Last Mile Issue

smart cities

Dear Archinect community members,

We are currently working on a university research project in the field of innovation, focusing on how to solve the "Last mile" issue when it comes to transit. We raise the question: How to best bridge the distance between the public transport station and your final destination (your office or another point of interest)? There are some solutions (e.g. Segways), but apparently they do not solve all the needs. We are really looking for new approaches and ideas.

Do you have any suggestions or experiences regarding the solving of the "Last mile" issue? Is it relevant to you? Does this problem need more individual, flexible approaches like segways, or can changes in city infrastructure could also solve this need?

We highly appreciate any suggestions and opinions.

Kind regards,

Smart Cities Project team, Vienna University of Economics and Business

Nov 15, 11 7:29 am

city bike-share is perfect for this.  You put a bike-share station right at the transit point, and people hop on them, take them to the office, lock them up there all day, take them back to the transit point at night.  only downside is that you will run out of bikes, because they aren't being returned to the share station till the return rush-hour.

Nov 15, 11 9:10 am

Your building falls outside of the 'walkable' radius for transit?  Either build transit there, or demolish it!

I'm only half-joking.

Bikes-to-bus also work fairly well, because the 'least transport unit' is still the individual and a bicycle as opposed to a car.  However, this relies on the individual having a bike.

IIRC, Curitiba has minibuses that run through the neighborhoods and take people to the bus stations.  This could also be an option.

Also, you are assuming good transit coverage to begin with!  This is by far not a safe assumption in many cities, especially the ones I seem to have lived in; the 'last mile' isn't as much of an issue when 'all the other miles in between' are still issues.

Nov 15, 11 11:10 am
won and done williams

Simple - improve streets, improve walkability. No need for additional motorized or non-motorized contraptions.

Nov 15, 11 11:41 am

seconded on bike sharing... if folding bikes weren't expensive and cumbersome, then I'd probably take one of those with me.


@won - I believe somewhere between 1/2 mile and a mile is how far people are typically willing to walk from transit hubs.  I've even heard as low as 1/4 mile, but I think people are generally comfortable with 10-15 minutes of walking.  anything more and it becomes purposeful.

Nov 15, 11 1:00 pm

third on the bike-sharing. I got to test this out on Montreal and it was lovely. 


@toaster, something I've experienced is that people's comfort with walking distances expands as they become more used to transit. The 1/4 mile people are probably beginners. Once you've had enough instances where you realized that you could either wait 20 minutes for a transfer which will take you the last mile (which is a five-minute bus ride, totaling 25 minutes) or just walk that mile in 15 minutes, your habits change.

Nov 15, 11 1:07 pm

The last mile?  It takes, what, 10 min to walk a mile.  If anybody really finds that to be a problem with mass transit then they might as well just take a car, yo!

Nov 15, 11 1:48 pm

20 minutes, more if there are holdups in the form of street crossings or whatever.

City provided bikes - works for many places seemingly..

Nov 15, 11 2:04 pm

I agree with won. The most important thing is a well-designed public realm (streets, sidewalks, etc.) that is consistently activated by street-level retail, cafes, etc. The perceived time difference between walking for a mile in a well-designed, active area versus a poorly-designed, desolate area is astonishing. Ideally the maximum distance would be 1/2 mile, but longer distances can be made workable through successful public realm design.

Nov 15, 11 2:43 pm

20 minutes to walk a mile?  somebody needs to lose some weight, yo!

Nov 15, 11 6:08 pm

I'm third'ing well-designed streets.

The streets themselves should have a fair mix of shade and sun with frequent points of shelter— enacting a city wide ordinance that all buildings with 8 feet of the sidewalk provide awnings will significant increase walkability since awnings will provide shelter from storms, push snow and rain into the streets and regulate the temperature of the concrete. Sidewalks should be a minimum of 6' wide with 10-12' being the ideal width including a 3' buffer for signs, utilities and trees.

If I remember correctly, the ideal comfortable walking radius was around 1200m (3,900 ft or 0.74 miles).

When you add bicycles, scooters, mopeds, skateboards or segways into the mix, the issue moves from the sidewalk to the street. This isn't necessarily a problem if you're working in severely underdeveloped or underdeveloped areas since your have the luxury of not having preexisting properties or preservation to worry about.

