Will ride-sharing mean less parking? And getting students in career tech

Michigan cities should start thinking now about how advancements in mobility could affect future infrastructure needs, according to a new report for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

LANSING — Cities should start thinking now about the impact driverless cars will have on everything from transit to parking, even though the first automated vehicles aren’t expected to be available to the public until at least 2020.

That’s according to the new CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which commissioned a recent report as a road map for cities to consider the kinds of infrastructure and land use changes that the emerging mobility industry will bring.

“Think about … what mobility and autonomy essentially allows in terms of helping our seniors potentially be more active and able to be out living on their own, or for the disabled community, or some of our rural areas,” said Jeff Mason, who took the helm of the state’s economic development agency in July.

“Just providing more access and opportunity, I think that’s what’s kind of exciting about what the future holds,” he said. “But it also can be, maybe, threatening or challenging from a planning and a community standpoint.”

I talked to Mason recently while he was in Montreal for the ITS World Congress, a conference devoted to intelligent transportation. The MEDC was there to pitch Planet M, the state’s mobility brand, and Michigan itself as the preeminent leader on all things connected and autonomous vehicles.

The “Future Cities” report, written by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, tries to make the case that the most attractive communities when it comes to attracting jobs and residents will be the ones that have invested in the infrastructure to be ready for ride-hailing and bike-sharing services, for instance, and self-driving cars.

That would include such things as eliminating minimum parking requirements for developments, creating car- and bike-sharing parking spaces and loading zones for ride-hailing companies, studying potential congestion and travel patterns if fewer human-driven vehicles are on the roads, integrating fares between several modes of transit and anticipating the need for fewer parking spaces in the future.

Mason said the MEDC plans to share the report with the Michigan Municipal League and local governments to begin the conversation.

Yet planning often is a short-term exercise, not just because policymakers generally are in office for a set number of years. How, I asked Mason, does the state help local governments take a longer view?

Municipalities have long grappled with that, he said.

“What the governor’s great at doing is kind of helping people to think around the curve and begin to think about the future and think beyond election cycles,” Mason said. “Municipalities or governmental bodies, we’re pretty risk-averse. But I think when you have the industry and companies here in the state that are beginning to introduce some of this technology, that’s helpful in terms of kind of exposing those elected officials to what the future is.”

“We’d be interested in those conversations,” said Richard Murphy, program coordinator in the Michigan Municipal League’s Civic Innovation Labs, which focuses on identifying the “next practices” around placemaking and planning that local governments should start to think about.

Murphy said the developing mobility industry mixes interest in the opportunities that arise with on-demand transit services and self-driving cars with concern over the cost of building infrastructure. For instance, he said, if fewer people will be driving cars in the future, what will replace the gasoline tax as the primary source of state road funding?

Career-tech challenge

Michigan ranks 42nd out of 50 states for the number of high school students enrolled in career and technical education programs.

That fact stood out last week as Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, released its latest benchmarking report comparing Michigan to other states during its annual CEO summit in Detroit.

BLM’s report includes the data point, indicating that fewer than a quarter of public school students took a vocational course in 2015. That’s less than half of what “top 10” states on such metrics as jobs, personal income and economic health are enrolling.

That’s happening “in a state that prides itself for being a hands-on, practical place that makes things,” Doug Rothwell, CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, told a crowd of about 500 attending the summit.

Yet the statistic shines light on a larger problem, which is that Michigan struggles to produce enough workers with the right set of advanced skills that employers are demanding in a global, 21st-Century economy. Just 23 percent of students graduated from Michigan high schools in 2016 meeting college readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math and science on the ACT college entrance exam — far below the 36 percent who, on average, can do so in “top 10” states, the report shows.

The problem starts early: Michigan ranks 46th when it comes to fourth-grade students who are proficient in reading on state standardized tests, and 37th when it comes to eighth-graders who can demonstrate math proficiency.

Gov. Rick Snyder has focused his administration on increasing employment in skilled trades fields — which can be high-paying work — particularly for students who don’t plan to attend a four-year university. Getting students into vocational courses that can help accelerate that path, however, has proven more challenging.

For one, the state adopted more rigorous high school course requirements, which can leave less time in the day available for students to spend at a vocational program. Michigan has a decentralized career-tech structure statewide, with some programs supported by local millages. And the state has had difficulty recruiting enough teachers to lead courses.

There has been some progress. This year, 109,005 students are enrolled in career and technical education programs in Michigan schools, according to data from the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development. That’s nearly 5,000 more students than in 2015, when enrollment hit a recent trough at 104,038, yet still below the 118,575 students enrolled in 2011 when Snyder took office.

