Scroll down to read about the challenges we’re exploring at the February 27, 2019 Greater Portland Tech Challenge. Click here if you’d like to pitch a challenge. Click here if you’d like to pitch your firm’s problem solving capacity.

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The 12 Minute Challenge

The Problem: Demand for service on Portland Streetcar is outpacing our ability to acquire and deploy additional streetcars. We have long promised improved frequencies of service, particularly in the Central Eastside and Lloyd districts however operating and capital costs have made this challenging. Additionally, acquiring streetcars requires up to 36 months for manufacturing and delivery.

Our "problem" is how can better deploy our service with existing resources to match demand using tools such as signal pre-emption or priority, scheduling, or other resource deployment. Our goal is to improve the frequency of streetcars from 15-minutes to 12-minutes by 2020.

Market demand for a solution: The market demand for the solution is that transit systems across the nation are looking for ways to balance ongoing maintenance and asset management with service improvements and capital investments. Increasingly, the federal government is emphasizing asset management while the public demands more service.

A solution that would balance needs while keeping capital costs low would benefit many public sector partners.

What resources will Portland Streetcar commit to this project?: Portland Streetcar can provide staff time and access to data including run-times, schedule adherence, ridership...etc.

 

The Problem with the Weather…

The problem: Weather is one of the most critical, and least controllable elements in farming. Most farmers today have some type of weather station in their field(s) to monitor conditions but rely on National Weather Service or similar sources for forecasting. While the national forecasts are useful, every region is composed of many microclimates. While the temperature fluctuations in microclimates may only be a few degrees, they can have a significant impact. Frost can destroy a crop, and the severity of wind can impact when a farmer sprays. Within a region, microclimates cause these weather events to impact farms differently or not at all.

The challenge is to develop an open data system to link existing and new weather stations, aggregating the data and developing new predictive analytics to identify microclimates within Polk County.

Market demand for a solution: Better forecasting within microclimates will be incredibly useful for farm operations, knowing how much it might rain, when the rain will start/stop, how hard the wind will be blowing, etc. The true value of this solution will be in identifying trends for freezes and other significant events. Farmers can deploy countermeasures to prevent freezes from harming their crop, but currently they have to rely on national forecasting. That means they either deploy their fans and smoke pots too soon, losing money, or they wait too long and risk losing some or all of their crop. Alerts based on microclimate forecasting will save farmers money.

What resources will you commit to this project? We can provide access to various farmers for subject matter expertise and potential test sites. OSU can be a resource for existing data sets, farm contacts, data analytics, etc. We will also contribute $5,000 toward development of a solution.

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Smart Pipes? We’re ready!

Explain your problem: Cities around the country are struggling with aging infrastructure. Sewer systems in particular have been in use long enough that most cities are using pipes over 50 years old, made of cast iron, ceramic or even wood. These old pipes crack and leak over time, a problem made worse by tree roots. While it’s natural to think the problem is sewage leaking out, the real problem is storm water and groundwater leaking in.

The City of Independence typically pumps about a million and a half gallons of sewage into it’s treatment facility per day. During a large rain event when the water table rises to nearly surface level, that number can increase to over ten million gallons per day. Frequently, thirty percent of a city’s total sewer capacity can be from inflow and infiltration of groundwater.

As you can imagine, groundwater infiltration causes major additional expenses for a city. Pipes must be enlarged, treatment facilities expanded, and the actual treatment of the effluent becomes more difficult - lagoon systems like Independence’s require a certain level of Biological Oxygen Demand to work and will cease to function if diluted too much. In a major storm event, the infiltration can overwhelm pump stations causing sewage backups that spill out residents’ toilets.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: Cities have ways to know roughly how much infiltration is occurring, but the only way to identify leaking pipes is to pull manhole covers and look for flow during low use times, or to video the pipe system - literally run a video camera down the pipes. Both of these methods are costly in terms of money and manpower. Due to cost and staffing, Independence tries to video it’s sewer system once every seven years, but isn't always able to follow this schedule.

A simple, low cost method for determining which pipes are leaking, where, and the severity of the leak would be of great value to cities everywhere. They could better target maintenance and replacement of pipes, and even consider shifting funding from capital infrastructure, as reduced I&I will reduce the need for larger pump stations or treatment facilities

What resources will you commit to this project? We are willing to provide access to our Public Works staff for interviews and testing of ideas. Access to the City sewer system can also be provided depending on the solution that is proposed for deployment. We will also provide maintenance records and whatever data is appropriate to help quantify the issue - note that much of this data is likely in hard copy logs or institutional memory. We will also commit $5,000 toward development of a pilot solution.

