Dr. Alain Kornhauser’s vision of bringing equitable, sustainable, and affordable mobility to the people of Trenton took another step forward with the February 9th, 2022 announcement (Facebook) of a $5 million NJDOT Local Transportation Planning Fund Grant for the Trenton Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System (MOVES) Project (PDF). The significance of this event goes beyond the grant announcement.
Kornhauser and his Princeton team, through the CARTS initiative, have managed to bring together a wide group of public agencies that are embracing the idea of creating a holistic solution centered on autonomous mobility in a location that otherwise might be overlooked by private providers.
Trenton MOVES is an NJDOT project (PDF) with a goal of “introducing safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, and efficient on-demand automated vehicle mobility systems in and beyond Trenton, NJ.” As NJDOT Commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti put it,
Trenton MOVES is about helping NJDOT bringing transit to the micro-level.”Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti speaking at the 02/09/22 NJDOT Press Announcement
The goal is to improve the quality of life by using smaller, electric vehicles that are autonomous that get closer to the customer with an on-demand model. Gutierrez-Scaccetti describes the Trenton MOVES process to date as the “Perfect marriage of academia and government.”
The NJDOT is looking for private partners to bring the solution and issued the previously referenced Request for Expressions of Interest. On February 8th, 2022, the NJDOT extended the response period to February 25th, 2022 to allow responders to react to the questions and answers submitted as part of the RFEI process. The addendum provides additional project details, such as the initial deployment target of 5,000 person trips per day and the expectation for sustainable commercial service about 2-years after launch.
Speakers at the event reiterated how the lack of good mobility choices – 70% of Trentonian households have access to one car or fewer – limits access to jobs, medical facilities, and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, this has been a decades-old issue. Trenton, NJ mayor Reed Gusciora pointed to Professor Kornhauser’s 1975 study that looked at using Personal Rapid Transit system to improve mobility.
Gutierrez-Scaccetti thanked Dr. Kornhauser for his efforts and vision in creating a project to serve the community. That the announcement was at the Trenton Central High School is indicative of the grassroots movement that Kornhauser has been calling for in bringing autonomous mobility to communities. As he often states, it is about creating a “welcoming environment.”
Trenton Public School District Superintendent James Earle is excited to see how Trenton MOVES can benefit his school district’s students. He points out that mobility is a huge factor in getting to school, as a 2.5-mile walk in the cold can deter attendance. Beyond mobility, he sees that “This might be the opportunity to engage students and parents”
Expressing his excitement about the progress so far, Kornhauser said he was “tickled pink” and “that is an opportunity to change and improve lives.” He stated that there has been $200B invested in autonomous technology, but no societal value has been delivered. Trenton MOVES offers the opportunity to start improving society. Kornhauser has a roadmap that brings it from the streets of Trenton to the rest of the Garden State, and communities across the U.S.A.
[Added 02/10/22 – The Trentonian has an excellent overview of yesterday’s event, including specifics not mentioned in the above overview.]
[Editor’s Note, the SmartDrivingCar Summit has been a past sponsor of Viodi coverage of its events. The above article is not part of that coverage.]