Hardwiring Transportation into Smart Cities

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MTI researchers provide a framework for integrating transportation into smart cities through policy and professional practices
December 9, 2019
San José, CA

How does a city achieve smart status? In “A Framework for Integrating Transportation into Smart Cities,” Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) researchers examined existing smart cities to develop a framework that identifies strategies to transform transportation in cities.

A smart city is an ecosystem of innovations and stakeholders working together at different city scales, from neighborhoods to regions to enhance quality of life. Key areas of focus include: energy and environment, transportation, governance, workforce, living (or housing), economy, and connections. Smart cities can be described as a “pyramid of innovation,” which starts with the individual innovator and becomes progressively more advanced, culminating in increased regional innovation and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

“Fundamentally, smart cities are about progressively advancing innovation and collaboration” says report co-author and MTI Research Associate Dr. Susan Shaheen.

The three-phase smart city framework identified includes:

  1. Issuing an initial assessment based on expert interviews and city demographics, design-thinking workshops, and problem statement development to better understand community concerns;
  2. Implementing a refinement and prioritization process, while making use of communities of practice to collaboratively to advance institutional capabilities;
  3. Executing pilot implementation(s) and evaluation(s).

Communities are developing smart city pilots and programs to overcome environmental, transportation, institutional, and other challenges. These communities tend to fall into four categories of smart cities:

  • Technology-oriented communities and regions driven by technological innovation, often trying to address related challenges, such as housing affordability and cost of living issues;
  • Economic revival cities and regions reinventing their economies for post-industrial economic development;
  • Growth cities and regions that are expanding economically and spatially, typically with fewer challenges associated with housing affordability and cost of living; and
  • Small and rural communities investing in place making and workforce development to retain talent.

While these innovations and interconnectedness of systems appear to be propelling cities into the future, there are concerns about how equitable these technology-based changes are. The report’s policy recommendations emphasize the need to ensure smart cities are accessible to everyone through proactive legislation and regulations.

“Our research demonstrates that if cities work together, on both regional and cross-jurisdictional challenges, they can accelerate the iterative process through knowledge sharing, establishing communities of practice, and the development of best practices,” says study co-author and Executive Director of the Smart Cities Lab, Mark Dowd.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Susan Shaheen is an MTI Research Associate, a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) at UC Berkeley. Adam Cohen is a survey researcher at TSRC and an MTI Research Associate. Mark Dowd is Executive Director of the Smart Cities Lab and an MTI Research Associate. Richard Davis is a graduate student at SJSU and a survey researcher at TSRC.



Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator




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