 

On the Move with Metro

Explain your problem: The Portland region is facing escalating traffic congestion, and Metro is preparing a Mobility Corridors strategy that will identify ways to make it more convenient to travel along the region's busiest corridors. Metro and our partners already collect a significant amount of data on the region's travel patterns, but it can be challenging to turn those detailed and diverse datasets into information that we can use to identify solutions – particularly when it comes to understanding how congestion affects communities of color, non-drivers, and other underserved groups that lack good access to jobs and services.

We know there are other sources of travel data out there that can help inform our work as well. We've begun to compile and present regional travel data through the PORTAL system developed by PSU, and we'd like to build on that success. How do we make the most of available data or new data sources on people's travel patterns to understand congestion and identify equitable ways to manage it?

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: Agencies across the U.S. are purchasing travel data and working to visualize and apply big datasets in the context of planning processes.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? Data, staff time, and an opportunity to shape Metro's approach to upcoming planning projects, including the Mobilty Corridors Plan and the Transportation System Management and Operations Strategic Plan.

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A Multi-Modal Wallet

Explain your problem: The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is seeking a technology solution for the distribution of digital transportation passes for its Transportation Wallet package. Currently, the Transportation Wallet combines TriMet, Portland Streetcar, and BIKETOWN passes into one consumer product. With other mobility options available in Portland such as carshare, e-scooters, and TNCs; various transit fare-types including adult, honored citizen, and low-income; and eligibility requirements for specific PBOT programs, the potential of the Transportation Wallet is only just beginning. To realize these future scenarios, PBOT needs an app and/or web interface that can verify eligibility based on geolocation and GIS data; deliver digital transportation passes in real-time from various providers; and provide customized confirmation in real-time. Other desired functionality includes: deployment of multiple versions of the Transportation Wallet; and the ability for the consumer to choose what they want in a customized Transportation Wallet package.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: The future of mobility is becoming increasingly more multi-modal and reliant on technology. Since the inception of PBOT’s Transportation Wallet in early 2018, participant feedback is astoundingly positive, consumers want to see more mobility options available, and development is currently underway for expanding the Wallet to more people in more regions around the city. These are only the beginning phases of an emergent multi-modal transportation package that is easy to access, gives people flexibility of mobility options, reduces parking demand and congestion, and helps Portland achieve its climate and transportation mode-split goals. A tech company that can build a digital interface to deliver the Transportation Wallet for Portland has a desirable platform that can be marketed to cities nationwide.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? PBOT has staff to oversee the marketing, distribution, and tracking of Transportation Wallets and wants to be thoroughly involved in developing and testing the user experience of the digital delivery tool. We currently conduct surveys and analyze data to report on the efficacy of the program. Sustainable funding exists for the long-term duration of the project because it is tied to parking permit surcharge fees. The potential earned revenue by a tech company could be based per transaction for each participating transportation provider. With the inclusion of more mobility providers to the Transportation Wallet, and the inevitable expansion of the Wallet to more areas in Portland, the potential return on investment is substantial. We will also commit up to $5,000 toward development of a demonstration project.

Accessible & Integrated Campus Navigation

Explain your problem: Oregon Health and Science University is a nationally renowned, and Oregon's only, academic health center. OHSU is also one of Oregon's largest employers, with an employee-base of approximately 16,000, and growing. With a large population of visitors per day traveling to work, school and healthcare, ensuring proper navigation to one of the 36+ major buildings, spanning across a 7.9 million square-foot campus, can be a major point of stress. When comparing transportation options, relying on multiple sources to choose a commute method is a cumbersome task, especially when factoring in impacts such as construction, congestion and other unexpected scenarios.

To help navigate the complexity of traveling to OHSU, OHSU has developed an in-house trip-planning tool. The current tool provides the user with easy to compare commute options all directly linked to Google Maps, to include turn-by-turn directions, real-time transit, bike friendly streets, elevation gain and real-time traffic. The tool in its current state is focused more on the employee commute, and lacks a means of integrating into the patient experience.

In 2017, OHSU provided care for over 300,000 patients, equating to more than 1,000,000 individual patient visits. We hear from patients that not only do they have trouble getting to OHSU, but once they do get here, they have issues navigating within the campus and finding their end destination. OHSU would like to expand the reach of its current trip-planning tool to be incorporated into the patient experience, and provide greater door-to-door directions.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: OHSU is not unique in its desire to help provide information for people to make informed travel decisions. In its current state, we know other large employers/institutions could benefit from this tool to help their own employees trip plan. Accessibility is a contributing factor in patient retention within healthcare institutions. With the integration into patient-facing software, this tool could be replicated to benefit patients at medical destinations all over the region.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? We are willing to commit to providing access to data, staff and financial resources.

