Seeking Smart Streetlights: Creative Procurement in Pittsburgh

by ROBERT BURACK, Data-Smart City Solutions

Pittsburgh is leveraging an effort to replace the entirety of its 40,000 city owned and operated streetlights as an opportunity to enhance city service delivery through connected technology and address neighborhood equity issues. The city is taking an open and iterative approach, learning from the successes of peer cities and from the constraints of its past procurement efforts.

By issuing a less prescriptive and open Request for Information (RFI), Pittsburgh is making room for the rapid pace of smart city innovation. This shows that even a straightforward procurement for something concrete, like streetlights, can turn into an opportunity for creative engagement with vendors and innovators, and for internal problem-solving.

Read the full article here.

A whiff of citizen engagement powers Pittsburgh’s new air pollution app

Jason Shueh, StateScoop: A new tool from Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab reports on poor air quality with help from a sensor almost everyone has: the human nose 37xl0qw.

To alert residents of hazardous pollution, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab released a new app to map noxious odors in Pittsburgh.

Dubbed Smell PGH, the app — available on iOS and Android — works by combining crowdsourced reports of “unsafe smells” with air quality data submitted from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. CREATE Lab Project director Beatrice Dias said the app represents a two-way channel for locals to report potentially hazardous aromas and to receive pollution warnings from the county health department and, the Environmental Protection Agency’s national air quality monitoring portal.

“Smell is such a personal experience and it’s very subjective, but for a lot of people it’s very real, especially for people who live near a pollution source,” Dias said. “The beauty of the Smell PGH app — and hopefully the power of it — is that it helps residents understand it’s not just you, that you’re part of a community that’s experiencing this.”

The Heinz Foundation funded Smell PGH in 2016 with a $49,000 grant to Carnegie Mellon along with an additional $70,000 grant to the university to support air quality monitoring. With these funds, the CREATE Lab collaborated with community members to see where their efforts would go furthest. The common thread in the feedback they received was a demand for pollution complaints to be heard.

“Just giving people a way to contribute their voice is important,” Dias said. “At the CREATE Lab we find that even though we do a lot of work in technology that the human experience is very important to us, and documenting that in a way that’s related to the technology is also important.”

Read the full article here



The Hidden Fences of August Wilson’s Birthplace: The structures both define and devalue a fabled Pittsburgh neighborhood.


Throughout this week, CityLab is running a series on borders—both real and imagined—and what draws so many of us to places on the edge.

I drove around The Hill District the other day in search of fences. You may have heard that The Hill is the historic Pittsburgh neighborhood where the legendary playwright August Wilson was born, and it’s also the setting for his award-winning play, Fences, which Denzel Washington recently adapted into a movie.
The Hill is also where I was born and where I lived until I was about five years old. I moved back to Pittsburgh as an adult, where I’ve lived off and on for roughly 14 years. However, after watching the movie Fences, I couldn’t shake this nagging thought that I didn’t remember any actual fences in The Hill District.

Read the full article here


PennDOT pushes for national test site recognition

The PittNews: Over the last semester, students have witnessed Uber’s self-driving cars racing down the streets of Oakland, and now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wants more.

After Pittsburgh lost  the Smart City Challenge in July 2016, PennDOT submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting that the agency consider Pittsburgh, and parts of Pennsylvania, as a national test site for autonomous vehicles, expanding the city’s investment in driverless vehicles.

Read more here

Pittsburgh Launches New ‘Burgh’s Eye View’ With Visual Neighborhood Data

Source: CBS

With Burgh’s Eye View, city residents now have an in-depth way to see what’s going on in their neighborhoods.

Yesterday, Mayor Bill Peduto announced the launch of Burgh’s Eye View, a mobile app that delivers open city data to the public. In a statement, Peduto said the online tool provides “transparency directly to the citizens of Pittsburgh, and more importantly transforms the experience of open government—by making it truly accessible to everyone.”

See more here>>

Hands off the steering wheel? Not so fast, when it comes to accepting driverless cars


video from Washington Post 

Michael Laris, Portland Press Herald: Cars capable of driving themselves may be on the showroom floor sooner than you think, but whether they should come with all the current essentials – including a steering wheel and pedals on the floor – has the auto industry at a fork in the road.

Ford sided with the pioneering engineers at Google last week in announcing plans to introduce limited-use vehicles without traditional controls within five years. Some other major automakers – and virtually all of them are well along in their work on self-driving vehicles – say they will introduce automated elements one step at a time, until drivers accept that they no longer need to control their cars.



Pittsburgh Is Going Driverless

Laura Bliss at CityLab: In what would be an industry milestone, the Steel City will welcome Uber’s first autonomous ride-sharing vehicles this month.

Bloomberg <a href="http://www non prescription”>reported Thursday that the ride-hailing behemoth Uber will roll out passenger-ready autonomous vehicles in the city of Pittsburgh later this month. Customers summoning regular Ubers from their phones will be randomly assigned to one of a fleet of tricked-out Volvo SUVs, capable of driving without human assistance.



New PA Open Data Portal Website

Pennsylvania just launched OpenDataPA, a website that will house all Pennsylvania datasets. According to RouteFifty, Governor Wolf’s administration three data priority areas are “Schools That Teach,” “Jobs That Pay,” and “Government That Works.”

Check out the data portal website here and RouteFifty article here to learn more!

PGH Lab: Pittsburgh Selects 3 Startups to Work With the City Under a New Pilot Program

Route Fifty: Three companies have been chosen to participate in a program meant to connect civic-oriented startups with Pittsburgh’s city government, Mayor Bill Peduto’s office said Tuesday.

Dubbed PGH Lab, the pilot initiative aims to give local firms a chance to work with city departments and Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, testing new technologies and services. They’ll get a chance to do so for three months, between late July and early October.


Mapping America’s Mountains of Garbage

Ever wonder how much trash the U.S. collects in landfills?

CityLab: Widely considered to be the first sanitary landfill in the U.S., the Fresno garbage dump, which opened in 1937, has the dubious distinction of being named to both the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and the nation’s list of Superfund sites. That’s a funny pair of categories to straddle, but it illustrates an important point: Trash is a starring character in the American story, even as we continue to wrestle with its consequences.