What is the ‘first and last mile problem’ in public transport?
In our ever-growing cities, many people live in the suburbs and places far away from public transportation hubs. A single trip from one place to another may involve multiple modes of transport such as cycling, driving, walking and public transport.
The “first and last mile” problem is the difficulty people face at the beginning or end of an individual trip made primarily by public transportation as people find it difficult to get to/from transportation hubs to/from their desired locations.
An example of this problem:
John lives a few miles away from the train station and has to travel a few miles to the office when he arrives. When John goes to work he has to find an alternate transport mode to get to the station from his home and again from the station to his work place. To utilise public transport to get to and from work John has to find alternative transportation modes four times a day. This is the “first and last mile” problem in public transportation.
Alternative modes of transport to travel the “first & last mile” and their problems:
- Walking – Many people choose to walk for the first and last mile of their travel, however, due to weather conditions, luggage and longer distances to transportation hubs can make walking more difficult and it may not be ideal choice for many people.
- Taking the bus – The majority of public transport hubs utilise buses as the connection between the public transport hub and residential or business premises.The problem with this solution is that buses may take longer due to their timetable, the route taken and the distance from the bus stop to the final destination. This may also add extra expenses to overall travel cost.
- Going cycling – While cycling to cover their “first or last mile” seems to be a faster option than walking it may still be problematic due to the weather, work clothes, poor road infrastructure for cyclists and restrictions on taking bikes on public transport.
- Driving a car – Driving to the train station seems to be the preferred choice of many commuters to solve their “first and last mile” problem. However, a shortage of parking spaces, the added cost of owning a car and traffic congestion may negate all the benefits of using car as a solution.
- Using a Taxi – Taxi services seem to be one of the most convenient ways to complete the first and last mile of transportation but they can prove be the most expensive way when used on a daily basis.
Is there an ideal solution for the “First and last mile” problem?
Looking at all the alternate modes of transport to solve the “first and last mile” and factoring in individual’s specific requirements, it can be said that there is no single solutions to fix this problem. However, improvements in all of these modes combined with technological advancements can definitely make these alternative modes more efficient and convenient helping to reduce the cost and time involved.
What are some of the solutions to improve these modes of transport?
- Dedicated bike paths and storage facilities – Dedicated bike paths running alongside the roads can improve the safety of commuters and reduce the time taken while riding to or from transportation hubs. Safe bike storage facilities at these hubs can also encourage bike riders to commute.
- Smart bus connections – Mobile apps providing the real time location of buses along the route and journeys booked in advance via these apps can help save time for commuters.
- On demand bus or van service – Having a dedicated bus timetable at places with a low numbers of commuters can be a very expensive way of providing services. These services can be replaced with smaller commuter vans compared to large buses and should be able to provide on demand services which are ‘door to door’ aided by
- Carpooling/lift sharing – Many people in a area travel to similar employment hubs or business areas; there are many services available helping you to find people travelling in a similar or the same destination. Travelling with others with a similar destination can help you to reduce the time and cost involved.
- One fare system – Many public transportation services have seperate fare arrangements, such as train tickets, bus tickets and ferry tickets. In a ‘one fare’ system, people should be able to buy a ticket which is valid on all kinds of public transport to help reduce the time and money. One example of this it the London Oyster Card which is valid on tubes and buses. The cost of travel is significantly
higher when all services charge separately.
Travel is an essential part of our life and every person should be able to travel in a comfortable, cost effective way. Governments and private organisations around the world continue to work to provide ideal travel solutions to people.
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