Fact Sheet

MORE Questions and Answers for the Smart City Challenge

  1. I missed the five Information Sessions offered by webinar. Are they available online? Will there be more Information Sessions added? How to I learn about new information?

Yes, presentation slides, transcripts, and archive recordings of the Information Sessions are available online at https://www.transportation.gov/smartcity/infosessions.

Just added! We are adding the following three new Information Sessions:

  • January 14, 2016 from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm Eastern Time - “Link Between Beyond Traffic and The Smart City Challenge”
  • January 19, 2016 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm Eastern Time - “Smart City Challenge Application Homestretch – An Open Q&A Session”
  • January 21, 2016 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm “Understanding Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC)”

Please monitor https://www.transportation.gov/smartcity/infosessions for information on how to register to participate in the three new Information Sessions. All are welcome to participate, but you must register to receive the URL by email to enable you to participate.

To receive updates on the Smart City Challenge, please register your email address under “Stay Connected” at https://www.transportation.gov/smartcity.

Questions? Send them to SmartCityChallenge@dot.gov.

  1. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) includes “Desired Characteristics” for city population and urban area share. Which cities meet the Desired Characteristics for population and urban area share?

The USDOT identified Desired Characteristics of the Smart City awardee. The complete list of Desired Characteristics is included in the NOFO on page 7. Included in the list are the following two Desired Characteristics: (1) a population between approximately 200,000 and 850,000 people within the city (Census-designated place) limits using 2010 Census data; and (2) and a population that represents a significant share (greater than 15%) of the overall population of its urbanized area using 2010 Census data.

To assist potential applicants, the USDOT posted a list of cities that meet the population and urban area share Desired Characteristics at https://www.transportation.gov/smartcity/citypopulations.  

  1. I don't see my city listed on the Smart City website as meeting the population and urban area share Desired Characteristics, but feel that my city does in fact meet the guidelines. Is there a mechanism to have the issue re-evaluated?

The USDOT used 2010 Census data to create the list of cities posted on the Smart City website. The list of cities represents those cities that meet the population and urban area share Desired Characteristics according to the 2010 census data. Cities not on the list are welcome to apply and describe their population and urban area share in their application. The population and urban area share Desired Characteristics are not firm eligibility requirements. Rather, they serve to communicate the USDOT’s ideal attributes for the demonstration. The USDOT will evaluate the technical merit of each application as a whole, including the degree that a city aligns with the USDOT’s complete list of Desired Characteristics included in the NOFO.

  1. What if my city does not fall within the stated guidelines? Can multiple cities, municipalities or jurisdictions in a region collaborate and combine to achieve the population guideline? Is this a hard requirement? Can a consortium propose an alternative approach to meet the guidelines?  If we partner with neighboring jurisdiction(s) or our MPO, how would we count our population?

Multiple cities, municipalities, or jurisdictions may collaborate to apply as a team. The prime lead applicant organization should be clearly identified in the application. While neighboring jurisdictions may team for the demonstration, the population and urban area share Desired Characteristics relate to a singular city and not a collection of cities or jurisdictions. The text in the NOFO states the population guideline applies to the “city limits (Census-designated place)”.  Thus the population and urban area share Desired Characteristics are based on one city’s population within the one city’s limits using 2010 Census data.

The population and urban area share Desired Characteristics are not firm eligibility requirements. Rather, they serve to communicate the USDOT’s ideal attributes for the demonstration. The USDOT will evaluate the technical merit of each application as a whole, including the degree that a city aligns with the USDOT’s complete list of Desired Characteristics included in the NOFO.

Applicants that fall outside the population and urban area share guidelines are welcome to apply, but should be aware that USDOT anticipates significant competition. When making the business decision to apply or not, applicants should consider the NOFO’s technical merit evaluation criteria as a whole. Shortcomings in one area will likely require significantly increased merit in another area to remain competitive.

  1. Can you expand upon the characteristic information that a city should represent "a significant portion (more than 15%) of the overall population of its urbanized area using 2010 Census data”? What would be the numerator and denominator to calculate the percentage?

Population share of urbanized area: To calculate a city’s portion of overall population of its urbanized area, the ratio should be calculated as the city’s 2010 Census designated place population divided by its urbanized area population using 2010 Census data. Definitions of urbanized area and CDP are provided by the US Census Bureau at: https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/frn.html

The city’s 2010 CDP and UZA population can be viewed using the 2010 Urban Area to Place Relationship File at: https://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/ua_rel_download.html

Population density: Per the NOFO, “your city’s density should be calculated using its 2010 CDP population divided by its 2010 land area in square miles, as provided by the US Census Bureau.” This calculation is density per square mile.

  1. Where can I find my city’s 2010 Census place population, 2010 Census place land area, and 2010 Census urbanized area population?

