Chattanooga Revolutionizes Public Transit with Portfolio of Solutions, Collaboration

CARTA is the public transportation provider for the City of Chattanooga.  Over 25 years ago, CARTA introduced one of the largest electric bus fleets with the launch of its Downtown Electric Shuttle Program.  Following the development of a public bike share system in 2012, CARTA began exploring new opportunities to improve freedom of choice in transportation and the concept for electric vehicle car sharing began.  With funding available through a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and a mandate to reduce vehicle emissions, CARTA began the process of designing a system that would be complementary to public transportation and be sustainable in a mid-sized city.   As the project included the construction of 80kW of solar energy production and related power provider agreements, a compensatory amount of clean energy is provided to the electric grid to match vehicle energy use.  So far CARTA has installed 64 electric vehicle charging ports across 22 site locations promoting electric vehicle charging access at no cost to the user.  CARTA selected Green Commuter, a California-based benefit corporation, to introduce 20 Nissan LEAF all-electric vehicles as part of a new car share program, with vehicles accessible by the hour or day through smart phone technology.  This unique ownership model of the electric vehicle supply equipment by CARTA provides for continued maintenance and connectivity of the charging network through revenues produced by solar energy production. We spoke with the team leading their work and learned a bit more:

Q: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you, and how does your project contribute to a larger smart city vision?

A: The term “smart” is more than just technology. It’s about making better decisions. Chattanooga is working actively to leverage existing technologies and putting them to use in diverse ways. One of these is the solar assisted EV charging and car share. Chattanooga looks to build a connected environment here that is robust and sustainable.  The promotion of electric vehicle usage and all-electric car share support those activities.

Q: Why is the implementation of your project transformational in our current society?

A: None of the elements of this project are particularly unique.  Solar energy production is certainly a well-established technology. CARTA’s own experience with electric vehicles spans more than 25 years. Shared mobility has also been tested and implemented around the world. Yet, it was only through the leadership and support of a wide range of partners that allowed these pieces to be joined to create a new mobility solution for Chattanooga residents and visitors. Providing an integrated mix of transportation choice from traditional transit, to clean energy solutions that include the electric shuttle, Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System, and green commuter electric vehicle car share, is an accomplishment in a mid-sized city. The expansion of the publicly accessible electric vehicle charging network and the introduction of a new car share program to the city promotes the further use of smart and clean energy transportation choices.  Coordination of data collection from these transport systems provides CARTA the opportunity to develop enhanced and integrated transportation bundles to promote consumer choice and better utilize the community’s transportation resources.  This new electric vehicle framework will also provide a foundation for the introduction of connected and autonomous vehicle technology as well as mobility on demand solutions.

Q: What advice did you receive along the way that helped you complete your winning project for the Smart 50 Awards?

A: To allow potential partners the opportunity to say yes or no.  In developing a new transportation model for the community, it was important not to pre-judge the potential benefits or costs for a particular partner or site host.  Essentially we learned to simply present the project and allow each partner to evaluate the benefits and risks from their own perspective.

Q: What advice would you give a city community or a solution provider looking to implement a municipal-level project?

A: Collaborate. CARTA worked with a diverse group of partners including TVA, the Electric Power Board, academia, the Enterprise Center, and other organizations all of whom are very active in the research and testing of new technologies and methodologies. This work is enhanced through the collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit that is resident here.

Q: What does it mean to you to win the Smart 50 Awards?

A: The opportunity to be recognized is always an important mechanism to share knowledge about these innovative projects and create new connections with other leaders around the world.  We are honored to be a part of the process.