The state is trying to boost the image of skilled trades fields in multiple ways, from its “Going Pro” marketing campaign to a tool called Pathfinder that aims to give students — and others — current information about job openings and average wages in given fields, talent department spokesman Dave Murray said via email.

“We also need to start the discussion about improving CTE statewide,” Murray said, citing the need to create equity between districts with vocational millages and those without.

That discussion includes potential policy changes meant to bring more people with expertise in these fields into the classroom, he said, adding: “So many districts say they are unable to offer some classes because they can’t find someone to teach them.”

Snyder this month signed a supplemental funding bill for this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, to increase vocational programming and equipment by $3 million. And over the summer, the state talent and education departments jointly rolled out a plan to enlist the state’s business community in an effort to find more teachers.

Now, a five-bill package is pending in a state House committee that would, among other things, allow non-certified instructors to teach career-tech courses so long as he or she has work experience or expertise in a particular field, has at least a high school diploma and currently holds or has had a professional license or certification in the field within the past two years.

The bills have the support of a number of professional associations, including groups that lobby on behalf of manufacturers, restaurants and road builders, as well as the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:34pm

Career tech still struggles with perception that it is for kids who aren't going to college or another way, if you have anything going for you, you go to college taking college prep courses, if not there's career tech. Yes there's lip service given to going to a tech school, but there's no misunderstanding that this is perceived by most in academia as fourth or fifth best on the list, even though they deny it. Unfortunately CT would benefit a lot of kids who have all intents to become engineers or business people, but instead they're funneled off to sports, art or music classes. Yes, I know, you can't have it all.

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:40pm

It is great that someone is thinking about vocational education. The vocational career paths will provide a much better job than someone with a college degree being a barista at Mickey D's. What is disappointing is that nowhere did I read about the actual companies participating in the training. Years ago, there were apprentice programs for the newly hired. Today, the companies want their newly hired people to be trained by someone else.

Kevin Grand
Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:04pm

I don't have any problem with people enrolling for technical training.

At the rate they're pricing themselves out of their customer's reach, it's beats the college financial treadmill to nowhere.

But what I am curious about is has anyone finally answered who will be financially and legally liable when these vehicles injure and/or kill someone?

Will it be the programmer?

The software company?

The manufacturer?

The parts supplier?

The vehicle owner?

I've yet to hear about anyone willing to address the literal elephant in the room regarding this issue?

Just this morning in Detroit there were two major freeway accidents resulting in at least four fatalities.

It's a safe bet that the ambulance chasers wasted no time in finding someone to sue. Will anyone I've mentioned above be willing to make that same short list and take that chance when these vehicles are finally sold to the public?

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 1:31am

This article is a potpourri of ideas but they aren't thought out or tied together.
The driverless care will surely allow one person change their activities as the move from driver to passenger, but will that really change the riding habits? It will extended the independence of the matures among us, but will it change their car traveling habits? If it only changes the need for a driver why will it change demand for cars?
The replacement of taxi drivers with driverless will shift the cost, but initially there will be a higher capital out lay that may discourage initial usage and reinforce current habits and flexibility [will it be economical to use a paid ride to 'Grandmother house' and stay for a week?].
As for the car parking, who uses the car parking lots locals or out of towners? In Ann Arbor, is it people from Dexter, Pinkney, Saline, Canton [those over 6 miles away]? In Detroit is it from Detroit or the suburbs? Is cost the only reason we have cars? How many millions have we put into mass transit and how many are using them? How many Uber cars can be supported for rush hour and then be idle for the rest of the day?
Are we sure that fewer people will be driving? Why do people buy cars today, for the fun of driving, for the appeal of car styles, for the functionality [why do we have mini vans and SUVs]. The change in car ownership, in traveling in cars isn't going to happen because some 'expert' feels it should. The reality is that cars are part of the culture, they serve a need of how we get from here to there, the are more then function, they are also habit. And habit doesn't change easily and requires a better habit with a very good reason to change.
As for the new career opportunities, in reality they are already here and going unfilled. The kids need to be thinking about those careers when they are in middle school or sooner so they will be making the needed effort to learn. They are doing it now so why should we expect them to change simply because we will have driverless cars.
The are many issues that this article ignores or glosses over that will prevent the expectations describe in this article from happening. The article needs to stimulate conversation if we are to have any hope to change for the future, but all we get is that is silence from those quoted in the article about the barriers to the future they describe and how to draw the communities into the conversations to develop answers.