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Explore Washington Park

Explain your problem: Explore Washington Park (EWP) seeks to improve access to Washington Park through policies and programs that increase transit use. As we build programs for underserved populations with the goal of reducing the cost barrier of getting to the park, we need help tracking our impact. EWP is looking for ways to harness new and existing technology to count visitor arrivals into the park by TriMet MAX on an hourly and daily basis. This data will supplement TriMet's quarterly MAX ridership data and EWP's annual mode split date, and will guide policy and programmatic decisions.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: Washington Park is Portland's destination park with attractions that put Portland on the map including the Portland Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden, and Zoo. Explore Washington Park pulls all of these entities together to build a world class facility. Firms partnering with Explore Washington Park will be partnering with all of the amazing cultural institutions in the park. They will be a part of solving the question of how data can help increase access to one of Portland's most beloved parks, impacting the over 3.5 million visitors who come here each year.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? (Data, access, staff time, dollars): Explore Washington Park has quite a bit of data that we can share: parking meter, visitation, shuttle ridership, annual mode splits, traffic counts, and demographic data from an annual transportation survey. We will also provide both Explore Washington Park staff time and Portland Parks & Recreation staff time. While TriMet is not a partner on the team, they are aware of this project and are supportive. TriMet's Director of Policy and Planning sits on the EWP board and is supportive of our mission and efforts.We also can dedicate up to $1,000 for an initial pilot project. We can explore increasing funding based on need and opportunity.

Energy Efficiency for Everyone

NW Natural

Explain your problem. NW Natural works with the Energy Trust of Oregon to fund free or low-cost weatherization services through local partner agencies to our eligible natural gas customers. Because we don’t track customer income, we have trouble identifying customers who might qualify for these services. We’re seeking a tech-driven marketing/analytics solution or online tool to help qualify customers to receive these services.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: Being able to identify individuals that fall in to this category would be useful/applicable to many government agencies/ or non profits that would be able to provide services, and have targeted dollars to assist these individuals which often go unused due to inability to get the information about these programs to them.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? We have staff, printing, and marketing resources that can be accessed if a concept makes sense and can have a reasonable chance at reaching customers.

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A Better Ryd…?

Explain your problem. The introduction of a native app user experience. Although Vancouver startup nonprofit electric vehicle shuttle service, RYD Vancouver, has purchased three vehicles, there isn’t a broad enough base of paying users to fund and test the development of the native app needed to enhance the user experience, enabling RYD to reach more users. The current RYD process is to text the driver for a ride. Could an app be developed that works for a wide range of downtown employees and visitors from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to hail this shuttle and make first/last mile connections available for more commuters?

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: The market demand for RYD is driven by broader cultural and technological shifts. As urban areas become more densely populated and valued in terms of their cultural and relational aspects, parking and transportation options are challenged to keep up with changing demand. Construction cost and future of autonomous vehicles suggest that building more parking garages is not the answer. Think of all the better uses we would have for real estate if parking was not the obstacle. Other first and last mile solutions are not cost effective. Additionally, parking challenges faced by employees and visitors alike, cause wasted time, ineffective use of resources, and a drain on economic vitality. RYD, LLC sees these obstacles as opportunities and is positioned to offer RYD to other communities outside of Vancouver through a franchise model for the greater good.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? Thus far, RYD, LLC and private investors have committed all of the funds to create and launch RYD Vancouver 501c3 and RYD, LLC in an amount in excess of $200,000. The City of Vancouver has committed staff time to supporting the network and cultivating opportunities to accelerate the RYD solution.

Equitable Transit on the East Side

Explain your problem: Transportation, especially of people, has been an issue in East Multnomah County for years. Large employers moving into the region such as FedEx and Amazon on top of population growth have exacerbated this need, especially for north/south connections and for connections to employment and education centers. In 2018, The East Metro Economic Alliance hosted their inaugural East Metro Economic Prosperity Forum. Leader from across the region in business, government, education and nonprofits gathered to collaborate and propose initiatives to address some of the biggest issues facing our region. The transportation and Land Use focus group came up with the initiative:

Plan and develop a concept for a full-service transportation hub at Mt. Hood Community College, promoting improved transportation services, affordability, connectivity, and efficiency that benefits the entire East Metro area.

Explain briefly the market demand for a solution: There is an opportunity for economic development and a hub for various transportation modalities to come to one place opens up various opportunity for the public sector and private sector. With more and more people moving to East Multnomah County, more students enrolled at Mount Hood Community College, more workforce development activity and more industrial business moving into the market, we want to create an equitable transportation hub that allows people to work, play and do business in our community.

What resources will your organization commit to this project? (Data, access, staff time, dollars): East Metro Economic Alliance Executive Director Jarvez Hall will lead the project. Transportion and Land Use chairs Steve Entenmen of Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc and Tim Brunner of Axis Design Group will round out the team. We have a cross functional task force, establish at the Economic Prosperity Forum that will also work on this. We cannot commit the staff time of our four cities (Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale and Wood Village) but I have reason to believe the cities would work with us. Their mayors are on our board and have encouraged us to move forward with this concept.

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Check back often for new challenges. We’ll post them as they’re submitted.