A NSF Civic Innovation Challenge Project
NSF Civic Project Summary
The Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with the City of Austin Transportation Department aims at providing a sustainable, scalable, and transferable proof of concept for addressing the spatial mismatch between housing affordability and jobs by co-creating a Community Hub for Smart Mobility (CHSM) in vulnerable neighborhoods with civic partners. The spatial mismatch between housing affordability and jobs causes commuter traffic congestion resulting in an annual $29 billion loss to the U.S. economy alone.
Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, this grant will provide a sustainable, scalable, and transferrable method for local communities to co-create solutions that meet their needs and align with their values. CHSMs will be community-level hubs where residents can access multiple modes of transport such as shared (e-)bikes, e-scooters, ride hailing, electric vehicle charging stations, and public transit. It will provide more mobility options to residents, increase their access to jobs, ameliorate existing transit deserts, and improve the efficiency of the overall transportation system.
The CHSM concept will likely benefit all kinds of communities, with the greatest benefits going to those who are most underserved by the current transportation system and most under-resourced due to the job/housing mismatch. The results and findings from this project will provide new insights into how to improve residents’ mobility in vulnerable neighborhoods and alleviate the job/housing mismatch nationwide.
The goal of this project is to develop, implement, and evaluate a Community Hub for Smart Mobility (CHSM) to solve the job/housing mismatch in US cities. The research team will focus on Georgian Acres, a historically under-resourced neighborhood in northeast Austin, Texas and work with multiple civic partners to address the unique transportation needs of the neighborhood.
The project will be carried out through the following five thrusts:
1. Co-Designing the GA-CHSM with the Georgian Acres (GA) Neighborhood
2. Co-Developing the GA-CHSM
3. Co-Operating the CHSM with Civic Partners
4. Evaluating the GA-CHSM’s Impacts
5. Scaling and transferring the CHSM concept through the City of Austin’s Project Connect
Both quantitative (e.g., GIS analysis, transportation modeling, machine learning) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, surveys, focus groups) research methods will be used in this project to evaluate the success of the CHSM. These findings will contribute to the literatures on transportation planning, community planning, and participatory design and will serve as a model for tackling the job/housing mismatch through community-based mobility solutions.
Transportation Research Board Paper Submission
August 31, 2023
The Urban Information Lab recently submitted a paper to the Transportation Research Board about the Community Hub for Smart Mobility (CHSM). Read the abstract below!
Concerns surrounding the mismatch between housing and transportation have become increasingly prominent in the post-pandemic era. To address these challenges, researchers and practitioners have implemented various programs, with the concept of mobility hubs gaining widespread adoption. This paper presents a case study in Austin, Texas, introducing a community-centered project that combines smart mobility to provide mobility choices in a vulnerable neighborhood. The paper seeks to answer two key research questions, How can university, government, nonprofit, and community organizations work together to design a CHSM that meets the community’s unique mobility needs? How can we evaluate the CHSM to understand its impact on residents’ mobility and job accessibility? By addressing these questions, the paper aims to create an expandable framework for CHSM that can be applied in other municipalities. In conclusion, this paper explores the implementation of mobility hubs, particularly the CHSM, in Austin, Texas, to address the housing and transportation mismatch. It delves into the collaborative efforts among various stakeholders and presents research questions to assess the impact of the CHSM on residents’ mobility and job accessibility. The hope is that the findings and framework developed can serve as valuable tools to empower communities and promote equitable access to transportation choices in various other locations.
Smart Cities and Generative AI Symposium
August 10, 2023
The Smart Cities and Generative AI Symposium is a day-long gathering of interdisciplinary professionals across academia and industry to inform, examine, and discuss how generative artificial intelligence impacts our cities. Happening at the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Austin, Texas, this robust program will feature presenters from multiple universities across Texas and beyond, as well as smart mobility professionals working in our cities. Students from the Urban Information Lab at UT Austin will also present their research in this area, further generating discussion on this timely topic.
Symposium attendees will benefit from the rich diversity of perspectives present, and a networking lunch will allow opportunities for connection and collaboration. We aim to create a space for interdisciplinary learning, relationship building, and problem solving as AI technologies continue to shape our cities.
This event is organized by UT Austin researchers working on A Good System for Smart Cities, a core research project of Good Systems. Good Systems is a university-wide, interdisciplinary research grand challenge focused on designing ethical AI technologies for the benefit of society.
The event will happen on August 18, 2023. RSVP here!
Data Synthesized and Analyzed for Research
July 28, 2023
The process of creating a SmartHub is not an easy one, and involves many steps. Our project team is currently working on academic papers for publication to inform others about our process and the results from our data. Below is an abstract for a paper with the first author as Yefu Chen, PhD student and data manager of the SmartHub.
Georgian Manor Community Event
March 1, 2023
Hi Y’all! This Saturday, March 4 from 12:00-2:00pm, Jails to Jobs is having a party and we are inviting you and your family. The event will be at the Georgian Manor playground at 110 Bolles Cir. We will have a booth set up specifically to administer the SmartHub survey and are looking forward to seeing you all there. And do not forget to call 737-93-SMART if you need a free ride!
Take Our Survey
February 27, 2023
We have officially launched our SmartHub survey. If you are a Georgian Acres or North Lamar resident, you qualify to take the survey and will receive a $10 gift card upon completion. The survey is available in English and Spanish here. We can accommodate other languages in person if needed! The survey is available online, in person at Jails to Jobs or at any SmartHub promoted event. It will be available until the end of March, so please spread the word!
Thank you for your participation and we are looking forward to improving the SmartHub with your feedback.
