The Ohio State University has applied for a grant that would create an on-demand public transportation service, using electric, autonomous vehicles, to connect certain middle- and lower-income neighborhoods in Marysville to the city’s commercial areas. (Photo submitted)
The Ohio State University is working to provide an autonomous shuttle in Marysville.
OSU has applied for a National Science Foundation grant to offer “better mobility options to solve the spatial mismatch between housing affordability and jobs.”
Officials have said that when employees do not live near their jobs, it creates what they call a “spatial mismatch.”
Program organizers noted that Marysville does not have a public transportation service, or a consistent Uber, Lyft or taxi service.
“This would offer that and connect our residential areas with our commercial areas,” said Eric Phillips, Union County economic development director.
He called the grant proposal “an exciting opportunity.”
Phillips said that many individuals living in apartment complexes and senior living facilities have limited transportation options.
If awarded, the grant will pay for the purchase of a fleet of electric, autonomous vehicles.
The autonomous vehicle program would allow residents to hail a shuttle on demand. The service would only offer on-demand service, not route coverage.
The vehicles would be “fully electric vehicles with an optimal routing algorithm that will be used to reduce their trip time and energy footprint,” according to the project application.
Officials said the program could look similar to the autonomous shuttle program used in Columbus. Officials said that program, meant to connect the Smart Columbus Scioto Mile and Linden Residential Area, had some success and some problems and researchers learned from all of them.
Phillips said that while the program is similar, the vehicles could be different. He said the shared vehicles could be shuttles or they could be cars or vans.
He also stressed that while the vehicles are autonomous, “they will have a person assigned to ride in the vehicles, who can take over if there is a problem.”
According to the project proposal, the vehicles could also be used to deliver food and supplies to residents.
The plan stresses that while the program would benefit city residents, the lessons researchers learn would be used to help many communities around the country.
“The main project goal is to plan this SAV (Shared Autonomous Vehicle) pilot operation as a generic mobility solution that can easily be scaled and replicated in other similar neighborhoods of a city suffering from the spatial mismatch to locations of opportunity and need,” according to the project proposal.
The project would be a collaboration between the county health department, county commissioners, the Department of Job and Family Services and the City of Marysville, as well as Ohio State University and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
Phillips said the grant application is a two-phase process. He said the program made it through the first phase which considers the overall need and overall value of the proposal. He said project organizers are now working on the second phase, which looks at the specifics.
He said things like budget, mapping and community surveys are being researched.
Phillips said he does not know the grant process timeline yet.
Officials said the program proposal is based on answering the question of, “Can the innovative mobility solution of SAV deployment be used to reduce the negative effects of the spatial mismatch between affordable housing and access to jobs and other locations of opportunity for low – middle income residents of a city?”
The program will also look at whether a program like this will be accepted by the community it is intended to serve, will it be scalable and replicable in other similar communities, can it be used to reduce traffic and can it be done safely?
Officials believe the answer to all the questions is yes.
According to the proposal, organizers hypothesize that “a well-planned and deployed fleet of ride hailing and ride sharing fully electric autonomous vehicles is an innovative mobility solution that can solve the research questions.”