Portland was among seven cities vying for a $40 million federal grant in the "Smart City Challenge". The city planned to use that money - or at least a portion of it (the rest would likely be frittered away on pet projects) - to develop a "high-tech street grid". That's pretty laughable, considering that Portland can't even maintain its "low-tech street grid", which is why they're looking at a "street fee" to pay for filling in a few potholes. They lost out to Columbus.
Portland officials including Mayor Charlie Hales traveled to Washington, D.C., to make their final pitch for the grant. The city wanted the money for an app that would help Portlanders compare transportation options – for example, taking public transit vs. using a ride service – and pay for their chosen option without leaving the app.
The city's application also envisioned WiFi-enabled kiosks at transit stops, electric neighborhood shuttle buses that one day could run autonomously, and outfitting fleet vehicles such as TriMet buses with sensors for collecting traffic data.
Such lofty goals, so brutally dashed. The city of Portland wanted to spend $40 million or so for a phone app that would help people decide whether to take Tri-Met or go for Uber instead. It's Amazing! And WiFi at a light rail stop! Simply Wow!
We already have sensors in the freeways that collect traffic data, but Streetcar and the gang thought they should put some on buses as well. Because Free Money!
And since Tri-Met has been cannibalizing neighborhood bus routes to pay for rail operations, Streetcar and the gang thought that electric buses in neighborhoods would be the way to go. As though that would last more than a week with Tri-Met running them.
So, despite Streetcar Charlie's deep concern about man-made global warming, he and his gang jetted across the country to D.C. and back. Perhaps Streetcar buys "carbon offsets" for his extensive travels, though that seems doubtful; Streetcar does hypocrisy exceptionally well.
It's encouraging that even the feds recognized that Portlandia and "Smart City" are in-congruent.