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Michigan Awards $4.7M to Four Projects Aimed at Transit Gaps

The money from Michigan's Mobility Challenge grant project, started under the last governor, will go toward projects involving rural rideshare, paratransit, veteran transportation and self-driving vehicles.

by Dana Afana, MLive.com / January 16, 2019

(TNS) — In Michigan, four mobility-focused technological initiatives in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Southeast Michigan and the central Upper Peninsula will share $4.7 million in grants to help address transit gaps, state officials announced Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder launched the $8-million Mobility Challenge grant program at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference to help address needs for seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.

A first round of winners was announced in September 2018.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials announced the second round of winners Tuesday, alongside Dr. Kimberly Kennedy of Grand Rapids, a U.S. Navy veteran who uses a wheelchair and advocates for people with disabilities.

“Too often, when we talk about mobility, we have a tendency to go straight to self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles,” Whitmer said. “We should be talking about this technology and innovation that’s happening right now and impact and improve the quality of life for people ... in every part of our state.”

“We have an opportunity and we have a responsibility to advance our state’s technology and automotive landscape that improves the lives of countless Michiganders."

Kennedy described how difficult it can be to catch a ride when you’re in a wheelchair.

“We don’t always think about the impact that it has on the quality of our life,” Kennedy said. “Many times with Uber, they would ride past me when they saw me sitting outside in a wheelchair. To have an app with ... on-demand (service), is awesome.”

The projects are:

  • New Autonomous Mobility Vision for Michigan, $2,168,219: an autonomous electric shuttle at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center operating for extended hours to veterans, along with creating an easier method for ordering and scheduling services.
  • Southeast Michigan Integrated Platform for Paratransit Services, $1,050,000: a “one-click" online booking and trip management platform for users of AAATA, DDOT and SMART ADA Paratransit services, making scheduling and managing paratransit trips easier for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Team Grand Rapids: Interurban Transit Partnership, $373,782: a ridesharing mobile app for paratransit services to to shorten trip duration and reservation lead time. Users can book trips on the same day and spend less time on the bus.
  • Michigan Universal Vehicle Ecosystem Pilot, $1,178,129: a ridesharing platform in the central upper peninsula that will increase accessible transportation options and decrease isolation for anyone with mobility challenges.

©2019 MLive.com, Walker, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.