Published in Economic Development
The MUVE app launching in Grand Rapids aims to bring accessibility to transportation options for people with disabilities and others with mobility needs. The MUVE app launching in Grand Rapids aims to bring accessibility to transportation options for people with disabilities and others with mobility needs. COURTESY PHOTO

MUVE app launches in West Mich. to break down transportation accessibility barriers

BY Sunday, May 22, 2022 06:14pm

ACanadian app developer focused on removing mobility barriers for people with disabilities and the elderly is launching its first commercial deployment in West Michigan.

Montreal-based MUVE — which developed a mobile app that equips users with the ability to book on-demand, accessible transportation — has previously partnered with a Southeast Michigan transit service but chose Grand Rapids to start commercial operations in Michigan.

“If we can drop an anchor in Grand Rapids, we’re going to give Grand Rapids all of our love and attention and try to build that community as thoughtfully as we can,” said MUVE co-founder and President Peter Grande.

Grande and his team tapped local entrepreneur Thomas Sikkema as the company’s community team lead for Michigan.

Sikkema brings a unique perspective to the role. Not only is he the founder and CEO of Grandville-based wheelchair and ambulatory transportation company Ride YourWay LLC, but nearly a decade ago, he also fought a battle with a rare type of brain cancer. 

During this bout with cancer, Sikkema experienced firsthand the mobility challenges that are embedded in the health care system.

“Thomas is very impressive. … For us, the culture is extremely important — the culture of accessibility was something we really stressed,” Grande said. “I’d rather have someone I can teach the market to but (who) has the empathy that is already built in that already knows what the other side is going through.”


On the Muve

Users in Grand Rapids and beyond can download the MUVE app as the company works to create a two-sided marketplace in the area that involves users with a wide range of accessibility needs and the transportation services that can meet them.

While the app is live, Sikkema said that users won’t be able to start booking rides through it until the end of the month or early June.

MUVE is working to onboard transportation services so users can book through the app. The app allows the user to specify their accessibility and assistance needs.

Unlike traditional medical transportation services, MUVE connects users to modes of transportation to take them anywhere — not just doctor’s visits or other health care destinations. And, according to Sikkema, it fills a crucial gap left behind by both public transportation and popular ride-sharing services.

“You look at typical rideshare providers like Uber and Lyft, they have a super easy platform to schedule a ride through but they fall short in a few different categories,” said Sikkema, who is also a registered nurse. “Customer service and then it’s obviously not wheelchair accessible. You don’t get the community building component like with what we’re doing, either.”

The app also provides a tagging feature in which users can input accessibility information for area businesses and community destinations.

Grande and Sikkema said the app is designed to conquer the two primary mobility barriers standing in the way of the elderly and people with disabilities: accessibility and cost.

“Cost and price is always a barrier, which is why we really aim to find the efficiencies that can drive those costs down,” Grande said. “It’s expensive to have a disability. A lot of times, they don’t get around because of the cost and that sort of defeats the purpose.”

Providing access to transportation through a mobile app might be convenient, but the duo also acknowledged that the learning curve associated with it can be a barrier.

“There will always be a learning curve no matter what type of software you’re launching,” Sikkema said. “MUVE has created a platform that is very user-friendly. … The scheduling platform on it is pretty easy to use, too.”

“What we’re really focusing on now is creating an educational component behind it to really empower people and get them the confidence that the app is easy to use and they’ll be able to do everything they want to do,” he added.


Familiar friends

MUVE’s international debut in Michigan was intentional after the state played a role in helping the company grow and develop its idea.

Founded in 2017, MUVE was recognized as a startup to watch at 2018’s National Shared Mobility Summit, where representatives from Michigan were in attendance.

This led MUVE to participate in the Michigan Mobility Challenge, a 2018 grant initiative to address core mobility gaps for seniors, people with disabilities and veterans across the state. MUVE was one of the 13 companies selected to receive grant funding.

MUVE also teamed up with the Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE) last year to create an app that books reservations online for door-to-door bus services. The app also provides real-time tracking of fixed route vehicles and an avenue for e-payment. 

MUVE and WAVE received a $125,000 Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grant in September of 2021 to deploy their technology.

“These grants are securing a foundation for mobility companies across the state that builds on our reputation as a global leader in testing and deployment of future mobility solutions, but also create a runway to future growth and jobs right here in Michigan,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement last year announcing the funding.

Now, MUVE furthers its efforts to go statewide, starting with Grand Rapids.

“We always had our eye on Michigan,” Grande said. “We felt it was always one step ahead in the mobility space.” 

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