columbus is vying for $50 million in what is essentially seed money as a finalist in the U.S. Smart City Challenge. The U.S. Department of Transportation and Vulcan, Inc. are the first of many “angel investors” we hope to court for a long-term relationship that will redefine our city. That could be a city that provides greater access to jobs through a bus rapid transit network. That could be a city that champions smart logistics or a smart grid to electrify our transportation system. Whatever that city is, it’s going to change the world. There is no turning back now. Columbus has grown stronger today than any of the citizens before us could’ve imagined. The only way to know how strong is to keep testing our limits. I hope to see you at Columbus Startup Weekend this Friday through Sunday. Come clever and come restless.

Tickets for our next event, Smart City Edition, May 13-15 at Rev1 Ventures are still available! Click here to learn more and punch your ticket.

Jay Clouse