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Mini Shuttle that goes to/from Eastern Market (and beyond!) from Corktown on Saturdays

A weekly shuttle going from the Michigan Central Station to Eastern Market providing access to one of Detroit's greatest assets.

Photo of Mark Green
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Eastern Market is one of the largest historic public market districts in the United States with year round access to fresh produce and other products often provided by local small businesses. The market is frequented by people of all backgrounds coming to the market for a different need. Since many of the vendors accept EBT/Food Stamps, Eastern Market is central in providing access to affordable and healthy foods. This is especially important considering that many Detroiters lack access to affordable, healthy produce. 

However, transportation to Eastern Market is a huge barrier for many Detroiters without a vehicle. According to a recent University of Michigan transportation study, nearly 40% of Detroiters don’t own or lease a vehicle and are dependent on alternative forms of transportation. While the market is only 3 miles from Michigan Central Station (an 8 minute drive), there is no direct public transportation option that connects the impact area with Eastern Market. The current public transportation option takes 38 minutes including a bus transfer and a 13 minute walk to access Eastern Market from the Michigan Central Station (assuming no delays with buses).  Our contribution would be to connect Corktown residents with Eastern Market with direct weekend year-round shuttle service from Michigan Central Station. Depending on demand, this solution could be scaled to provide additional service to other retail centers around the Detroit area (such as Fairlane Mall in Dearborn) that are difficult for Detroiters without vehicles to access.

Our contribution includes a bus shuttle between Michigan Central Station and Eastern Market every 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays (when in season) from 9:00am until 3:00pm. If there’s demand, an additional weekend shuttle could be used to connect Corktown and Fairlane Mall to build connections with larger retailers currently inaccessible to much of the population.. 

This solution provides Ford with a simple and actionable way help Detroiters in the impact area access fresh groceries, support local businesses, and have overall greater mobility. Given the relative simplicity of the routes, this service could also eventually become a pilot project for Ford to highlight its autonomous and electric vehicle offerings.

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

Our solution will benefit residents, workers, and visitors in the MCS impact area by providing them with a reliable and affordable way to access Eastern Market and other necessary locations year round in a way that does not currently exist. This solution could also increase access to fresh produce, small businesses, and other essentials provided by large retailers inaccessible to many Detroiters. As shown in the attached photos, this solution could get users to/from Eastern Market five times faster than if took public transit and is a much more comfortable experience since parking is not a worry. In addition, this solution could provide momentum for other shared mobility offerings to satisfy transportation needs in the Corktown and greater Detroit area. This solution will benefit residents, workers, and visitors in the MCS impact area by saving time and providing regular and affordable access to fresh produce and other essentials necessary for a high quality of life.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

We have spoken with transit professionals, City of Detroit employees, residents of the Corktown area, and automotive employees. They have expressed positive interest and we learned that much of the success would depend on execution, communication, and accessibility.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

We are a group of Detroiters passionate about increasing transit usage and adoption in the City of Detroit and beyond. We believe that access to affordable and reliable transportation is a fundamental piece for access to employment and for improving quality of life, and we are working to remove barriers both large and small for wide scale public transit adoption.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

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

  • $50,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

For the proof of concept to show demand, we would either partner with or rent from an existing shuttle operator to provide the service on Saturdays to get a better idea of ridership. We anticipate initial expenses to be daily rental/driver costs ($1000/weekend for 10 pilot weekends) in addition to $10,000 in marketing costs (signage, flyers, advertising) to build a customer/ridership base. Additional costs could include overhead, unforeseen expenses, pilot expansion costs, and more.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

During the pilot phase, we will focus on market research, communication, and purchasing. First, we will perform market research to get a better understanding of the level of demand and willingness to pay for our service. This is important because it will determine not only the size and type of vehicle we purchase but also how often (and at what times) we offer our service to Eastern Market and elsewhere on weekends. Our team will conduct this research and use some of the grant money as needed although we would not be paying ourselves. Once we have identified our market size, anticipated level of demand, and WTP, we will know how often, when to operate, and what/how to charge. From there, we will focus on communication and awareness since it is imperative that people know about our service. We will continually work to improve our service to address the customer needs.

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

There are several metrics that we think would be important to measure and determine if our pilot was a success or not. First, we would want to measure ridership numbers. We would identify our baseline and see how these grow week over week. In addition, we will survey our customers to find out how they heard about our service and their satisfaction ratings. This would allow us to not only better focus our marketing and awareness efforts, but it would also allow us to improve our service to encourage word of mouth promotion and increase ridership numbers. Another important metric will be returning users. We want to see this pilot regularly being used by customers, and the best way to demonstrate that would be recurring usage. Finally, we would want to measure profit (revenue and expenses) to ensure financial sustainability and ability to scale.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

To make the project financially self-sustainable, there could be revenue opportunities such as sponsorship, advertising, pay-per-ride, or private group rides scheduled in advance. Additionally, since this service would only operate 1 day a week, an existing shuttle used for commuting during the week could be repurposed for weekend shuttle service.

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Photo of Mark Green

Hi Boratha,

We would certainly be open to shuttles to Indian Village, Riverfront, and more. We think it would be best to start with Eastern Market since that provides access to food, and depending on demand, would love to expand. Regarding affordability, I wonder if we could offset some costs with grants for users who cannot afford the shuttle otherwise. Happy to discuss this further!

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