U.S. smart cities are using emerging technologies to extend limited budgets, to increase adoption of new digital solutions and to encourage residents to recycle and reduce emissions. Here are three cities that are taking the lead in environmental conservation and cost savings through technology.
Boston’s Green by 2015 initiative plans to replace the city’s 5,500 taxis with hybrid vehicles, use more solar panels and electric motorbikes and to power homes with recycled trash. The city's Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet promotes green technologies and resources to improve energy efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, park planning and some transportation solutions. The Greenovate Boston e-newsletter keeps residents informed about sustainability programs, issues and events.
Portland has been called the greenest city in the United States because of its 17,000 acres of parks and natural areas. It also is the best bike city with 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths, according to Bicycling.
Portland also promotes recycling with a goal to reduce waste and raise the recycling rate to 75 percent by 2015, reports The City of Portland's website. The city encourages residents and businesses to keep recycling top of mind with residential and business efforts including a master recycler program, compost program and plastic bag ban. The city utilities offer renewable energy options including wind power, low-impact hydro and biomass.
The city received the ITS Smart City Award for deploying intelligent transportation systems that address critical transportation challenges like congestion, traffic safety and environmental problems such as emissions. Its systems can reroute travelers around accidents to reduce travel time and emissions. Additionally, they use transit signal priority systems to enable buses and trucks to communicate with traffic signals, which allows them to reduce wait times and improve the movement of freight to specific locations in order to reduce wear and tear on road surfaces. These systems help the city save fuel and reduce emissions equal to removing 30,000 vehicles from the road or eliminating the emissions of almost 18 million gallons of gasoline, notes Scott Belcher of ITS America.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco was named the Greenest City in the U.S. and Canada in the Green City Index as well as the Cleantech Capital of North America. The city’s goal to achieve zero waste by 2020 is on track, and the city has an 80 percent waste diversion rate through recycling, composting, unused medicine drop-off sites and home pick up services for toxic items like paint and electronics, claims SFEnvironment. San Francisco uses technology to provide information online about the most current and convenient recycling options as well. Residents simply use their smartphones to find where to recycle their items.
Technology also is part of the city's plans to be carbon-free by 2030. It has an online map that tracks wind and solar energy installation as well as an online Energy Use Challenge to encourage residents to share their ideas about how to reduce home energy use. The Honest Buildings software platform helps property managers, owners and tenants understand their buildings’ energy use and how to reduce utility costs.
Additionally, San Francisco is using technology to help residents and visitors save energy while driving. The SFpark is a free app that helps drivers find open parking to avoid circling and wasting gas and time, and ChargePoint helps drivers find the closest charging station for their electric vehicles. The city’s open data legislation facilitates sharing data for improved transportation needs. It makes information about buses and trains available, rates pedestrian-friendly areas and helps blind and vision-impaired travelers navigate transit systems.