Working with Cities to Help People Get Around

Jessica Robinson - Director, City Solutions, Ford Motor Company

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As mobility becomes a more significant issue around the world, Ford is working together with cities to help address mobility challenges.  Cities need help, and at Ford, we need the help of cities, too. The good news is that, although there’s still a lot to discuss and learn about one another, we’re already talking and sharing insights on ways to improve mobility in urban areas around the world.


Ford’s City Solutions team has had the opportunity to speak with the mayors of many cities, along with other government and business leaders – all of who are interested in exploring how new mobility solutions could help residents get around. Their interest is understandable. And urgent. People are moving into cities at an unprecedented rate, yet the transportation ecosystem is not evolving at the same pace. What we do know is there’s no single solution that can be applied to cities to meet the transportation needs of their residents. We need solutions that are tailored to the needs of the region. So as we’re talking to city leaders, all options are on the table.


Take the work we’ve done in San Francisco. Last year, we acquired Chariot, a crowd-sourcing shuttle company that complements the existing public transit network in the Bay Area. We also collaborated with Motivate on a bike-sharing program – Ford GoBikes – which will grow from 700 bicycles to 7,000 in the Bay Area this year. San Francisco may be known for its hills, but anyone who’s ever ridden a bike there is well aware it can sometimes be the quickest way to get around. With a tenfold increase in bicycles in the system, residents in Oakland and San Jose will have a new option to connect to BART and Caltrain.


We know any technology solution we build can’t be developed in a silo. And blindly stacking new services on top of what’s already available could only add to the chaos. So we recognize that we must be more intentional in our approach.


This means continuing to collaborate closely with major cities, listening to their specific problems, and asking city leaders and residents what they need. It means thinking critically about how new services would impact transportation, and how we can use existing services more efficiently.


Last weekend at South by Southwest, we were able to spend time to talk to many mayors and gain a greater understanding of what they need.  They all want to innovate but they also have to ensure that they allocate funding responsibly to better serve the people who live and work in their cities.


Top of mind for many mayors was also to understand who Ford is developing mobility solutions for in cities. Will they serve those that can afford transportation options outside of mass transit or will they serve all citizens in a particular city?  They also want to know how our solutions will complement mass transit and will they help increase utilization of existing mass transit.  For example, in Austin there is an increase in consumers using mass transit to commute into the city now that we are able to serve the “last mile” of their commute with Chariot.  And, they all are very interested in solving the parking challenges that nearly every city faces.


Imagining new ways of getting people where they want to go is at the heart of what we do. But while we’re working with cities and sharing our vision, we’re not presupposing solutions to their needs. We’re having meaningful conversations about what’s happening in a given city to learn and understand its unique challenges.  And, we recognize that we won’t have all the answers or solutions.  Companies will continue to innovate and we will likely see innovations and solutions emerge from new players.


Mayors, city departments, business leaders and, of course, the men and women who commute every day all have a voice to contribute. While there’s still much we don’t know, we’re certain we can’t do it alone. I’m excited about the progress we’ve made so far, and hope all this collaboration gives urban commuters greater control over their journey.



This article was originally published on Medium.

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