Clothing Drive Event Update
February 20, 2023
Jails To Jobs hosted a clothing drive event in partnership with ATX Peace, a community violence intervention organization, and Kerby’s clothing ministry. The event was from 10am-2pm on Saturday the 18th. Many community members came by for music, breakfast and to pick up some new clothing items! The SmartHub tabled at the event to administer surveys about the SmartHub, its services and user experience since launching in November ’22. While helping out with surveys, SmartHub workers were able to hear positive stories about community members experiences with the shuttle service and its reliability.
Check out this Story
December 12, 2022
Bridging Barriers: Planting Transportation Seeds in An Urban Desert Read UT Good Systems Johnny Holden's story on the Smart Mobility Hub!
NSF Civic Innovation Challenge Update Video
December 5, 2022
Recently, MetroLab posted our CIVIC 2022 end of year progress video to their website! We are looking forward to receiving feedback and learning on how to better the model for next year. If you would like to learn more, kindly follow this link to find previous Civic Innovation Challenge videos that highlight the impacts of the CIVIC 2022 cohort.
Smart Technology Update
November 18, 2022
Two students performed field research using a robot at the Smart Hub site. This research aims to support Living and Working With Robots and the integration of Safe Routes to School into Smart Hub programming.
November 15, 2022
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Thank you for joining us for the Grand Launch of the Georgian Acres Community Hub for Smart Mobility this past Monday. The new smart hub is successfully operating on East Wonsley Drive! Community members and residents have access to e-scooters and circulator vans operated by Jails to Job staff. The smart hub is equipped with solar-powered wireless charging benches and additional USB ports for charging, thanks to Sat Energy. There is smart lighting throughout the site and covered seating available. We are thankful to community partners like Austin Smart Mobility and Lime Scooters for tabling and proving residents with more information about their respective services.
Residents walked in off the street and joined us in sharing tacos and learning more about what the new smart hub has to offer. Short remarks were given by key players who have supported the project from the start. Dan Jaffe, University of Texas’ Vice President of Research, provided the crowd with opening remarks explaining the University’s and NSF’s involvement in the research aspect. This was followed by, the Dean of the School of Architecture, Michelle Addington highlighting the need for intentional design in the built environment… “We’re there to bring knowledge, expertise, the best array of information, the tools and the scenario development.” Dr. Jiao thanked Dr. Jaffe, Dr. Addington and the University for the continued support in the project and opened the floor to Co-PI and Austin’s Assistant Transportation Director, Jason JonMicheal. District Council Member Chito Vela tied the project to the North Lamar Transit Center and nearby Georgian Acres Neighborhood Park. The event was closed with remarks from Chris Haskins, Jail to Jobs Director, who explained how the location encouraged J2J to join the project, and shared success stories witnessed since the pilot launched last month.
Since the grand opening, the smart hub has seen an increase in ridership and the J2J staff has been working hard to keep up with demand. Two shuttle vans are running and the phone is ringing off the hook! Thank you Jails to Jobs, Austin Transportation Department, The University of Texas, and all community members who continue to assist in this team effort. We are looking forward to hosting future events and supporting the Georgian Acres community!
Event Media Links
New hub in Austin's Georgian Acres neighborhood to give residents mobility in ‘transit desert’ - Sumaiya Malik/Community Impact
Grand Opening: November 14, 2022!
October 31, 2022
Please join us in celebrating the Grand Opening of the Georgian Acres Community Hub for Smart Mobility! The event will be open to the public starting at noon. Lunch will be provided and there will be opportunities to tour the site and services. Speaking remarks will beginning promptly at 1 p.m.
The team would love to offer you the opportunity to celebrate with us and see all the work that is being done. We hope to see you all there!
Smart Mobility Hub Update
October 17, 2022
Last week the UT team met with the J2J team to work out some kinks and to tour the site before the Grand Opening!
Civic Innovation Challenge Project Showcase
September 22, 2022
Last Wednesday teams traveled to Washington D.C. to present the accomplishments of their 1-year grant period pilots with NSF. The majority of the presentation topics targeted social justice, environmental justice or mobility justice. Our team was last to present NSF, Department of Energy and Department of Transportation leaders, closing the conference with a conversation on transportation equity in under-resourced transit deserts. It was one of the only projects with a physical component like the SmartHub. We returned to Austin motivated and ready to continue innovating!
Smart Mobility Hub
Mid-Term Construction Update
The SmartHub is on track for completed construction between the end of September and the middle of October. Jail to Jobs and City of Austin are working hard to clean the site and finish the remaining construction. The SmartHub site currently has temporary benches in place that will soon be replaced with new LED benches for community members to use. Alongside completed construction, the SmartHub will officially host e-bikes and e-scooters for increased access to micro-mobility in Georgian Acres.
March 9, 2022
Click here to view a session that was held in March of 2022 that provided updates regarding the Community Mobility Hub.
We are pleased to share the exciting news that groundwork on the Smart Mobility Hub in the Georgian Acres neighborhood has officially begun! The City’s contractors began work on 3/28/2022, along E. Wonsley Drive (as seen in the pictures below). The Hub construction work will require a few weeks to be completed, after which our team will install temporary furniture and equipment needed for the functioning of the Hub. We are pleased to see the Hub come to life, as it will be a great addition to the community. Stay tuned for updates!
In-person Event at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center
The photos below are from Saturday 4/2/2022 event at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center, where community members and project partners heard a project update from the City, UT, and Jail to Jobs. This presentation was followed by an opportunity for attendees to view one of the neighborhood shuttle vehicles as well as ride e-bikes and e-scooters for the first time in a traffic-free environment.
In–person Event: Gethsemane Food Pantry 2021