Michigan Mobility Challenge Awards Funding to Innovation Projects

The Michigan Mobility Challenge, a state grant program for innovative multi-modal transportation projects, has begun handing out money to grantees. From the $8 million in available funds, nine projects totaling $3.7 million have been awarded grants so far.

Jean Ruestman, who administers the program for the Michigan Department of Transportation, says she’s thrilled with the number and type of proposals the challenge has received.

“We’re in a new era of mobility, and the amount of new technology and innovative services proposed to solve gaps around the state is proof of that,” she says. “The proposals covered all areas of the state, urban and rural, utilizing new technology to provide innovative routing and dispatching, interoperability to connect service providers, wayfinding assistance for the visually impaired, and autonomous vehicle technology to transport people and to transport goods to the homebound.”

Ruestman says she’s working with four other groups to refine their proposals prior to committing funds to them, and she plans to decide on those projects (and possibly a few others) by early January. Next year, she hopes to also establish a student mobility challenge.

Here’s a look at the winners so far with details about each project:

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority ($187,000): The organization is partnering with the Center for Independent Living, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Q’Straint, a manufacturer of wheelchair securement systems, to test a system that automatically secures wheelchairs on 10 of its buses.

Bedestrian ($100,000): The company will test delivery of food and pharmaceuticals using an autonomous vehicle that runs both indoors and on the open road.

Capital Area Transportation Authority ($465,000): CATA will use its funding to collaborate with LookingBus, an Ann Arbor-based technology company, to provide advanced notice to bus drivers that a passenger with disabilities will soon get on board and may need some help. Typically, disabled riders need to schedule transit in advance. This service aims to replace that system.

Feonix ($457,000): Feonix’s Mobility Rising partnership will work with The Ride to help bus drivers and passengers coordinate on “the last 50 feet” problem: locating bus stops and final destinations for rider pick-up and drop-off.

Flint Mass Transit Authority ($603,5000): The Flint MTA will partner with the Shiawassee Area Transit Agency, the Greater Lapeer Transit Authority, Kevadiya, and veterans organizations to provide health and wellness transportation to the vets throughout the region.

Hope Network ($258,000): The organization will use its grant to fund the Expanding Mobility Access project and develop a specialized mobile app to provide on-demand, personalized transportation to seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

Huron Mobility Initiative ($402,800): Thumb Area Transit and their partners will use this funding to leverage and expand existing resources to help meet the personal mobility needs for all riders.

Kevadiya ($233,000): Kevadiya will use its grant to pay for a project called Indoor Wayfinding for Veterans, which helps vets navigate to doctor’s appointments. Kevadiya said the issue is especially prevalent at sprawling and often confusing Veteran Health Administration hospitals.

SPLT ($990,000): The Techstars Mobility graduate and ridesharing platform will enhance its healthcare transportation coordination technology with improved alerts and reminders to reduce cancellations and no-shows, a dedicated mobile app to enroll and qualify the users of various agency services, and a central database of rider info that integrates with the software already in use by the transit agencies.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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