CLEVELAND–October 4, 2019–Community Action Wayne/Medina and Laketran have won funding to support pilot efforts that will connect people to jobs in Northeast Ohio, as part of The Paradox Prize initiative seeking to address the “no car, no job; no job, no car,” paradox in the region.
Community Action Wayne/Medina was awarded $100,000 to implement dynamic routing software to build upon an existing program and create an on-demand van-pooling option, enabling multiple users with differing origins and destinations to access an affordable, efficient service. Laketran, Lake County’s public transit operator, will receive $75,000 to test a new van service from underserved areas to high-paying manufacturing jobs in Lake County, working closely with employers, the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority.
This is the second round of awards granted through The Paradox Prize, the public challenge that launched in June to source and test a range of mobility solutions that can help residents constrained by their geography better access jobs, improve the ability for area businesses to fill thousands of open positions, and elevate the conversation around the transportation challenges in our region. Sponsors of the $1 million effort are the Fund for Our Economic Future (Fund), The Lozick Family Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Foundation, and DriveOhio. Funding is being awarded in rounds until exhausted. A total of five projects have received awards thus far and up to 15 pilots are expected to be supported.
The sponsors also announced Thursday that the deadline for the third round will be extended to January 15, 2020, to allow more time for promising ideas to develop.
Fund Vice President Bethia Burke said important lessons are emerging after just two rounds.
“We have already learned a lot about what’s out there, how this challenge shows up across the region, and how our region and state could take actions to improve the current environment,” she said. “Even better news? We have a little more than $600,000 remaining that can be put to work in future rounds.”
Some early lessons include:
- The need for mobility solutions is even greater than we realized, affecting all parts of the region. We’ve seen more than 80 proposals across two rounds. The applications came from 10 counties, representing a mix of rural, suburban and urban communities.
- We not only need a broader array of mobility offerings, but an environment that encourages experimentation. Demand-responsive microtransit options have dominated the applications so far. Smaller, flexible and need-based solutions can be efficient, but expensive. Encouragingly, public transportation agencies are exhibiting a desire to adjust their offerings to improve services; the problem is they face restrictions that limit what can be done with federal funding. We’ve had 11 applications (and two winners!) from seven different public transportation agencies interested in testing new routes or systems. These agencies are looking for private funding because a demanding regulatory process makes it difficult to try new things. It’s great The Paradox Prize is around to support these innovations, but what happens when the funding runs out? How will transportation agencies continue to innovate for positive change? This conundrum is readily solvable, we just must be willing to solve it. A state innovation fund could enable experimental routes that, if demand proves out, could result in more responsive fixed-route planning.
- There is more we can do to help businesses consider transportation important. Employee transportation considerations surface too late in business location decision conversations, if at all. Economic developers charged with supporting business attraction and expansion need ways to consistently bring transportation into the discussion and problem solve with companies before location decisions are made. And when new companies come to town, employers could benefit from a toolkit that helps them encourage use of public transportation or offer pre-tax transportation benefits.
“Given these realities, there are several ideas we hope to see further developed in Round 3,” said Dominic Mathew, the Fund’s urban and regional planner for mobility innovations. Specifically:
- Ways to increase public transit ridership or the experience on public transit
- More ideas originating from communities experiencing the challenge
- Private sector-supported proposals that have the potential to serve a larger scale of employees
- Viable alternative energy solutions
- Integrated solutions that combine multiple modes of transit (e.g., solutions that combine buses, cars, bikes, scooters, or more)
Those interested in learning more or submitting an application should go to paradoxprize.com, or email email@example.com to set up a time to speak with a staff person about your idea.
Director of Communications
Fund for Our Economic Future