One of the biggest roadblocks to upward social mobility has been availability of efficient and affordable transportation options. The impacts of this barrier transpires in the form of constraints on opportunities to spend time with family, visit medical
providers, go to a grocery store with healthier food, and access employment and/or educational opportunities.
The advent of smart devices has enabled innovations to reduce waste, for example signage at bus stops with realtime information on when the next bus is arriving allows transit users to make better-informed trip decisions. For paratransit users, this same technology could make it possible for seniors and disabled members of the community to experience more flexibility in mobility options and shorter travel times with more efficient ride-matching.
Another upcoming innovation certain to impact motor city is the autonomous car, with an autonomous variant of Ford’s Fusion Hybrid scheduled for production in 2021 for use by rideshare fleets. By 2027 based on Boston Consulting Group estimates, these vehicles could offer point-to-point transportation at per-mile costs comparable with owning a vehicle, and pooled ride variants (think UberPOOL, Lyft Line, and dynamic shuttle services) would bring costs down further. Options like bikeshare, rideshare, dynamic shuttles, and transit could allow for a much more efficient transportation network that is also affordable.
For a Detroit resident in 2027 who does not own a car (let's name this person Mike) such a transportation network would mean that instead of facing a neighborhood bus half a mile away that runs every hour with a connection to a higher frequency bus route before reaching work, Mike could choose to pay only slightly more for an autonomous rideshare vehicle that takes him to the higher frequency bus route in a quarter of the time. During spring and summer when the weather is nice, Mike may decide to use a neighborhood bikeshare station to make trips to a dynamic shuttle service area a couple of miles away that would take him directly to work. Because Mike wastes less time on commutes, he is taking community college classes to train for a more technical role, putting him in line for a future promotion at work. When Mike wants to make sure his senior mom made her medical appointment on time, he opens up the paratransit service app, sees the confirmation, and can be satisfied that transportation was not a barrier to her getting medical care.
While the potential benefits in this fictitious example are ubiquitous to communities worldwide, they are especially important for Detroit with its distinctly high level of low income residents, many of whom don't own a car. Bridging the socioeconomic divide with the presence of a larger menu of well-linked transportation options is critical to achieving this future, and as the home to the automotive industry, it seems natural that innovation in how people get places will once again play a key role in the region's economic revitalization.