In Los Angeles, an actor parks her car in a garage and rides an e-scooter to her audition. In Columbus, a visiting family takes a driverless shuttle along the Scioto Mile to visit Bicentennial Park. And in Manhattan, an account executive chooses the heated comfort of an Uber instead of walking the six snowy blocks from the subway to her office building.
Coast to coast, and in many cities in between, thousands of people rely on last-mile transit to get from Point A to Point B.
Beyond skateboards, bicycles, and good old-fashioned walking, pedestrians in most cities can choose from an array of last-mile options, each offering the latest and greatest in “alternative” transportation. These include dockless scooters and bikes like Bird and Lime, ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber, and driverless shuttles and taxis (being tested in dozens of cities), but can be virtually anything that fulfills the last step in your commute—Segways, so-called hoverboards, and electric unicycles included.
WHY A SUDDEN EMPHASIS ON LAST-MILE MOBILITY?
Getting from Point A to Point B often requires a few steps in between, with many of those steps being from walking. This is largely due to the fact that public buses and rail systems do not service enough locations, or do so on inconvenient schedules, while downtown streets are often so congested that walking is actually faster than driving.
In their perfect form, last-mile mobility options are an extension of an imperfect transportation system. They begin where the busses and rails end and where cars park.
WHAT ARE THE POPULAR OPTIONS?
Love them or hate them, dockless bikes and scooters, such as a Bird and Lime, are leading the charge. But they’re not without problems.
For instance, Birds are easy targets for vandalism-cum-pollution. Countless scooters have been pitched into rivers, down hills, over seawalls; they’ve been spotted in Venice Beach canals, public toilets, and far more puzzling yet undeniably creative places. They’ve also become a nuisance when people leave them to clutter sidewalks and street corners. (Perhaps a clue to the vandalism lies there within.) And now that hospitals in popular e-scooter locations are reporting more head injuries due to scooter accidents, cities are either instituting strict policies and regulations, or going so far as to ban them outright.
SO HOW DO WE CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOLUTION?
The answer is, we don’t. At least, we don’t choose just one. Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it’s the main ingredient in mobility.
But having different last-mile travel options isn’t worth it just for the sake of being different. They need to provide objective benefit. Not just in regards to investors, employees, consumers, city government, non-users, or even the environment—but all the above.
“The best possible solution,” explains SkedGo, a MaaS (Mobility as a Service) company focused on trip planning and corporate mobility, “usually involves a dedicated collaboration between multiple organizations to design, develop, and implement a cohesive network of interconnected travel options.”
In much the same way that the smart cities of Tomorrowland will rely on collaborative efforts and connected systems, fine-tuning the last leg in the commuter’s journey will likewise require collaboration to alleviate transit challenges, turn mobility nuisances into nothing-to-worry-abouts, and help make the last mile the easiest mile.
And while regulations will not only help provide a better experience for the customer, they have begun to impair mobility options. Ride-hailing companies, or Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), have been dealt an equally tough, although needed, hand in the regulatory department after recent studies investigating the impact of TNCs have shown that they actually increase congestion in dense urban areas.
That said, the enlacing of multiple transit options doesn’t just happen. It takes a concerted effort from local officials to develop geo-specific smart regulations and public policies tailored to their county, city, and, in special cases, specific districts.
Done effectively, such a policy overhaul will legally require collaboration between different last-mile services. This isn’t to stifle competition or limit choices, but help ensure order, safety, decongestion, and even local tax revenue, where applicable.
Think about bike lanes. Few will disagree that bike lanes were a major win for cyclists’ safety, but created less room for cars on the road. It’s time we collaborate to take lane science a step further and make last-mile best-practices a regulatory reality. Stepping onto the sidewalk is a good place to start.
We need to go beyond the golden triad of speed, convenience, and affordability to also provide an a la carte menu for customers to pick and choose the mobility solution that works best for them. Then, as mobility solutions providers, it’s our job to translate that to ensure those mobility options are delivered.
“Ace Mobility Solutions isn’t just a business. It’s the Mobility Revolution in action.”