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The spread of COVID-19 resulted in reduced bus service and capacity throughout the City of Detroit as well as many cities around the world. The Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) needed to act fast to respond to the transportation challenge facing employees on the frontlines as well as exposed residents.

First, to ensure all residents had access to the Fairgrounds testing facility, OMI launched a transportation service that allows residents to book $2 shuttle rides at the same time of booking their test appointment at the testing site. Knowing that 25 percent of residents do not have access to a vehicle, this program helped hundreds, regardless of their insurance and ability to pay, get to the drive-through testing site safely.

After ensuring that residents had access to testing, OMI’s priority shifted to ensuring essential workers had alternative and safe transportation options to get to and from frontline jobs. To understand resident challenges, we reached out to three large essential employers to investigate employee transportation challenges. Through a voluntary enrollment form, employees requested various alternative forms of transportation. We responded through three different programs.

Row of smart bikes

One of the programs provided micromobility leases that matched participating employees with electric bikes and scooters. Through the enrollment form we captured information about shift times and commuting distance among other things.

Since micromobility vehicles are best suited for shorter distances, those commuting within six miles of their workplace as well as working day shifts, were contacted individually to offer them a vehicle for a $10 registration fee.

  • If commuting within two miles of work, residents were eligible for an e-scooters
  • If commuting between two and six miles, residents were eligible for an e-bike.

Ultimately, we honored the residents’ vehicle preferences.

Parked e-scooter

In Detroit, micromobility vehicles are not the typical mode of choice to get to and from work. This pushed OMI staff to design an outreach strategy that includes personalized phone calls to each enrolled resident. This helped answer residents’ questions in a timely manner, spread awareness about micromobility vehicles, as well as build trust around the program.

Vehicle distribution launched mid-June with employees from Meijer, Henry Ford Health Systems, and Detroit Medical Center. The program gradually expanded to four more frontline employers. This was possible thanks to funding from NUMO, and a fiduciary partnership with NextEnergy. E-Scooters are provided by Ford’s SPIN, while e-bikes were donated by GM’s Ariv and are operated by Detroit’s local bike share MoGo.

OMI collected the first month’s survey results and will continue to monitor for metrics such as: vehicle usage, road usage, and access to parking. Although it is too early to draw conclusions about the program’s success, we have already learnt a few lessons on working with local partners.

Both NextEnergy and MoGo have been instrumental in designing the pilot. Both teams presented OMI with recommendations drawn from local experience. From planning 1st-mile last-mile mobility pilot deployment in the city, to sharing maintenance expectations for bikes operating in Detroit’s streets, our local partners helped ensure that employees receive the best program possible.

The pilot is foreseen to end on September 30th, with a potential one-month extension should users express the appetite to keep their vehicles longer. Upon program closure, we will be sure to share program results and lessons learnt with our users, as well as anyone interested in such initiatives.

Hind Ourahou
Senior Mobility Strategist
Office of Mobility Innovation
City of Detroit | Mayor Duggan


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