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Micro-transport for last mile + micro-entrepreneurship

An idea to maximize mobility and to democratize ride-share access.

Photo of Nicholas Dowgwillo
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Michigan Central Station

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Traveling around the world, there is a class of transport available in most countries that is missing from the US.  The tuk-tuk, cocotaxi, chingchi, or chand gari are all variations of the auto-rickshaw.  These light, nimble last-mile transports offer a mobility solution that fits within our current infrastructure and could be part of a mobility system that reduces pollution, connects neighborhoods to major public transportation corridors (and downtown), and offers small, independent, low-capital businesses to the people of Detroit.

Tuk-tuks can reduce pollution.  There are currently many all-electric tuk-tuks on the market.  The small size of these vehicles makes all-electric operation easier, reducing the size of batteries and reducing recharge time.  In addition, the small cabin size reduces the energy needed for rider comfort (heat, etc.)

Tuk-tuks can connect the neighborhoods to transportation hubs and the city center.  They are a solution for near distance travel making them a perfect solution to hook up a place like Corktown to downtown.  They do not require heavy, large vehicles on fixed routes, which allows them to fan out into Detroit's less densely populated neighborhoods.  They also offer significant advantages over bikeshares and scooters: they can be made to be climate controlled (for those Michigan winters) and they are also more safe.

Tuk-tuks can offer social mobility.  "Detroit hustles harder"  Everyday, I see Detroiters working with what they have, from kids selling water to food carts to people making hand-painted t-shirts. Despite the wealth, education, and income gap, the people of Detroit are starting small businesses everyday.  However, Detroit is, for many of its citizens, a place with little access to capital.  The small scale of the auto-rickshaw is matched by a small price tag(coming in at somewhere around 5%-15% of the price of a car).  Allowing Detroiters to lease a low-cost vehicle for the purpose of running a small taxi or delivery service would allow a flood of new micro-businesses to flourish.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Elizabeth Durden

Hello Nicholas, I like your idea. Please share this with Ronert P. Tweed he's looking for a vehicle like this, especially if it has pedal options. This should make commuting much safer, quicker and more affordable for him and a lot of people in the communities. Thank you

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Robert P Tweed What do you think?

Photo of Robert P Tweed

Hello Mr. Fankell. This is yet another very good idea if your not handicapped. Whether it's cerebral palsy, the weak muscles and bones condition. Overweight at 300 or more, or just wants a better commute. Or myself with Cerebral Ataxia which makes it so i almost always need to augment like a Arrangotan or sloth. Condinating my upper and lower together. How does this device cause the person to physically get better. I've very clearly stated that in my idea. It is very cool, but yet when you have nothing, how would i buy something like this? If you show interior design like i describe in my idea, then you will realize the difference in my design. An what is made in the USA by myself and Ford, as well as other smart teams or builers and designers like myself. I appreciate the many different ideas. They are not my idea, an as stated are great for healthy adults. Mine are for those that need a better lifestyle. And therapy alone is a huge cost, than put an expensive idea. Mine pay for themselves as people want to be able to rent, an get where they need and not have to pay auto insurance, when they can't get hired because of society rejecting them on an aledged 'liability' stipulation.

Photo of Robert P Tweed

I truly hope to be able to get to one off the sessions and better elaborate and talk with others. But i am waiting on an SSI decision that will allow me build a prototype, and travel. Otherwise i can only try to sketch and video conference with those that want to do so.

Photo of Perry MacNeille

I think electric tuk-tuks would work out quite well. They would scale with changing population density and, as you say, are affordable in low-capital economies. They provide employment and a service to the city.

It would be necessary to provide a maintenance/charging facility, and because it is a low-capital economy vehicles should be selected such that parts are common and the equipment can be repaired with simple tools and skilled mechanics. For example, a broken strut can be repaired by welding. The vehicles should allow for creative adaptation such as the famous auto-rickshaws in the Philippines...

Initially factory built vehicles will be used, but attention would be given to establishing a secondary market for used vehicles. Leasing and financing for vehicles should be available. Maybe the community would subsidize the purchase of vehicles that operate within the community.

Apps should support ride hailing, but also support reporting fires, crime and other threats to life and property. Operators would also be expected to render aid in emergencies such as evacuations and feet-on-the-ground reporting of emergencies.

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Nicholas Dowgwillo Thank you for posting! I am a Michigan Central Station Challenge facilitator. It sounds like you have a very detailed idea about how micro-transport could help in Detroit! I encourage you to come to one of the community working sessions in July if you can. (Keep your eye out for the date and time). It would be interesting to take a deep dive into the user experience that you imagine for the community around central station!