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Access to transit, traffic, congestion to be addressed in Metro DC ‘Smart Region’ efforts

Your quality of life and the region’s prosperity depends on local leaders working together to leverage data and smart technology — that’s what the Greater Washington Board of Trade told the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s board on Wednesday.

Before voting to appoint a strategy group to get started on a “Smart Region Movement,” the COG board heard examples of how unified tech already makes life here easier.

“Think back to when we needed 13 or 14 different parking apps across our region. That wasn’t very citizen centric; now we’ve got it down to about three,” Greater Washington Board of Trade President Jack McDougle said. “Or the EZ lane toll passes — at one point you needed 10 of those just to go visit your relative somewhere. We’ve gotten that down to one, except for Florida.”

Addressing access to transit, traffic and congestion, McDougle talked about how what’s been done in Philadelphia could work here.

“They’ve implemented synchronized traffic control systems and they’re realizing up to 30 percent reduction in traffic congestion. That’s meaningful. That would make a huge difference for us,” McDougle said.

Using the example of a single mom who lives in Southeast, D.C. who has a hotel job in Arlington, McDougle said that woman’s trip home takes two hours now, but a synchronized system could cut that down to an hour or less.

“That would have a huge, meaningful impact on her life and the life of her kids,” McDougle said. “There’s a lot of different ways to think about how we deploy these technologies.”

Whatever innovations might develop later, planning ahead now would prevent having to retrofit tech into a seamless system region wide later.

COG’s board approved a resolution to begin work with the Board of Trade to come up with a game plan. The intention is for the Board of Trade, academia, non-profits and governments to create a 20-year program to lay the groundwork to integrate regional efforts and platforms so there’s no digital divide, region wide.

Before the vote, COG’s chair noted that regardless of whether or how the region prepares for it, technology will advance.

“Government being at the table to see if we can help shape a leading role for government so technology is serving its citizens, as opposed to perhaps preying on citizens or moving in its own direction — I think it’s important for a regional body like us to be at the table,” COG Board Chair Robert C. White said.

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