Census place population and land area:  Visit the 2010 Census Gazetteer page (https://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/gazetteer2010.html) and expand the section marked ‘Places’.  Select your state from the drop-down menu and click ‘Go’.  The list of all Census places in your state will open in a tab-delimited text file.  The place name is listed in column 4 (NAME), place population is in column 7 (POP10), and land area in square miles is in column 11 (ALAND_SQMI).

Census urbanized area population:  Visit the 2010 Census Gazetteer page (https://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/gazetteer2010.html) and expand the section marked ‘Urban Areas’.  Download and unzip the Urban Areas Gazetteer File.  The contents are a tab-delimited text file.   The urban area name is listed in column 2 (NAME) and its 2010 Census population is in column 4 (POP10).

  1. Is a County eligible to apply?  Are MPOs eligible to apply?

Yes, counties are eligible to apply and receive awards. A county government is a local government. Yes, MPOs are eligible apply and receive awards. Per the NOFO, “This funding opportunity is limited to State and local governments, tribal governments, transit agencies and authorities, public toll authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, other subdivisions of a State or local government, or a multijurisdictional group applying through a single lead Applicant. Multijurisdictional group means a combination of State or local governments, metropolitan planning agencies, transit agencies, or other subdivisions of a State or local government comprised of at least 2 members, each of whom is an eligible Applicant under the terms of this paragraph.”

  1. Does the proposed demonstration geographic area have to focus within one City’s city limits? Or, can a project area include a city and one or more neighboring jurisdictions? Can the proposed demonstration geographic area span into a neighboring jurisdiction across the US border?

The proposed demonstration geographic area may span multiple jurisdictions. There is no limitation on extending the proposed demonstration geographic area across the US border.

  1. Can a city submit multiple applications?

Yes.

  1. For the ultimate single city that is chosen, is there any allowance for a portion of the grant to be used for grant administration?

Yes, grant administration expenses are allowable for reimbursement during the period of performance of the grant. Grant administration expenses that are allowable, allocable and reasonable are eligible for reimbursement under that planned one award, pursuant to the cost principles contained in 2 CFR Part 200.

Note: No budget information is required for the upcoming February 4th application submittal.

  1. Do Buy America and Buy American apply? Are other regulations waived?

No regulations or policies have been waived to date for this planned demonstration. Therefore, applicants are subject to existing regulation and policies. If your proposed demonstration triggers a regulatory requirement, currently it does apply. If you wish to, you are welcome to propose exceptions and deviations as part of your proposed demonstration. Such requests will be evaluated under the Technical Merit criteria along with the application as a whole.

  1. Is a DUNS number required to apply? Is Sam.gov registration required to apply?

Yes, a DUNS number and a completed Sam.gov registration are required for the prime applicant organization to receive an award. Registration in Sam.gov can take some time and requires multiple steps. The Sam.gov website has very helpful information to assist you with the registration process, including obtaining a DUNS number.

  1. Do I have to identify consultants in the Phase 1 application?

No, individual consultants and vendors do not need to be identified in the Phase 1 application due 2/4/2016. You are welcome to identify such team members, but it’s not required in this application. The Phase 2 application, however, will require a detailed description of the proposed team members.

We anticipate that a prime applicant will use various team members to carry out the work. Team members may be subcontractors, or subawardees, or partners. For this Phase 1 application, you are asked to provide an outline of team partners, including existing or future teaming anticipated. Such arrangements do not need to be firm or finalized for this Phase 1 application. The Phase 1 application is intended to be a high-level summary. Specific consultants and vendors need not be identified.

  1. How can I find team members?

We do not have currently a mechanism to facilitate teaming. But we encourage prime applicants, vendors, and partners to reach out to each other to form teams for this competition.

  1. What do you think of my specific idea?

Due to the competitive nature of this initiative, the USDOT is unable to comment in advance on individual ideas from applicants. We are unable to tell you what will be favorable or what won’t. We cannot entertain hypothetical situations about your unique ideas. Each application received will undergo a technical evaluation by a panel of experts. The NOFO provides our vision elements, our desired characteristics, and our technical merit evaluation criteria. We welcome innovative applications from eligible applicants. However, the idea(s) you choose to propose is a business decision that you have to make, realizing that this is a competition for funds.

  1. For the application, is the Part 1 Vision Narrative’s 30 page limit based on single-spaced or double-spaced?

The NOFO states there is a 30 page limit on the application Part 1 - Vision Narrative. The NOFO is silent on whether applications shall be single-spaced or double-spaced. The USDOT encourages applicants to be mindful of application readability and appearance for reviewers.

  1. For the application, how should we prioritize graphics vs prose? Is there a guideline on this? What is your view of the optimal balance, in Part 1, between prose and graphics?

