Solve the Congestion Crisis And Win $50,000

Have you ever idled in traffic or waited for a late bus while thinking: "The city government should put me in charge of fixing this mess"?

Traffic_Photo.jpgGood solutions to this could net you $50,000. (Photo: ITSA)

Well, it's time to make notes on that brilliant traffic-calming idea. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) kicked off a $50,000 "Congestion Challenge" today that seeks to pair social networking with innovative transportation policy-making.

Co-sponsored by IBM and Spencer Trask, a private equity firm specializing in high-tech investments, the contest asks transportation professionals and everyday citizens to submit their proposals for clearing the nation's jam-packed roads, bridges and transitways. Each submission will be judged based on its ability to address five issues: sustainability, safety, behavioral impact, economic competitiveness, and speed & efficiency.

But the most compelling aspect of the challenge is its approach to judging. Instead of subjecting entries to an evaluation panel that might be too tied to outmoded ways of thinking, the ITSA asks aspiring judges and contestants to set up their own Facebook-style profile pages (register for your own right here) and rate entries themselves.

This democratic format appears ripe for urbanites to flood the zone with support for genuinely worthy ideas. If livable streets advocates can organize and support a congestion solution devised from within their own ranks, one can imagine a lot of state and federal DOT officials taking notice.