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The last mile problem

By Horacio de la Fuente

The last mile problem is simple: ?public transport doesn’t take us exactly where we need to go. As mentioned in a recent article by McKinsey, public transport makes a very good job at getting you from point A to point B. The problem is once you get to point B and there’s not a public transport to get to your destination.

Walking long distances is hardly a solution and not everyone has a car. And even if you have one, parking is not always available. 

Transit systems in cities are typically looking at these kinds of one-kilometer, last-mile solutions. For commuters, the goal is to cross town more efficiently and safely and for cities to improve the quality of the air and reduce traffic congestion, which costs more than 1 percent of GDP globally.


 Some seriously smart people are working on changing the future of transportation. And certainly these innovations will change your commute. Meanwhile, for the time being, these are some of the technologies that are helping your commute:

  1. Widespread use of the smartphone
  2. Shared mobility: Ride-hailing services have grown rapidly over the past few years and now compete with public transit and private vehicle ownership.
  3. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is emerging as a way to simplify the complexity of transportation systems


 A big part of the problem is that cities are always changing and expanding. Any new development generates a new last mile problem. In fact, it’s a never-ending problem. The other issue is the need for a unique payment system that makes easier and simple for commuters to use the different travel options that a city offers (buses, light rail, bike rentals). At the end of the day, city commuters must be able to navigate between these different transport modalities quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.


World Resources Institute affirms that there are already more than 70 cities partnering with new private mobility services to address the challenges public transit systems are facing. 60% of these partnerships are in North America and Europe, and they are present in only 4 cities in the Global South. The most common partnerships between public transit agencies and new mobility service providers are customer experience services for planning multimodal journeys, on-demand mobility services which offer a more flexible mode of transportation than buses and subways, and shared-mobility services to help passengers make first- and last-mile trips to and from transit hubs. For example, St. Petersburg, Florida, subsidizes Uber rides to and from transit stations; and in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore Grab is allowing users to view public transit routes, along with ride-hailing suggestions for the first and last mile of each journey, as well as alerts on delay and schedule changes for some transport options. Some advances are been seen is the self-driving technology area as well.  Andrew Zaleski in Curbed states that in the last two years a movement toward driverless, electric shuttle services in America’s cities has quietly bubbled up. In Detroit, Las Vegas, Columbus, even Lincoln, Nebraska, autonomous mini-buses have completed successful shuttle trials or are currently ferrying passengers. In Finland, Switzerland, and France, where autonomous shuttles are entering their third and even fourth years of operation.  The importance of technology in this case, is that labor is the biggest cost when comes regular transportation. So, a driverless shuttle would allow a radical increase in frequency, the single most important driver of transit ridership.

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