How Public and Private Partnerships Power the Future of Mobility


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Think about your daily transit routine. Did you drive your vehicle down a public highway? It's likely you passed your state's Department of Transportation maintenance crews fixing the road along the way. Perhaps you took a city bus to get downtown. Maybe you called an Uber to get to the next destination, which wouldn't have been an option without the state making ride-sharing legal.

Every day we take advantage of several public and private partnerships that enable personal mobility. Most are so ingrained in our routines that they are taken for granted. But, the freedom we have to move around couldn’t exist without partnerships between governments and private companies. When it comes to transportation, public and private sectors depend on – and enhance – each other.

Ride-sharing, e-scooters, e-bikes, autonomous shuttles, hourly car rentals, subway trains, city buses, ferries and personal vehicles are only a few of the ways we move, yet future forms of transportation will involve far more channels and methods. Optimal levels of public-private coordination is crucial for the success of new mobility options.

Partnerships between technology companies, residents and governments need to support efforts that will make transit more accessible, affordable and efficient. Each sector plays a critical role in finding, funding and implementing solutions and creating infrastructure capable of sustaining new mobility methods.

There are multiple challenges to implementing and scaling transit systems. Rising costs impede road funding. Increases in ridership are generating more traffic. Aging infrastructures can’t support modern vehicle volumes. Ride-sharing reduces funds collected from parking fines, toll roads and parking spots, depleting city revenue channels.

Despite these roadblocks, it’s in everyone’s interest to find ways to support and leverage new mobility services. A first-of-its-kind report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions outlines the development of new mobility partnerships in recent years. This report presents the first global survey of new public-private mobility services, and quantitatively portrays how crucial these partnerships are.

Here in Michigan, effective public-private partnerships are taking the forefront in solving mobility challenges and increasing accessibility to transportation solutions. For example, Project Kinetic brought together the public (City of Detroit, PlanetM), private (General Motors, Lear, DTE Energy, Quicken Loans Community Fund, Bedrock Detroit, Boston Consulting Group) and philanthropic (New Economy Initiative) sectors to tackle transportation pain points in the city of Detroit. Representatives from these organizations identified solutions to address downtown mobility challenges such as accessibility, traffic safety, electric vehicle infrastructure and parking through scalable business models and are currently working to launch a series of pilots throughout the city, including EV fast charge stations and low cost vehicle access by the hour.

Another example is Ford Motor Company’s City:One Challenge which invited various communities – including Grand Rapids, Mich. and Corktown in Downtown Detroit, to explore transportation needs unique to those communities and collaborate on new solutions with Ford R&D teams. There is a vote on the most innovative solution, which is then piloted through public funding.

Finally, May Mobility, an Ann Arbor-based startup that builds and deploys self-driving shuttles, is building on a history of working with private and public entities. Alongside a ten-member, first-of-its-kind public-private coalition, May Mobility is expanding operations to create a year-long, real-world AV transportation project for public use throughout downtown Grand Rapids. This fleet complements the city’s existing DASH transportation fleet. The Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR) demonstrates the power of bringing together a diverse stakeholder group passionate about providing accessible and dynamic transportation options.

Successful public-private collaboration can subtly restore a little faith in government and faith in the private sector’s ability to use innovation for something beyond profit and here at PlanetM we are proud to be part of each of these initiatives to help advance those efforts.

To learn more or connect with the people, places and resources dedicated to the evolution of transforming mobility, visit

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