Ford acquired the Michigan Central Station and announced its intention to make it the centerpiece of a new mobility innovation district in Corktown in June of 2018. A year later they launched the City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s mobility initiative, PlanetM. The challenge sparked such wide-spread interest, that they heard from over 2,000 local Detroit residents and received more than 164 unique proposals. The Challenge’s committee, which comprised of industry experts, partner representatives, and local stakeholders, narrowed it down to 12 finalists. 


Each finalist was given the opportunity to work with a mentor as they refined their proposal and prepared a pitch presentation. Ford and PlanetM selected three winners to split the $250,000 winnings to implement their ideas: Mercy Education Project, AbleLink Smart Living Technologies, and a team comprised of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE, and local artists.


“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.”


Those who submitted proposals to the City:One Challenge were encouraged to offer solutions that would improve mobility for people living in, working in, and visiting the community, as well as for participants to find solutions that would support existing transportation services. Getting the community involved was Ford and PlanetM’s way to get government officials, local residents, and entrepreneurs all communicating together to identify transportation problems and discover applicable solutions.


“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,” said Amanda Roraff, managing director of PlanetM, the mobility initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “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.”


Mercy Education Project is a nonprofit charitable organization that proposed creating Rock City Mobility Stations. Each station would include a kiosk filled with signs, maps, bus schedules, parking information, and more, and each station would be around various modes of transportation including bike-sharing and ride sharing services. The overall goal for Mercy Education Project’s proposal is to improve access to information and mobility options.


AbleLink Smart Living Technologies provided a solution that worked towards improving transportation for those with cognitive disabilities, special needs, or low English proficiency. Their proposal involves implementing a customized WayFinder app that provides instructions from a cloud-based WayFinder SMART Route Library so these groups of people can travel independently.


The third selected winner is a group project organized between the Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE, and local artists. Their proposal works to improve the safety and walkability of the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Lodge Freeway to better connect Corktown and Southwest Detroit to the downtown area. Their efforts include commissioning artwork from two Detroit artists and supplying street furniture and amenities.


“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,” said Jeff Jones, vice president, 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.”

To find out more about the semifinalists and their proposals, visit the City:One Challenge website. In addition to Ford and PlanetM, the City:One Challenge was also sponsored by AT&T, Dell, Technologies, and Microsoft. Stay up to date with all of Ford’s community involvements by following Haldeman Ford’s blog or sign up for our email notifications.
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