But the issue with this is needing at least 1 lane of parallel parking, 1 center turning or medium lane, 2 car lanes, 1 special use lane and 2 3/4ths bicycle lanes. This equates approximately to a 7 lane boulevard (minimum 70' wide) in addition to the sidewalks. At least you need this for larger roads and for  small streets 4-5 lane widths is acceptable as this includes parking and delivery giving wider roads for mixed traffic.

Nov 15, 11 7:17 pm

I would fourth well-designed streets if the issue were the 'last half-mile'.  If you are trying to access areas beyond a 'natural' walking radius, though, there needs to be some kind of other vehicle, or people will resort to cars because it is faster.

Also, I think the street design is really a minimum standard for 'walking' - some people will drive no matter what, so removing any dangerous impediments (sidewalk-less arterials) are a sort of target baseline, I think.  Beyond this, thinking of connections between the outer regions of the neighborhood and the transit stop helps too (so that you can actually walk there in a reasonable distance without having to go around, say, a quarter mile of the back of a strip mall) - this is often solved by limiting 'block size'.  Also, making sure people have interesting things / a reason to walk *to* somewhere helps.

The lane arrangement JJR described is pretty awesome for certain streets (non-arterial, larger-than-collector type roads - nb: I've never seen a road with a 'special use lane' unless you are talking about a turning lane), but shouldn't be the standard for every tiny residential street.  For example, the most 'bike-friendly' streets I use when I chain together trips down back roads tend to be narrow, two-lane or three-lane-width streets with parking on one side - they are so small that most cars traveling down them aren't trying to go fast.

Bikes shouldn't be going down arterials, period.  Separate them from traffic!  Whenever I see a five foot wide bike lane next to a 50mph-average travel lane, I think of them as death's little invitations.

Nov 15, 11 11:05 pm

"...or can changes in city infrastructure could also solve this need?"

Shortcuts seem to be an overlooked area of city infrastructure.  Some of the best pedestrian spots that I've been in have had paths (maybe about 1m to 1,5m wide), staircases, alleys, etc between buildings or land parcels that give the pedestrian a clear advantage for cutting through blocks.  These seem to typically be remnants of old, pre-automobile (perhaps even pre-horse) travel patterns but there is no reason that they couldn't be used (or even required) in contemporary urban design, yo!

Nov 16, 11 10:18 am

it's not so much "comfort" in walking certain distances, it's primarily amount of time it takes to get someplace.  I think the standard measure is somewhere around 45 minutes (to an hour) that people are willing to travel in one direction for daily commute - for example - if you're already on the train for 30 minutes, you'll only want to walk for an additional 15 minutes... and for healthy adults this is about a mile.  sure a nice street helps to make the walk more pleasant, but walking time = commuting time.

Nov 16, 11 11:07 am

agree with toasteroven.  i commute about an hour one way to university where i teach and 40 minutes to the office.  15 minutes of that is getting from my flat to the station and i really hate that bit.

i'm in tokyo inner city suburb so it's crazy dense (basically it's urban) but not such a nice walk because this part of the city was built before cars existed and there are no sidewalks to speak of. 

am looking into getting a bike to cut the commute time (a car would cut it more, but also cost a lot more), in which case the last mile will be totally coolio.  but would also like it to be more pedestrian friendly.  density has it's downside.

Nov 16, 11 9:22 pm

Thing is, in most cities of the American west, it is not the last mile, but the last two or three miles. Dealing with the "end of oil" in these cities reminds me of the Middle East and Latin America, where dense urban cores are surrounded by lower density sprawl. At rush hour, swarms of "bread-box" jitneys descend on the transit hubs to take passengers to the outer suburbs. Imagine how sophisticated this service could be with the help of locative hand-held devices. . . .

Nov 20, 11 1:12 pm

jjr - you don't need a seven lane blvd. 33'/10m is enough to accommodate all modes of movement (I'm thinking about european cities) if motorized folks are willing to move slow enough.

nick has a very valid point - merican sprawl leaves a bigger gap thanks to euclidean zoning. easy fix is to redevelop all those strip malls into mixed use projects at densities greater than 20 units/acre.


Nov 20, 11 2:09 pm

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