Jim Thomson. Photo courtesy HNTB.

By Jim Thomson, Northwest Division President of HNTB Corporation.

Bellevue achieved its goal of becoming a smart city in 2016 after receiving a $75,000 grant from the White House Smart Cities program. The city boasts reliable infrastructure and high-tech connectivity; ideal for implementing futuristic transportation solutions that many cities of its size can only dream of.

While the definition of a smart city varies, in general the phrase refers to a city that is using technology to collect, analyze and share transportation- and infrastructure-based data from multiple sources. This data is converted into information that city officials, residents and visitors can use to make informed decisions that simplify everyday activities.

Since receiving this funding and coming up with a strategic plan to become a smart city, Bellevue has made significant progress.  For example, the city is using data to simplify the lives of its residents and visitors. By the end of 2019, Bellevue will strengthen public spaces with fiber optic networks for increased bandwidth; begin sharing connected vehicle data to enhance traveler information; expand the electric vehicle charging station network; proactively monitor and reduce greenhouse gas and energy use with a consolidated dashboard tool, and more.

Specific methods of deploying and using the data varies among smart cities throughout the country. City leaders in San Diego employed a smart parking solution that uses sensors to guide drivers to open parking spaces. Boston is using cameras and sensors to get insight on traffic and pedestrian patterns to understand what changes need to be made to reduce intersection fatalities.

As more cities throughout Washington implement smart city initiatives of their own, they will rely on Bellevue to share its data to improve the region as a whole.

This is especially important in relation to smart transportation projects as data and information from traffic cams, sensors, vehicles and mobile devices must come together to create an expedited traveling process. The work Bellevue is doing now brings us closer to a future of automated and connected vehicles, and the added convenience and safety which they will provide.

There is no “one size fits all” plan to become a smart city. Practices that work well in San Diego and Boston may not necessarily succeed in Bellevue. Bellevue smart city leaders are tasked with analyzing and weighing the needs of the community to customize their plan, while also keeping a pulse on emerging and advancing technologies to determine what will be most beneficial for Bellevue in the long-term.

Bellevue’s progress and status as a smart city is inspiring. The city and surrounding region will continue to improve over time as a cohesive framework is created to support smart cities. Information and data will continue to be broken down intelligently to benefit the region. By implementing connected solutions such as the East Link light rail, which will integrate with other smart city networks, the City of Bellevue is paving the way for others in the region to reach for the future.