It’s late spring, which means business and political leaders from around the state have made their annual pilgrimage to Mackinac Island. Away from their day to day toils, the Mackinac Policy Conference, produced by the Detroit Regional Chamber, is designed to discuss, debate, and dream big with regard to critical issues facing our state. It has over the years made an excellent backdrop for breaking announcements, and this year is no exception, although perhaps a tad ironic. On an island where transportation is mostly by horse, bicycle, and foot, yesterday Governor Rick Snyder announced an $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge grant initiative to address core mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities and veterans across the state.
“As residents change the way they live, travel and use services, many of the technologies that are changing the transportation industry will be designed tested and created in Michigan,” Snyder said. “The $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge provides an opportunity to deliver innovative transportation solutions and further position the state as a leader in startup testing and deployment.”
The humorous mobility images common on the island notwithstanding, the issue appears to be worthy of serious effort. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), recent data indicates that the current transportation network is not meeting the needs of seniors and persons with disabilities who often are more dependent on public transit than other members of the community.
The new initiative intends to engage the state’s robust technology, start-up and transportation networks, along with service providers, advocacy groups and state agencies. Those currently involved in the project include the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Bureau of Services to Blind Persons. The intent is to develop public-private partnerships in the design and implementation of innovative pilot projects.
Michigan Mobility Challenge grants will be awarded to fund the demonstration of multiple projects of varying size based on pilot submissions and proposed service areas. The grants will be used to subsidize a portion of the cost to plan, deliver and monitor the demonstration services for essentially a three- to six-month period. Beyond that, projects are expected to be funded through fares, local contributions and other resources.
The size and scope of projects are expected to vary, as will the geographic areas in which they are implemented. Some may be in cities while others will serve rural areas. Ideal proposals will be designed to coordinate with current services to enhance the existing transportation network in an area.
Last week, according to MDOT, a day-long workshop was held to solicit input on the challenge request for proposal (RFP) process from key stakeholder groups involved in the initiative – including regional transit officials, private companies and advocacy organizations. An RFP will be issued June 4, 2018, at which point teams can submit their proposals for consideration. The first round of projects is slated to be introduced in target communities by fall 2018.
More information about the $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge can be found at www.michigan.gov/mobilitychallenge.