The First, Last, and Toughest Mile in Transportation

Hitching a ride to the bus stop

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It would be easier to get commuters on board with support for public transportation without the dreaded “first- and last-mile problem”: the extra time and hassle commuters face when they’re going from home to a transit station and then from the station at the other end of the trip to a final destination. “The enemy is really the car’s unequaled convenience; commuters need multiple, equally easy choices before they’ll give up the steering wheel,” writes Good (Spring 2009). Several innovations are in the works.

Zipcar—the popular community car-sharing program—is useful for some, but Good points out that a car can be a bit much to make up the distance from public transit hubs, prompting the idea of “right-sized” vehicles. Segways, golf carts, or bikes can be a more efficient solution, especially if businesses were to invest in a “shared fleet of vehicles” for employees to use depending on their needs. For those who still insist on driving, new social networking communities with ratings systems are cropping up to connect ride-share commuters. “Smart parking”—providing guaranteed parking spaces at transit lots for carpoolers taking the train—is another option.

A personal rapid transit (PRT) system could create “cheaper, easier-to-build tracks—elevated above roadways, at a tenth of the cost of light rail and competitive with new roads,” allowing people to get from A to B quickly by avoiding unnecessary stops, Good writes. Terrain (Summer 2009) reports that Oakland company CyberTran International has developed a full-size PRT prototype that uses clean technology and bullet-shaped cars. CEO Neil Sinclair tells Terrain, “In an elevator [if you’re by yourself] you don’t go from the second floor to the tenth floor and stop at every floor. . . . That’s what this does horizontally.”