Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority awarded $187,000 Michigan Mobility Challenge grant

Contact: Jean Ruestman, Administrator, MDOT Office of Passenger Transportation 517-373-6625
Agency: Transportation

September 28, 2018 -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced today that the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) was awarded a $187,000 Michigan Mobility grant for piloting autonomous wheelchair securements. The $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge is a grant initiative to use technology and innovation to address core mobility gaps for seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans across the state.

TheRide is partnering with the Center for Independent Living, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Q'Straint, a global leader in manufacturing wheelchair securement systems, to use the funds for testing autonomous securement of wheelchairs on 10 of its buses.

"This next generation safety feature can allow individuals with mobility devices to secure themselves in less than 25 seconds with the push of a button," said Julia Roberts, Planning and Innovation Project lead at TheRide. "Innovative transportation solutions like this could significantly improve independence for people with wheelchairs, reduce passenger boarding time, improve on-time performance, and create a better customer experience across the transit network. Piloting autonomous technology on these vehicles helps drive the future of mobility."           

MDOT issued a Call for Projects in early June and received 43 proposals, requesting nearly $27 million in funding. Eight projects have been selected for full or partial funding in the first round, with the potential for more projects to be funded later in the year.

The Michigan Mobility Challenge grants are being awarded to fund the demonstration of projects of varying sizes using new technology and innovative service models. The grants will be used to subsidize a portion of the cost to plan, deliver and monitor the demonstration services for a three- to six-month period, with the remaining costs being covered from fares, local contributions and other funds. Projects are located in urban, rural and suburban communities of varying sizes throughout Michigan and will be coordinated with current services to enhance the existing transportation network in an area.

"Providing equitable and accessible transportation options for all Michigan citizens to access the goods and services they need is a priority," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "The $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge allows us to better utilize the assets we have and introduce new methods for solving mobility gaps and getting travelers to their destinations as safely and efficiently as possible."

Unveiled at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, the $8 Million Michigan Mobility Challenge is intended to engage the state's robust technology, startup and transportation networks, along with service providers, advocacy groups and state agencies, including MDOT, PlanetM/Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Bureau of Services to Blind Persons.

"New mobility solutions offer opportunities to make our communities safer, greener and more productive in a way that allows all people to uphold their dignity," said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM, the State of Michigan's mobility-focused brand and business development program. "The evolution of transportation demands collaboration between state, industry, community, advocacy, and higher education leaders working together to make sure advancements in how we live, travel and use services improve that quality of life for everyone."

More information about the program is available online at www.michigan.gov/mobilitychallenge. Follow on social media with the hashtag #mimobilitychallenge.