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Michigan Central Station Commuter Co-op: Accessible transport for the community, owned and powered by the community

A mobility benefits corporation owned and operated by the employees of the Michigan Central Station, powered by technology

Photo of Jacob Greig
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Problem we are trying to solve

The community of Michigan Central Station Impact Area is about to experience a significant change, this will present huge opportunities but also challenges that must be addressed. The development of the precinct will bring a large workforce to the region and create a very diverse set of mobility challenges. Employers and their employees require a range of affordable and convenient mobility options to help them have a comfortable commute. For local residents, equitable and effective connection to transport is needed to access basic services such as healthcare, shopping and general community participation. Safety and access concerns are also amplified at certain times of the day, and in particular seasons of the year.

To address these community pressures, we propose the creation of a mobility benefits corporation that will connect employers and the community in a mutually beneficial commercial model. This Co-op will be powered by an innovative technology platform that will enable them to offer the latest mobility solutions to their members.

This initiative will;

  1. Connect community groups and employers in designing and operating a service that meets their collective needs 
  2. Use technology to facilitate simple access to multiple modes of transport, encouraging mobility in the community
  3. Create a model for sustainable economic management of community transport 
  4. Create a platform for connecting transport suppliers to Co-op members


The Michigan Central Commuter Co-op will be a mobility benefits corporation owned and operated by the employees of the Michigan Central Station and local community groups. The Co-op’s mission will be to create a sustainable framework to constantly improve the mobility options for employees and residents of the area surrounding the station development zone. The Co-op will strive for electric first in all transport modes and continuously seek innovative future options such as Autonomous Vehicles. Additionally, we see that the Co-op will present Ford with a convenient platform to pilot new and emerging mobility solutions such as EV and Autonomous Vehicles.

The Co-op will be enabled by a multi-modal technology platform that will give members access to a range of transport options, including carpool, carshare,  and demand responsive buses/vans. This technology platform will give the Co-op the flexibility to add transport modes and operators without having to build additional customer booking and service management solutions.

At the core of the Co-op will be an economic model that ensures the members are able to sustain and grow the service through their membership fees and corporate sponsorship. All revenue will be invested back into growing the service and spreading its reach across the community.

The Co-op will be committed to a goal of providing transport access to those in Detroit that are struggling to afford the cost of transport. Working with local community groups, residents with financial hardship will be offered subsidized or free access to the service. The Co-op will aim to have at least 40% of all service usage being provided to those with financial needs.

The Co-op will design and grow the services offered, through a continual cycle of engagement incorporating community and employee listening activities and iterative service improvements.

Initial Transport modes to be offered by the Co-op

Drawing on SHARE’s experience in operating corporate and community micro transit solutions, and Liftango’s powerful adaptive, demand-responsive transport and carpool technology platform, the Co-op will provide members access to 3 transport services. The technology platform will enable the Co-op to add transport options in the future but will launch with the following services;

  • Efficient commuter-focused morning and evening bus services

During the peak usage times of the day, commuters will be able to access direct-to-destination transport options, booked through an easy to use mobile app/phone/text. The service will offer demand-responsive buses (using a meeting point-to-fixed destination mode). Commuters will be picked up from their house, or close to, and transported to MCS for work. At the end of the day, they will leave from MCS and be delivered to their destination without needing to change transport modes or walk excessive distances.

  • Accessible, on-demand community transport during the daytime (health access, after-school, events, etc.)

In between peak commuter demand times, the vehicles will become focused on community needs. Leveraging Liftango’s Adaptive Demand-Responsive technology, the vehicles will automatically switch to a more flexible origin-destination profile. Using a fully flexible door-to-door mode the Co-op will provide a safer and more accessible transport option for the whole community, allowing residents to get around the area much more easily.

  • Dynamic Carpool matching service for members

Members who choose to use a car to commute will be given the ability to find co-workers to Carpool with. Through our dynamic Carpool app colleagues can request or offer trips in real time or to schedule them up to one month in advance. This allows users to find people to carpool with easily, and thus significantly increases carpool usage.

Co-op Membership

Membership to the Co-op will be initially be offered to employees working in the Michigan Central Station precinct. In its initial stages the transportation service will focus primarily on servicing commuters heading to and from MCS, in order to grow usage and deliver optimal service returns.

