Last year Ford Motor Company issued a challenge in Indianapolis, Austin, Mexico City, and Detroit. The idea behind the City: One Mobility Challenge was to identify new ways to make it easier for people to get around. In Detroit, three winning proposals have now been identified and the groups behind them will share $250,000 in funding to put them into place.

Because Ford is investing $740 million to restore the Michigan Central Station, and has made commitments to the community in exchange for its support of the development, the initiative in Detroit was based on the Corktown area.

Corktown, where the train depot is located, is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. As such it has its own unique culture and values. Consequently, Ford began its City: One Michigan Central Station Challenge by researching mobility issues with residents and entrepreneurs in the area. It conducted one-on-one interviews, held community workshops, created and online forum, and conducted quantitative surveys to ascertain needs in the community. The company also worked closely with the City of Detroit to identify five focus areas for the challenge to complement the city’s own efforts toward preservation, connectivity and development in the area. The five identified factors were:

  1. Helping residents overcome physical, emotional, or social barriers to transportation.
  2. Making the area more inviting and comfortable for active forms of transportation, such as walking and biking.
  3. Enabling residents to travel to and from major destinations throughout Detroit, whether or not they have a car.
  4. Reducing the impact of highways and rail tracks, to facilitate the development of a unified neighborhood.
  5. Making key neighborhood service and amenities mobile to reduce or eliminate the need for various daily trips, such as groceries and medical appointments.

With the research done and parameters set, it was time for the challenge. According to Ford there were 525 active participants. After working collaboratively with Ford Motor Company and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s mobility initiative PlanetM, the city of Detroit announced three winners: Mercy Education Project, AbleLink Smart Living Technologies, as well as a team that includes the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE and local artists. Here are the projects.

Mercy Education Project – $85,000
Mercy Education Project is a nonprofit that proposed the creation of Rock City Mobility Stations, which would increase access to information and various types of mobility options. Each mobility station would consist of an enclosed kiosk that will be equipped with the following components: a direct line to the Detroit Police Department, phone charging tower, maps, signage, available modes of transportation, and more.

Bridging Histories, Building Futures – $90,000
Comprised of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE and local artists, this team 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 will make the bridge more inviting for people using all modes of transportation, including pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

AbleLink Smart Living Technologies – $75,000
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.

“The quality of the proposals submitted for the City:One Challenge was simply outstanding,” said 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.”

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.