Can IBM fix Boston’s bad traffic? By Michael B. Farrell, Globe Staff/

Can the data experts at IBM improve Boston’s notoriously bad traffic?

That’s the hope when the computer giant lends several engineers to the city for three weeks this summer, to come up with solutions for fixing traffic problems more quickly and ideas for reducing vehicle emissions.

Boston is one of 33 cities around the world that will get access to IBM know-how as part of the company’s 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge. The winners of the grants, worth about $400,000 each, were revealed Thursday.

“This is another example of how we are piloting innovative work in the city of Boston and sharing it with our colleagues around the world,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, in a statement.

The city competed with 140 applications from 40 countries in the challenge, which grew out of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps. Since it began in 2008, the program has sent about 1,400 IBM employees on assignments in 24 countries.

Their task in Boston won’t be easy. The Boston area has the eighth-worst traffic congestion in the US, according to a recent INRIX Inc. traffic score card. The city wants to tap into IBM brain power to apply computer analytics and data from traffic cameras to ease congestion, and figure out if its policies to reduce greenhouse gases are working.

The project joins a range of ways to lessen commuter pain that are being explored. “This project with IBM is our newest effort in this arena,” said Thomas Tinlin, commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department. “We will be unlocking near-real-time information about road conditions in our city that will help us to keep traffic flowing safely and smoothly.”

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at