The Co-op will then begin offering a demand-responsive, transport service to sections of the community, accessed via engagement with local community organizations. Over time the Co-op will increase services to the community and expand membership into the Co-op.

In order to maintain a high level of usability and managed uptake, the Co-op should carefully review the most appropriate channels and organizations with which to engage the local community. The primary goal is to provide a high level of service with a manageable growth trajectory, and to avoid deterioration of service due to a lack of demand or inappropriate service offerings.

In the pilot phase we will define a commercial model that will set out the pricing of services to members with the goal being to provide cost-effective transport for employees of the station and also heavily subsidized pricing for those in the local community who are experiencing financial hardship.

The Co-op operating model

During the pilot phase we will work with the local community, employers and employees to design the key components of the Co-op; support the launch of the Co-op; and enable Co-op members to take over the management of the program with ongoing support from Liftango and SHARE. Our role in this will be to;

  • Guide the development of the Co-op operating model outlined in diagram 1.0 (attached) and below
  • Develop, test, launch and support the technology platform
  • Operate the initial Commuter and Community transport services

Vision and mission - overarching principles guiding the Co-ops goals and direction

Governance - establishing the structure and processes for the management and oversight of the Co-op

Community Engagement - defining the channels and processes for initial and ongoing engagement with residents in the surrounding communities. Conducting rounds of community engagement throughout the design phase

Corporate and Employer Engagement - engaging with all employers within the precinct to establish links between the Co-op and their staff commuter programs. Seeking corporate sponsorship for the Co-op

Membership Engagement - Defining the membership model, including pricing and membership structure. Engaging with employees at the precinct to build initial member base

Transport operator engagement - Establishing a model for engaging with potential transport operators for the future expansion of services. Connecting with adjacent transport services to ensure Co-op services align with other transport modes

Technology - Configuring the combined Liftango/SHARE technology platform to provide

Transport operations - piloting the commuter and community demand responsive bus services and dynamic carpool

Key Success Factors

The combined experience of SHARE and Liftango in providing both community and employee transport solutions positions us well to provide a technology solution that has the flexibility and range of features needed to support the growth of the Co-Op.

Whilst the technology will be a critical enabler of this initiative, it will not on its own make it a success. Our proposal goes well beyond the technology to address the commercial and community/employee engagement model needed to make the Co-op a success.

The Co-op will strive to achieve the following success factors;

  • >15% of employees that drive to site do so in a Carpool
  • >80% utilization of commuter transport
  • >35% fleet utilization (based on 24/7 availability)
  • 24-month ROI on vehicles (return cost of assets + interest)
  • Month on month ridership growth across all transport modes
  • 30% of service to be utilized by local community members
  • High commuter satisfaction scores
  • Driver compensation of $15/hr. + benefits

Barriers to Pilot Success

We understand that there may be several hurdles to overcome for the proposed pilot to be effective. Fortunately (for the purposes of improving mobility solutions), the MCS Impact Area has significant triggers for the success of a community-focused and owned solution.

Some of the general barriers to consider are:

Technology and community acceptance - Lack of access to smartphones and transport information is a major barrier, as is general community buy-in. There is an opportunity to appoint local community figures as “champions” of the service, acting to educate and train the community, disseminate information and collect feedback, thereby increasing uptake and allowing the community to help shape the service. Additionally, our technology will support multiple booking methods from mobile via the app, to voice, text and web.

Ambulatory difficulty - Traditional inflexible transport solutions require passengers to move large distances on foot to access the service - inappropriate for the 16-22% of residents with ambulatory difficulty in some regions of the Impact Area. Our solution will provide direct doorstep access wherever possible and walking distances to pick up points can be limited. Using accessibility-enabled vehicles will allow wheelchair-bound and others with mobility issues to access the service safely.

Safety - Walking alone at night, through certain areas, and over poor sidewalk infrastructure, creates safety concerns. By flexible offering door-to-door service in suitable areas, and providing live vehicle location tracking, we can minimize the safety risks to passengers and reopen opportunities for community engagement.

English as a Second Language - While the Impact Area in general has a very high English fluency (97% plus in most areas), the immediate surrounding areas to the west have very low English fluency. Information and communications therefore need to be accessible in formats that can be interpreted by a wide range of individuals.

