A public-private partnership with the Ford Motor Company aims to help Pittsburgh identify and solve its most pressing mobility challenges through a City of Tomorrow Challenge, Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday.
Over the next eight months, city government will talk with residents about their transportation problems: whether that’s reaching job centers such as Cranberry or Robinson Town Center or simply learning how to use the bus system. Then, Ford and its partners — Dell Technologies and Microsoft — will ask people around the world to suggest solutions. One of those projects will be selected for a $100,000 grant to fund a pilot, said John Kwant, vice president of Ford City Solutions.
“Consider it crowdsourcing in two stages,” he said. “Crowdsourcing of ideas within the community to determine what the issues and challenges are, and then crowdsourcing of solutions to meet those challenges.”
This won't be the first time Ford has turned its eye to Pittsburgh; the company announced last year that it would invest $1 billion in local startup Argo AI to develop self-driving cars.
Partnering with the private sector means Pittsburgh can move faster to resolve residents’ barriers to jobs, health care and generally just living their lives, said Karina Ricks, director of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.
“This is a solution for real Pittsburgh, the real people that are here living it from every economic class, from every age, from every neighborhood,” she said. “So we can really understand the solutions that serve us and the needs that real Pittsburghers have.”
Peduto said they’ll work with community groups, hold meetings and use social media to spread the word.
“A lot of times, the people who have the most challenges with mobility also have challenges with getting their voice heard,” he said. “We’ll make sure we create opportunities for that in this process.”
Pittsburgh is the first city named in Ford’s challenge; other cities are expected to be announced soon. Both Peduto and Ricks said they expect to implement a pilot project before the end of 2018. While Ford will provide a website, data analysis and communication between the challenge cities, local partners provided the $100,000 to fund a pilot project.
The Heinz Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Benter Foundation and city government contributed a total of $250,000 to the effort. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will help facilitate communication and collaboration.
90.5 WESA receives funding from the Heinz, Pittsburgh and Benter foundations.