Saagar and I are taking on the role of consultants to guide the development of NextCities project plan. As both college students and outsiders to the organization, we brought in to look at the project through a fresh and creative lens, offering our insights into existing ideas while coming up with new proposals and pivots. A lot of the work that we have done so far has been market research, competitor analyses, data analytics, and case studies on individual organizations that we can take inspiration from.
Last week, our supervisor Tim took Saagar and me on a mini “adventure” to downtown Detroit to explore the different forms of mobility the city offers. We started off by walking toward the station for the Q-line, which we ended up just missing. Changing our plans, we took a Lyft to Capital Park where we looked at the site for an EV charging demonstration to be held later in the summer. Saagar and I then MoGo-ed while Tim rode a Spin electric scooter to Beacon Park, another location for a demonstration site for EV charging in partnership with DTE Energy. There, we brainstormed about hosting a fun EV-focused learning day at the park as a shift in focus toward consumer education and engagement—a pivot that Saagar and I recommended for the NextCities project. Afterwards, we went around to a few notable buildings including the Cobo Center and the Guardian Building, before heading back to the office.
From this experience, I was able to observe the countless different mobility options in action, from bikes to the Q-line to the People Mover, as well as the drawbacks for each. Living in such a big city and with different traveling purposes, people need different forms of mobility. Parking is difficult in downtown, so companies have shuttle fleets to transport their employees from midtown to their downtown office. People also use the Q-line to travel in and out of downtown, which can be especially useful for day trips or to see a Tigers game. The transportation system in Detroit, however, is not perfect and has several gaps. There is a lack of bike paths, the roads need repair, the bus system is underutilized and inconvenient.
Mobility is so integral to the lives of everyone, not just those living in Detroit. Vehicles transport us to where we need to be to do what we need to do. As a result, mobility molds our way of living, shaping our daily routines, influencing our human interactions. But, as much as mobility shapes our world, we have the potential to influence mobility to control how it transforms our surroundings. By being conscious of the way we move around and choosing cleaner, less carbon-emitting options, we can significantly influence the direction our environment progresses toward. Part of the reason why people choose less clean and efficient forms of transportation is because there is a lack of environmentally conscious options and a lack of knowledge.
For example, MoGo’s bike-sharing program has definitely influenced the Detroit landscape both explicitly and implicitly. Visibly, bike paths and MoGo stations have appeared, but on a deeper invisible level, people are becoming more environmentally aware with their choices. By choosing to bike or walk to work or to buy groceries rather than drive, they are reducing their carbon footprint, and overall benefiting the environment.
By pushing for new smart mobility solutions and working with cities to move in that direction, the NextCities project is work that will transform the economy, the way we move, the way we live. This project and NextEnergy itself are here to transform our habits and to set a new standard to living that incorporates environmental consciousness. They are capable of rebuilding a new atmosphere, a new lifestyle, a new mindset—changing the physical and the abstract.
The work that Saagar and I are doing may be unrecognized and unglamorous work in the greater scheme, but it is far from unimportant. The tenuous grunt work of gathering data, building a proposal, repetitive research and analysis—they are all necessary for the success of the larger mission; these are irremovable steps to achieve the higher prize to building a cleaner future for everyone.