Grand Rapids, Ford Motor Company launch City of Tomorrow Challenge

Published on June 27, 2018

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss at the City of Tomorrow Challenge announcement

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids and Ford Motor Company today announced the Grand Rapids City of Tomorrow Challenge – a crowdsourcing platform for residents, businesses and community groups to propose and pilot solutions that improve mobility in Grand Rapids.

The City of Tomorrow Challenge is focused on identifying opportunities to create immediate impact for residents in terms of improved mobility and support long-term enhancements to help people get around. The City and Ford, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation-PlanetM, The Right Place, AT&T, Dell Technologies and Microsoft will facilitate the sharing of information, collaborate with key public and private stakeholders and test ideas.

“As our city grows, we want to ensure we are working with our community to make getting around Grand Rapids easier,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “We also want to strengthen confidence in our existing transportation systems. We have joined the City of Tomorrow Challenge because we believe Grand Rapids is a place where innovative ideas can improve mobility in our city.”

The City of Tomorrow Challenge creates a more inclusive process for residents to express their ideas as they participate in working to ensure a future where people and businesses can thrive. By working with communities to crowdsource new mobility designs and innovations along with funding pilots to test the top solutions, the program’s goal is to help improve quality of life for Grand Rapids residents and visitors by providing dynamic mobility options that build on the existing transportation system.

Throughout the eight-month program, those who live, work and play in Grand Rapids are invited to explore dynamic mobility options, including making the city’s streets more walkable and bike-friendly, extending the use of and the information that transportation systems provide and enabling smart transportation choices. The Challenge includes a prize of up to $100,000 to fund pilots that test the top solutions in a real-world setting.

“Grand Rapids is already on the forefront of transportation with our vision for mobility,” said Josh Naramore, the City’s Mobile GR-Parking Services manager. “With the City of Tomorrow Challenge, we can create a place that is a beacon of growth for years to come – a place where everyone can thrive.”

Grand Rapids marks the third location for the City of Tomorrow Challenge, following announcements in Pittsburgh and Miami-Dade County earlier this month. Each challenge is tailored to a specific city or county and is focused on addressing its unique needs.

“What may work for one city might not work for another,” said John Kwant, vice president of Ford City Solutions. “Grand Rapids has its own unique needs, and it understands how seeking out new ideas to complement existing transportation systems can aid its effort to become a more accessible, walkable city. The City of Tomorrow Challenge will deliver that.”

By crowdsourcing ideas, the Challenge seeks to come up with ways for communities to employ technology to create the best mobility solutions that will underpin the city of tomorrow.

“The innovative mobility solutions deployed here in Grand Rapids will lead to real and meaningful improvements in the quality of life and access to transportation throughout the community,” said Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM, a mobility-focused brand and business development program at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are proud to be a partner in this effort in Grand Rapids and look forward to the impact it will have in expanding Michigan’s mobility ecosystem.”

Individuals are encouraged to share their experiences, sign up for community working sessions and offer insight into the ways they move around Grand Rapids HERE. Information about the Challenge also will be shared via Twitter.

The week of July 23 marks the opening of the application period for participants to begin submitting ideas for new mobility solutions. Leading up to that, the City, Ford and their partners will combine insights from the online and offline communities with data analytics to help shape the challenge.

In September, semifinalists will be selected to attend a prototyping session and receive mentoring support to refine their ideas before submitting a final pilot proposal. At the concluding stage of the Challenge, $100,000 will be awarded to fund pilots to test the top proposed solutions in collaboration with the City, Ford and its corporate collaborators.

“The future of mobility and connecting people to jobs will be critical to our long-term economic growth potential,” said Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications at The Right Place. “Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Ford will not only allow us to test state-of-the-art mobility technology but, more importantly, it will let the world know we are embracing innovation in mobility.”

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