RACINE — The City of Racine has proposed collaborating with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Gateway Technical College to fund a research project on automated transportation as part of the city’s smart-city initiative.
William Martin, the city’s chief innovation officer, this week presented the proposed research agreement between the city and UW-Madison for the research project entitled “Advancing Autonomy in Public Transportation.” Each entity, including Gateway, would contribute $250,000 to purchase, calibrate and set up electric, autonomous shuttle buses. The bulk of the city’s contribution would go towards the actual vehicle and equipment, which the city would own.
The project, according to Martin, would revitalize Racine’s reputation for innovation and invention.
“We’ve been nicknamed ‘Invention City’ because of the number of patents that helped to grow this city,” said Martin. “This is now a proactive effort to continue moving toward innovation, and being able to build on smart mobility is a part of that portfolio.”
Martin said the decision to use a smaller shuttle bus, as opposed to a full-sized 40-passenger bus, is both practical and financial.
“One of the issues for mass transit now is it’s designed to carry as many people as possible on what is essentially a tank of a civilian vehicle,” Martin said. “But they’re only really financially viable if we fill it.”
Filling a 40-person bus during a pandemic is “the last thing you want to do,” said Martin, but even under normal conditions, the size of the buses make them more costly and gives them less flexibility on routes. Martin said the smaller shuttles would be more nimble and could target much-needed routes, such as connecting residential areas to area employers.
“This allows us to begin to look at how we reconnect folks to opportunity, and to be able to do it in a much more efficient way than to have a 40-passenger bus be the only option for folks who do not have their own personal transportation,” Martin said.
As part of the agreement, UW-Madison’s School of Engineering would have an office in Racine where its researchers and Gateway faculty would collaborate on the project. Gateway students would have the opportunity to learn the practical and technical aspects of electric and automated vehicles, which Martin said would prepare them for jobs in those developing fields.
“This is going to affect mechanics and repair service for these kinds of vehicles, and having Gateway Technical College be a first part of that allows students to become some of the first with these opportunities,” Martin said.
Grant to fund e-bus purchases
In other transit matters, the Finance and Personnel Committee on Monday approved a request to accept $3,183,723 in grant funds from the Federal Transit Administration Low or No Emission Vehicle Program. In conjunction with the funds received in 2019 from the state’s Volkswagen settlement, the funds will go toward purchasing nine electric buses and their charging equipment.
Mayor Cory Mason told the committee the funding would not only help the city mitigate pollution, but also mitigate its budget woes.
“I think it also helps facilitate, once we get these electric buses online, what might be the most energy-efficient bus fleet in the state,” said Mason.
The committee forwarded the collaboration study and bus grant items to the City Council with a recommendation to approve them. The next council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday virtually and will be live-streamed for the public on the city’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/CityOfRacineWI/.
About the Washington Park Pool
For about a quarter of a century, the Washington Park outdoor swimming pool was a popular place in the summer.
The pool was built in 1938-39, as was the nearby Washington Park Recreation Center - renamed Tyler-Doner in 2002 - and opened in 1939.
The park and center with built with a grant through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federak agency created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The pool was abandoned in the 1960s and permanently closed in 1968.
Friday, Aug. 18, 1939
Friday, July 29, 1949
Wednesday, July 22, 1959
Sunday, August 23, 1959
Monday, June 28, 1965
Thursday, August 29, 1968
“We’ve been nicknamed ‘Invention City’ because of the number of patents that helped to grow this city. This is now a a proactive effort to continue moving toward innovation and being able to build on smart mobility is a part of that portfolio.” William Martin, City of Racine chief innovation officer
"We’ve been nicknamed 'Invention City' because of the number of patents that helped to grow this city. This is now a a proactive effort to continue moving toward innovation and being able to build on smart mobility is a part of that portfolio."
William Martin, City of Racine chief innovation officer
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