Pilot Scope and Implementation Plan

We will work collaboratively with Ford, MCS and suitable community representatives to frame and rollout an achievable project. From a high level we would expect to follow a process similar to the below. We anticipate that Liftango, SHARE and Ford Mobility would be involved at all stages, with additional input from community stakeholders and relevant advisers. High level project plan is attached

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

The Co-op transport solution fits the needs of employees, community, visitors, drivers and employers. We have provided 3 distinct user journeys outlining their interaction with the solution. In addition to social contributions, the solution can generate economic return for the employees of MCS. User Journey 1: Commuter Workers commuting to and from the Michigan Central Station precinct need a reliable and affordable form of transport. The Co-op’s solution ensures workers get to the site on time, with alternative transport options clearly available. User Journey 2: Non-ambulatory Resident During the day, buses serve the community, providing door-to-door service for customers with medical appointments, mobility requirements and shopping needs. User Journey 3: Van / Bus driver Drivers serve commuters during peak times and switch to community demand-driven service through the day, maximizing the use of the vehicles and generating revenue opportunities for the Co-op.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Fully Scaled - you have already scaled your solution and are exploring new use cases

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Through testing of the solution components across multiple regions and use cases, we have learnt: Change takes time and commitment Convenience and cost are key Consistent marketing of new mobility solutions is essential Open data promotes learning Transport modes must be flexible to meet the needs of the WHOLE community Tech-averse users must feel “safe” and supported Microtransit creates inclusion and trust more than other ride sharing options Listening and adaptation is a must

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Liftango ( provides user-focused technology that supports community access to flexible transport options. Our team of 35 services corporate and community clients in North America and APAC. SHARE ( provides MaaS solutions to organizations and communities. Based in Columbus, OH, our team of 125 has delivered 250,000+ safe rides to jobs, education, and healthcare. Together we re-imagine and modernize transport to create equitable access for the whole community

Size of your team or organization

  • 51-250

Team or Organization URL

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $150,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

Data analysis, desktop and dry-run simulations: $40,000 Consultation, project scoping and community engagement: $30,000 Platform preparation, testing and modifications: $30,000 Marketing/communications strategy: $10,000 SHARE Microtransit Operations Pilot (6 months): $40,000 Assumption: vehicles could be provided or funded out of the operations budget Liftango and SHARE endeavor to provide reasonable in-kind manpower, equipment and IP contributions during the preparation and execution

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Understanding the importance of testing and experimentation during the pilot phase, we intend to do the following activities: Design through Simulation: we will gather commuter data for the region and run it through our on demand matching algorithms, this will allow us to visualize the new service and define the scope of service to be offered Communicate: work with stakeholders to determine and action appropriate communications channels and content through a range of engagement activities, surveys, focus groups etc Test and iterate: dry runs and full service runs for real world testing Listen and iterate: proactively seeking feedback from stakeholders (passengers, drivers, administrators, community) to inform improvements to the service Liaise: working with key community partners we will explore suitable services in the community and best methods for generating uptake We will lead the project and technology aspects, engaging with ford mobility, employers and community resources

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

Proving financial sustainability of the benefits corporation and consistent ridership are essential to the viability of the Co-Op. Given the breadth of stakeholders, success measurements would need to consider several aspects. These may include: Increase in social inclusivity metrics User and community feedback and survey results Communication/messaging cut-through Uptake of the service Ongoing utilization of the service Balanced user categories (commuter/mobility/visitor etc) Increasing vehicle utilization Driver experience feedback Financial performance Based on these measurements, the project stakeholders would learn if and how such a customer-centric transport service would work in the Impact Area and similar locations. Detailed analysis and user feedback should be used to shape any future iterations of the service model.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Ongoing usage will self-fund the Co-op and reinvestment into service expansion. The technology platform and Co-op operating model will enable the Co-op to self sustain, with ongoing support provided by Liftango/SHARE Funding will be from: Members utilizing their commuter benefits allocations to buy into the service as equity holders Sponsorship from Employers and other local destinations; Vehicle monetization - usage-based revenue of Co-op vehicles = 2-3x monthly financing costs

Social Media

@liftango @ridewithshare


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Photo of Charles Brock

Seems a great idea!

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