Ford Launches $250,000 Urban Mobility Challenge in Detroit

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The Ford Motor Company recently purchased the Michigan Central Station in Detroit. The historic train station is a familiar landmark to those who know the city, its decaying abandoned state an apparent reminder that Detroit’s glory days have come and gone. However, with Ford investing $740 million to restore and renovate the symbolic structure to its former grandeur, using it as a base for new urban mobility and hopefully making the city’s future is looking a bit brighter as well.

  • Ford is looking to advance mobility in Detroit and it’s asking for help from the people who are most likely use it.
  • The City:One Challenge enlists the people who live and work around Michigan Central Station to propose mobility initiatives with the best receiving funding for pilot programs.
  • Detroit’s current public transit system is underfunded and outdated, leading to poor utilization.
  • Not only is this program great PR for Ford and a boon for Detroiters looking to get around, looking outside the industry might bring truly unique solutions industry veterans may never have dreamed of. 

Ford plans on turning the train station into a new destination that will bring together civic organizations, urban planners, technologists, designers, companies, and communities to create the future of mobility in and around Detroit.

michigan central station will be home of Fords urban mobility center

The goal of this community engagement program is to bring residents, businesses and community groups together so they can propose and pilot solutions that improve mobility in the neighborhoods surrounding the historic train station. Through a collaborative process, local residents will be offered the opportunity to share their experiences and suggest ideas for how to solve their most pressing mobility problems.

Ford is adding actions to their words, as proposed solutions chosen to advance to pilot testing will be supported with a $250,000 contribution, while an additional $78,000 in stipends is available to support up to 12 finalists as they tailor their ideas and develop full pilot proposals.

“As the city that put the world on wheels, innovation is in the DNA of all Detroiters. I’m certain that the City:One Challenge collaboration between Ford and the residents around Michigan Central Station will result in a number of unique ideas that will make it easier, safer, and more affordable to get around the area,” said Mark de la Vergne, Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit.

Urban mobility can be difficult to implement, especially in an old city like Detroit which also has a critically underfunded public transit system.  What little infrastructure there is, often fails to meet the needs of the people who might actually use them. Ford is tackling the problem along a unique avenue, through the development of mobility solutions that complement existing transportation services but also that come directly from the people who would actually be in a position to use them. With the implementation of these innovative ideas, the actual quality of life for nearby residents, as well as those working and visiting the community should improve.

“We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to advance our state’s technology and automotive landscape in a way that also makes communities safer, greener and more productive,” said Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.“ Today’s announcement of the City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge, reconfirms Michigan’s commitment to maintaining our edge in mobility, while improving the lives and safety of residents here in Detroit, and across the state.”

Once participants enter the Challenge, they will investigate potential methods that help residents overcome barriers to transportation, make biking and walking more inviting, and help residents move to and from the neighborhoods around the train station to destinations throughout Detroit. Additionally, the Challenge will explore how to bring important daily services to residents, especially those who may not have easy access to transportation.

Throughout the eight-month program, the Challenge will invite residents, community organizations and businesses to explore dynamic mobility options focused around their top needs.

Residents interested in participating or submitting ideas can go to the City:One Challenge website to share their mobility experiences and sign up for the first in a series of community working sessions.

Detroiters have grown accustomed to hearing large companies and local politicians talking about public transit and ways to help the community in the past. However, the people leading these conversations have traditionally not been the ones who would take public transit options regularly, if at all. It is encouraging to see Ford Motor trying a new angle; and it can only be expected that this time around, the promises will have a better chance of being fulfilled.

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