Mercy Education Project, AbleLink Smart Living Technologies, and a team that includes the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE Energy, and local artists have won the City:One Challenge, created by Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and sponsored by AT&T, Dell Technologies, Microsoft, and PlanetM.
The three teams will split $250,000 in funding to test the implementation of their proposals in a real-world setting as they aim to improve mobility in the communities surrounding Michigan Central Station.
“The quality of the proposals submitted for the City:One Challenge was simply outstanding,” says Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility innovation for the city of Detroit. “We are truly appreciative for all the time and energy spent in understanding mobility in the area of Michigan Central Station and proposing solutions. The fact that two of the three winners are local residents demonstrates the creativity and passion that Detroiters have for mobility.”
Mercy Education Project is a nonprofit charitable organization that proposed the creation of Rock City Mobility Stations, which would increase access to information and various types of mobility options. Each station would feature a kiosk stocked with signage, maps, bus schedules, and parking information. Outside the kiosk would be a central location for various modes of transportation, including bike-sharing, scooter, and ride-sharing services.
AbleLink is a technology solutions provider that proposed improving transportation for individuals with cognitive disabilities or other special needs with its WayFinder ecosystem. Whether they have a disability or low English proficiency, people will be able to download a customized WayFinder app and get instructions from a cloud-based WayFinder SMART Route Library to help route them to their destination and travel independently.
Finally, a team comprised of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE, and local artists proposed improving the safety and walkability of the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Lodge Freeway to better connect Corktown and Southwest Detroit to the downtown area. The project involves the installation of colorful public art commissioned from two Detroit-born artists, Freddy Diaz and Donald Calloway, paired with street furniture and amenities. This is intended to make the bridge more inviting for people using all modes of transportation, including pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
Launched in Detroit in June 2019, City:One Challenge is a crowd-sourcing platform created by Ford to help prepare cities for the future by identifying new mobility designs and innovations that could improve the way people get around. The platform program brings together government officials, local residents, startups and entrepreneurs in an effort to understand mobility issues and design solutions. With a goal of improving mobility for people living in, working in and visiting the community surrounding Michigan Central Station, the Challenge encouraged participants to submit mobility solutions that complement existing transportation services.
“The City:One Challenge builds on our commitment to advance the state’s robust mobility landscape while providing greater access to transportation solutions for residents in the Corktown community and beyond,” says Amanda Roraff, managing director of PlanetM, the mobility initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “We’re excited to welcome these pilots to Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, and to learn from them to develop better mobility solutions in the future.”
After hearing from more than 2,000 local Detroit residents, the City:One Challenge received more than 164 unique proposals for mobility solution pilots. The challenge’s steering committee, comprised of industry experts, partner representatives, and local stakeholders, selected 12 finalists. Those finalists had the opportunity to work with mentors to further refine their proposals and prepare pitch presentations before winners were selected.
“A key goal for the City:One Challenge is to help preserve the unique fabric of the communities surrounding Michigan Central Station, even as the area sees expanded development,” says Jeff Jones, vice president of Ford City Solutions. “By reaching out to residents, businesses, and community groups through this program, we can better understand the issues people face on a daily basis and support ideas that will have a direct impact on their lives.”
Throughout the challenge, people were encouraged to submit ideas that could create immediate benefits for residents, workers, and visitors of neighborhoods around Michigan Central Station while also supporting long-term mobility improvements. Key areas to consider included improving access to mobility information, making mobility more affordable, building a safe and inviting environment for all and connecting people, places, and opportunities with mobility services that work together.
In June 2018, Ford announced its acquisition of Michigan Central Station and plans to restore it to its original grandeur as the centerpiece of a new mobility innovation district in Corktown. Covering four key buildings and new public spaces, Ford expects the area will be a platform for partnership where mobility innovators and disruptors from around the world come to develop, test, and launch new products and services that solve urban transportation challenges.