The rise of MaaS in Detroit

Detroit is similar to many other urban centers in its search for new and better ways to move people and goods from place to place. But what the Motor City has going for it is rapid-fire development of bike-share programs such as MoGo, an all-in mayor with a long view of his city’s transportation needs as well as innovative partners such as Lyft, boosting investment in new technologies and services that will connect transit with the people who need it most.

As part of Mobility Week Detroit, the annual event centering on how businesses and partnerships are changing the way transportation works in Michigan, a panel including city officials, entrepreneurs and industry leaders came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges surrounding Mobility as a Service, or the shift away from individually owned modes of transportation toward mobility solutions that are offered as a larger service to many.

One of the challenges Michigan generally and Detroit specifically faces is finding ways to further connect the companies that are already here, said Mark de la Vergne, chief of mobility innovation for the city of Detroit. De La Vergne came to Detroit to work with Mayor Mike Duggan after trying to sell the mayor on his consulting services and falling for the city and its vision for transportation going forward.

Cities such as Detroit need to bring all of its mobility solutions together in new and creative ways, de la Vergne said. That means connecting all of the services in a way that highlights both price and convenience, whether it is on an easy-to-use app or other method, he noted.

“This is not a Detroit challenge; it’s a global challenge,” de la Vergne said.

Converging all of Detroit’s new or recently improved transportation options – whether it is a bus service, ride-sharing platform, M1 rail or even one of the new motorized scooter services – will be key to the city and its attractiveness to investors, young workers and future residents, the panel agreed. That is why Lisa Nuszkowski, founder and executive director of Detroit’s bike share MoGo, said her company is working quickly to bring additional stations on line for consumers.

MoGo, which launched in April 2017, now has 430 bikes available at 43 station in 10 Detroit-area neighborhoods. The goal for MoGo and these other mobility options is to find ways to pull individuals out of the old mindset that they can only use a car to get to meetings, lunch outings or entertainment. MoGo offers a low-cost option that not only is efficient but brings a smile to its users’ faces, Nuszkowski said.

Finding human connections through transportation options is one reason why Lyft is excited about its Detroit market, said Elliot Darvick, general manager of the Michigan and Ohio market for Lyft. Lyft is working with the city of Detroit, its bus services and ride-share programs including MoGo to make sure everyone in Detroit can get where they need to go. He envisions Lyft and other services bringing other product offerings to Detroit in short order, responding to the need for quick progress in the area of transportation, especially given the region’s longstanding need for it.

“We need to make it easy for people to make these choices” and give up their cars for a smarter solution, de la Vergne noted.

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