State Offers Real Money for Innovative Ideas on Efficiency, Safety, More

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty announces Innovation Prizes for public ideas on streamlining, safety, or other ways to improve government. Assemblymember Mike Gatto is behind him.
Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty announces Innovation Prizes for public ideas on streamlining, safety, or other ways to improve government. Assemblymember Mike Gatto is behind him.

Have you been itching to tell Caltrans how to do something better? Now’s your chance—and maybe the department will pay you for your help. Caltrans is offering real money—up to $25,000—for an idea on how to improve transportation in the state.

The department is open to ideas about efficiency, design, safety, performance, sustainability, or any of the areas that fall under Caltrans’ responsibility, which include roads, highways, intercity rail lines, bridges, airports, transit, and active transportation.

The award money was made available through a bill passed last year in the state legislature, seeking “creative solutions from the public to improve the safety, efficiency, and delivery of services.” Three state departments are each offering $25k prizes for innovative ideas. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is asking the public for ways to reduce underage drinking. The Department of General Services (DGS) is looking for ways to help the public and policy makers understand and use the growing reams of publicly available data to increase sustainability. DGS will hold a a “Code-a-thon” in October to bring programmers together [PDF]. Register for the DGS event by September 1 here.

The Department of Transportation—Caltrans–has put “no constraints on what we’re looking for,” said Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty as he announced the prizes. To get people thinking, the department tweeted out a photo of a green lane with the tag line: “This protected bike lane is a great idea that rocks! Tell us yours!”

“This is not a suggestion box,” said Assemblymember Mike Gatto, author of the bill that created the prizes. “This is money for hard intellectual property that will help streamline a government process.” He pointed to several historical precedents for offering government prizes for ideas, including the British government’s offer of a large prize for ways to calculate longitude, without which its sailors were getting lost.

Any California resident is eligible to submit an idea–except for state employees, who already have their own program awarding them for innovation.

Distill your great idea into 500 words; you can also include a short video and/or images. Submit them by October 13 here. And let us know what ideas you’re submitting—send a copy to Melanie@streetsblog.org.

You can ask questions here.

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