City authorities are constantly trying to maintain and develop public transport in their cities. Well-functioning public transport can reduce traffic congestion and environmental damage and make more room for pedestrians to traverse cities. However, what more cities are failing to incorporate in transportation policy is the last mile issue, which often impacts the efficacy of public transport in cities.
The last mile, albeit an insignificant chunk of commuting, is often what constitutes rider comfort on public transport. The concept of the last mile originated in telecommunications to refer to the last portion of networks used to deliver service to consumers. The term was carried over into transport to describe the distance that riders travel to or from their last mode of transport to their destination. Usually, this manifests itself in the distance between a metro, bus station or bike rack to a final destination (usually a home or office). In some cases, even the distance between a parking spot and a final destination is considered the last mile.
In this sense, everyone living in a city can be considered a pedestrian. Urban policy makers, however, do not necessarily view a city’s population in this light. Accordingly, transport authorities may attempt to reduce traffic congestion by adding metro lines, but place the metro station near a highway. Thus, the last mile of riders would require them to walk near cars driving at high-speeds, causing discomfort or fear for riders. This may even decrease ridership to this specific metro station due to its impracticality, causing riders to seek alternative transport for their commutes.
In a report published by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, transport connectivity was calculated based on what the report called “true walkability,” which incorporates geography, distance and regional popularity, calculating the actual walkable of regions in comparison to others.
The report stated that, by factoring in true walkability, public transport becomes more accessible to pedestrians and, effectively, increases ridership. “Improving walk access has a direct link to increasing farebox receipts. As farebox revenue increases, the amount of subsidy required from Metro’s compact members declines.” In this sense, as municipal authorities consider true walkability in urban policy, infrastructure and public transport will become less costly, more efficient and frequented by more riders.
Although some cities are looking into measures to develop last mile connectivity using shuttle buses or short-routed tramways, there are other ways that riders can address the last mile issue, including using non-motorized sports equipment like skateboards, scooters or bicycles. In spite of that, walking continues to be the predominant way of going about the last mile. While some planners envision a future where street design mandates that pedestrians have priority over motorized vehicles, we continue to live in cities that revolve primarily around cars, trains and buses. For the time being, policy makers should look to ways to incorporate last mile connectivity in urban policy for the sake of both riders and the efficiency of public transport.
NOTE: The title of this article was changed from “The Last Mile And Its Significance To Public Transport Policy” to “True Walkability, The Last Mile And Public Transport Policy.”