By Kelley Birschbach

Our glorious town has boasted a slew of top 10 rankings in the country for some time, but as you probably heard earlier this month, U.S. News & World Report now ranks Denver as the number one place to live in the country.

As meaningless as that is to our daily lives, for whatever reason, it feels good. It makes you walk a little taller, doesn’t it?

But crawling home down a smoggy I-25 after a long Wednesday workday makes me wish Denver, Iowa was the one getting all the love.

Thankfully, Denver officials are working to solve the transportation frustration. They, along with 77 other cities, applied to the The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Smart City Challenge” – a $50 million dollar grant designed to enable one American city to lead the country into a new era of urban mobility with the latest technology.

In March, the USDOT announced Denver as one of seven finalists.

According to Denver’s Smart City application, the goal is to enhance current technology – fiber optic networks, bike sharing, cameras and sensors, Light Rail, etc. – with investments in new innovative efforts. Think self-driving cars, electric taxis, and buses, vehicle-to-vehicle connection for less accident and loads of data analysis that will allow agencies and the public alike to make better transportation decisions.

The results could be huge.

If the city’s objectives are met, they say this grant could transform Denver “into a world leader in demand responsive transit,” according to their application.

The Denver of the Future

In the next 10 years, you would see the following:

  • Legislation reintroduced that supports and invites autonomous vehicle technology in Colorado along with a fully operational fleet by 2020.
  • 150 additional miles of bike lanes by 2025.
  • Nearly 200 electric vehicle charging stations by 2020 (the city currently owns 36).
  • At least one-fifth of government vehicles electrified by 2025.

On top of that, the city hopes its effort will make a serious dent in “some of the worst air pollution in the U.S.” They have already established climate Sustainability Goals for 2020 and say the Smart City grant would go a long way in achieving them.

USDOT has given Denver $100,000 to flesh out its ideas over the next couple months before a final proposal is due.

What Denver is Doing for Sustainability Right Now

But part of Denver’s Smart City initiative has already launched. In a partnership with Xerox, the city has created Go Denver, a free mobile app that allows Denver travelers to find transportation that fits their needs.

The mapping feature is similar to other map apps but adds some really cool features, particularly for you city dwellers. First, you can pick travel preferences like personal car, bike, light rail, even Lyft and Zipcar. After you’ve entered your destination, Go Denver estimates the cost and travel time and you can sort options by departure time, estimated cost and climate friendliness.

In the future, the app will help you keep track of how much time and money you spend on travel and how your habits compare to your friends’ habits. It will give you suggestions of how to leave less of a footprint on the environment and your pocketbook.

You can download Go Denver now on iTunes.

Denver and the other finalists, which include Columbus, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco, will find out their fate on June 16.

In the meantime, the city is asking its citizens to participate. If you’ve got some fresh ideas to make my I-25 commute more fun, head to Denver’s website to submit them.

I’ll be putting in a request for Star Trek-style transporters. Beam me downtown, Scotty.

If you’re looking for more information about sustainability efforts throughout the city, from food co-ops to 100 percent solar powered co-working spaces, check these out.