Relying on public transport systems to travel from one location to the next usually requires the commuter to walk a considerable distance to and from each of the transit stations en route. These rather inconvenient extra steps are what city council members and business owners commonly refer to as the first mile/last mile problem, or FM/LM. As municipalities turn to Mobility as a Service (MaaS) technologies to facilitate these millions of daily commutes and to enhance the quality of life for its many citizens, city officials often have difficulty in locating a one-size-fits-all solution.
The best possible solution, however, usually involves a dedicated collaboration between multiple organisations to design, develop, and implement a cohesive network of interconnected travel options. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the average total walking distance as well as number of transfers, while providing what are essentially door-to-door transit services most often associated with an idealised utopian society. Thanks to recent advancements in MaaS, urban planners are now labelling these utopian worlds as smart cities, and they are becoming increasingly more prevalent across the globe.
The importance of a multi-modal transit system
Public transport officials face a constant stream of highly complex challenges. Part of the reason that these committed professionals can never seem to resolve the FM/LM problem entirely is that metropolitan areas are always changing and expanding. With the construction and development of new business districts and residential areas comes the never-ending challenges associated with efficient but limited pedestrian travel.
Adding new alternatives to public transport systems is only half the battle. Cities offering a multi-modal network of travel options that might include busses, light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, bike rentals, scooters, shuttles and, someday, maybe even air taxis require an interconnected payment method that is readily adaptable regardless of the transportation supplier. Meanwhile, city commuters must also be able to navigate between these different transport modalities quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.
Is it even possible to make each of these individual transport companies along with their millions of passengers happy at the same time? The most successful municipalities are thinking out-side-the-box to create some rather inventive solutions. For example, when Denver, Colorado’s Regional Transport District began fielding a surge of commuter complaints regarding walk times to and from the famous Peña Station, city organisers partnered with the Panasonic and the Colorado Department of Transportation. The result is a six-seated, driverless shuttle that local commuters simply love.
At a recent Maas Market Conference run by ITS International, the City of Atlanta outlined their focus on transit-friendly development to cater for their fast growing community. This means, new developments now provide FM/LM solutions, such as walking and cycling safety and ease as well as bike and car share offerings.
Regardless of the locality, resolving the FM/LM dilemma requires careful planning and detailed research involving a broad range of interrelated issues. Payment options are one consideration. Traffic patterns is another. Balancing both public and private transportation options is yet another. And each of these complex issues is always changing. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.” This insightful quotation has never been more relevant than when dealing with the ever-changing world of urban planning.
MaaS solutions to the rescue
To be maximally effective, today’s public transport managers and city planners are now embracing the fact that multi-modal systems must always be changing and adapting to the needs of its many citizens. As commuters continue to become increasingly more dependent on smartphone technologies, mobile trip planning apps using our TripGo API are growing in popularity, as well. These mobility platforms help travellers plan door-to-door excursions in real-time, as well as enable booking & payments. The result is a seamless, personalised travel schedule that is perfectly timed to the travel demands and preferences of the individual commuter.
Even during those repetitive, daily commutes from work to home and back again, there will be many times when a side trip to a local restaurant or dry cleaners is warranted. Multi and mixed-modal trip planning apps allow the user to enter the locations of these temporary detours before providing a series of travel itineraries complete with estimated arrival times and payment plans.
The FM/LM problem is never fully resolved. Things change. Unexpected events occur. Traffic delays can never be predicted in advance. But thanks to MaaS applications and technologies, commuters and transport professionals alike can quickly adapt to these ever-evolving challenges at a moment’s notice while saving time, money, and frustration.