The NOFO provides requirements regarding format and content of the application. Balance of prose vs. graphics is a business decision for the applicant to make.

  1. Are projects that are not currently listed in a region's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) eligible for these Federal funds?

Yes.

  1. Can funds be allocated toward capital expenses supporting the Smart City demonstration?

Yes.

  1. Would an agency's presence on the population list be sufficient to establish eligibility with respect to population & urban area share requirements? 

No, per the NOFO, your application Part 1 – Vision Narrative shall include  a description of the population characteristics of your city and show how it aligns with the USDOT’s characteristics for a Smart City, including:

  1. Mid-size city with population between approximately 200,000 and 850,000 people in the city limits;
  2. Dense urban population; and
  3. Represents a significant portion (preferably more than 15%) of the population of your local urbanized area.
  1. How necessary is including automated/connected vehicles in one's vision?

The USDOT recognizes that each city has unique attributes, and each city’s proposed demonstration will be tailored to their vision and goals. The NOFO presents the USDOT’s 12 Vision Elements and goals without making each item a requirement for award. Rather, the NOFO provides a framework for applicants to consider in the development of a city’s proposed demonstration. The NOFO also includes a table on page 21 showing the USDOT’s priority levels by Vision Element. As stated in the NOFO, “A successful proposal would align to some or all of the USDOT’s vision elements and foster integration between the elements.” As part of the Technical Merit evaluation, the USDOT will evaluate each application’s consistency with the 12 Vision Elements. The decision to include automated/connected vehicles or not is a business decision for each applicant to make considering the information provided in the NOFO.

  1. What is the demonstration time line? Is there a milestone desired in each year?

The estimated period of performance for the demonstration is up to four years. The USDOT expects the demonstration to be implemented and tested within three years. The fourth year is expected to be used for finalizing the evaluation of the demonstration. No yearly milestones are required to be defined in the Phase 1 applications due 2/4/2016. However, under the Phase 2 NOFO, Smart City Challenge Finalists will be invited to propose milestones in accordance with their unique proposed demonstration.

  1. If a city receives a Phase 1 fixed amount award of $100,000, how can the $100,000 in planning support be provided and expended in time to help with the Final Application?

The estimated five Phase 1 fixed amount awards will provide Federal funding of $100,000 each for concept development and planning activities such as development of technical demonstration plans and budget plan documents, and performance of pre-implementation planning. Deliverables for these awards are described in more detail later in the NOFO. The USDOT intends for the concept development $100,000 awards to support, prepare, and enable Finalists to submit detailed applications for demonstration implementation under the separately issued the USDOT solicitation (Phase 2). The USDOT intends for the concept development $100,000 awards to allow each recipient to further their own Smart City plans even if they do not receive the Smart City Challenge award. During the period of performance of the fixed amount awards, Smart City Challenge Finalists will participate in a number of planning, outreach and educational opportunities with the USDOT to further develop their plans.

The period of performance for the fixed amount awards is six months (estimated March – August 2016). The USDOT estimates the Phase 2 application will be due in May 2016.

  1.  Is there a timeline for expenditures for phase 2?

In the Phase 2 award, expenditures cannot exceed obligated funding. Estimated funding by year is:

FY 16:             $15 Million

FY 17:             $15 Million

FY 18:             $10 Million

Total               $40 Million

  1. Universities cannot be lead applicants but can they be listed as partners and receive funding?

Yes, universities, as well as non-profit or for-profit companies / consultants / organizations, can be included as subawardees or subcontractors, or partners. However, one prime applicant shall be clearly identified in your proposal and the prime applicant should comply with the Eligible Applicants paragraph in Section C of the NOFO which states,

“This funding opportunity is limited to State and local governments, tribal governments, transit agencies and authorities, public toll authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, other subdivisions of a State or local government, or a multijurisdictional group applying through a single lead Applicant. Multijurisdictional group means a combination of State or local governments, metropolitan planning agencies, transit agencies, or other subdivisions of a State or local government comprised of at least 2 members, each of whom is an eligible Applicant under the terms of this paragraph.”

  1. As these are FHWA funds, will they flow through the State DOTs or directly to the cities?

The USDOT FHWA’s Office of Acquisition and Grants Management intends to make direct awards to the selected applicants.

  1. The Application Part 2 requires a Standard Form (SF) 424A, asking for cost detail for the $100,000 fixed amount awards under Phase 1. What should I enter since these are fixed amount awards?

You may leave SF 424A BLANK in BLOCKS 6 through 23, which ask for cost detail. These entries are not applicable on this fixed amount award under Phase 1. They will be required in Phase 2 applications.

  1. Can you please describe the role Vulcan Inc. will play during Phase 2?

The USDOT is currently evaluating this topic and will release further information when available.

Updated: Friday, October 7, 2016
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