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A hyperlocal multimodal trip planning app for Detroit

An app to discover hyperlocal transportation options including transit, bicycle, park and ride, and more to get from point A to B.

Photo of Adrian Laurenzi
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Executive summary

The vast majority of the residents living in Detroit and the surrounding metro area rely on personal vehicles for transportation and those without access to cars struggle to effectively commute. Traffic congestion causes stress and wastes time for many who commute by car. Information about alternative transportation options is scattered, incomplete and difficult to access. We propose a mobile-friendly, web-based application and eventually a mobile app that will allow anyone in Detroit to search for public and alternative transportation quickly and easily. It will include a function to enter any starting and ending location or address within the metro Detroit area and get a set of recommended routes with a list of every transportation option available on the way from point A to point B. To achieve this we will leverage open source technology ( and mobility data from existing local sources. By enabling people in Detroit to discover new ways of using alternative transportation options such as public transit, park and ride, and bike-sharing systems, we can improve the health of residents, reduce traffic congestion, and enable better access to transportation information for the car-less population.

Improvements over existing technologies

We investigated current market trends to identify existing technologies that provide similar functionality around alternative transportation. The leading applications in this space are Google Maps and Transit App. CityMapper is another example but it currently lacks support for Detroit. These apps are used throughout the U.S. and the world by millions of people which demonstrates clear demand for this kind of easy-to-use trip planning functionality. However, the existing apps lack support for many travel modes and do not provide key details about local services that are crucial for safe travel within the Detroit context. Below we outline key functionality that existing applications do not currently support in the Detroit context:

Safer bicycle directions: When giving bicycling directions, existing trip planning applications such as Google Maps do not take into account the most up-to-date and complete information about Detroit's bike lane infrastructure. This frequently leads to directions recommendations along roads that are unsafe for cyclists. Our application uses available open data on Detroit's bike lane infrastructure to give directions recommendations that are much safer than those provided by existing applications.

Hyperlocal transit information: Existing applications do not incorporate key information that is crucial for effectively using Detroit's public transit system. For example, they do not provide details on how people can purchase tickets or pay fares and in many cases do not provide any fare information at all. Our directions results can provide accurate fare information as well as all fare options that are available. For example, we can alert users to discounts available for low-income residents and cost-saving options such as the DART card that allows paying a single fare to board both DDOT and SMART buses. Additionally, we can enable users with disabilities to learn how to use services like SMART’s ADA Paratransit Service.

Multimodal optimization: Google Maps does not offer multi-modal directions, which means it only gives directions involving a single mode of transit. The Transit App has some support for multi-modal directions such as recommendations that combine public transit and bicycling in a single journey, but no existing app supports planning "park and ride" journeys (e.g. driving to a SMART park and ride location and then taking a bus afterward). Our initial solution will be able to provide directions recommendations that involve the following multi-modal combinations: (1) "Park and Ride" enabled by SMART's existing Park and Ride infrastructure (2) transit combined with MoGo bike-share (3) and transit combined with a personal bicycle. Unlike the Transit App, multi-modal directions that involve bicycling will account for Detroit's bike lane infrastructure to ensure a safe ride. The software infrastructure we are using ( affords enhancing the multi-modal functionality to include additional multi-modal combinations. Some of the possibilities that may be most relevant in Detroit include: (1) rideshare (e.g. Lyft and Uber) combined with transit, (2) local employer-provided shuttles combined with transit, and (3) scooters combined with transit.

Live Prototype

Over the past few weeks, we developed and launched a live prototype of the application which enables basic transit trip planning with the option of getting multimodal directions using DDOT combined with a bicycle. 

Link to live application:

Open source code from

Open data incorporated so far:

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

Resident: José lives in North Corktown and needs to get to an appointment in New Center. He opens the app, enters his destination, and learns he can avoid a long bus ride using a nearby Lime scooter to get to the 23 bus. Worker: Melinda lives in Westland and works in Corktown. She dreads her daily commute and often gets stressed sitting in traffic after a long day of work. On her computer at home, she decides to see what alternatives exist for getting to work. She learns that she can avoid sitting in traffic by driving a short distance to the Fairlane Park & Ride and then riding the 200 bus to work. She then clicks the link in the app to buy a SMART bus pass. Visitor: Derrick is staying at Trumbull and Porter and wants to go sightseeing on the Riverfront. He types in "Riverfront" and learns about the MoGo station nearby. The directions results show him a safe route with dedicated bicycle lanes taking him to the Riverfront. He then clicks a link to buy his MoGo day pass.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Prototype - you have built a prototype and tested it with potential users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

We are currently a team of 3 with backgrounds in software engineering, data science, public relations, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Kareem James: Adrian Laurenzi: Kate Frisbie:

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

- Marketing and promotion (15%). - Design and layouts for locations (15%). - Technology (15%) (e.g. web hosting and web/API services) - Securing locations and space throughout the city for pop-ups (10%). - Staffing each event (10%). - Logistics and storage services for materials; set-up/break down (10%). - Stipend for our work (20%). - Unexpected miscellaneous expenses for emergencies (5%).

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Our goal is to expand the reach of people in the community and to meet them where they are. We will host strategically placed pop-ups within the Impact Area equipped with computers running our app. This targeted outreach will allow us to gather crucial feedback from the population we would like to serve and test our solution’s utility in informing people about mobility options. Development Phase: we will integrate data from DDOT, SMART (including Park & Ride and ADA Paratransit Service), MoGo, and local bike infrastructure into our prototype web app. All of this can be accomplished by leveraging open-source software (OpenTripPlanner) and existing open data. Testing and Feedback Phase: we will form partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits to host pop-up stations within the Impact Area. This will allow us the opportunity to engage with target populations and get direct feedback about the application and its use cases. MoGo Detroit has already agreed to be a pilot partner.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Success will be measured in the following ways: 1. Prototype fully functional with local data from SMART, City of Detroit, and MoGo 2. Engage with three local businesses and nonprofits in the Impact Area to host pop-ups. 3. Partner with a local mobility company. 4. Engage with 100 unique customers. 5. Gain 50 unique email addresses on the homepage. 6. Receive 20+ completed feedback cards. If we’re able to engage and partner with local businesses and nonprofits, we can leverage them to spread awareness of the benefits of using public transportation. It would allow us to showcase the different options unique to Detroit while building community relationships with businesses and locals. Being able to get direct feedback from customers will help us gauge what the community needs and where we should focus our efforts to serve them. Our goal is to spread awareness of the different transportation options, including how to access them easily.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

White-labeling: we can offer our app as a paid custom-branded and tailored solution to transportation providers and employers. SMART serves a lot of the community but the current trip planner lacks support for its Park & Rides and other multimodal options. MoGo has expressed interest to us in a custom-branded trip planner. Corporate partnerships: offer paid premium advertising space in the app to promote their transportation programs or services (examples include MoGo, Bird, Spin, and Lime.


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