Crossing the Finish Line

Solving the "Last Mile" Transportation Problem

Let me start this post by saying: this one’s for my fellow transit riders – past, present, and future. Those of us who routinely pack ourselves into small metal containers with a swimming-pool’s-worth of strangers, and simply try to focus on breathing as a distraction from watching the flecks of dandruff slowly accumulate on our black blazer while the tall man we share a handhold with exhaustively (and exhaustedly) rubs the back of his neck beside us. Those of us who, upon feeling the terror and subsequent relief of grasping said container has just traveled for nearly 4 miles, 135 feet underwater and emerged successfully on the other side, then exit our train (bus/trolley/etc.) to find that, alas, we’re not home yet. There’s still that last mile or so ahead that we’ll need to trudge, bus, or bike, until, finally, we’ve reached the finish line.

The tone of my anecdote is not meant, by any means, to be interpreted as an argument against taking public transportation as an alternative to using a private car. There’s something special about being part of a shared human experience that does not (or, should not) discriminate by gender, age, race, ethnicity, income, or otherwise. Also, I find my commutes on BART to be, typically, relaxing. I can’t read my book in the car. I can’t share a subtle grin with a fellow, weary traveler as we squeeze closer and closer together at the direction of a baggy-pants-wearing teenager ensuring an elderly woman gets a comfortable seat. I can’t sing to myself as I enjoy a leisurely walk home from the station while watching the sunset over the Bay. I don’t have to worry about gas money, when traffic will clear, or if my insurance will cover that “love tap” from my co-worker’s bumper.

This said, I recognize not everyone is able, willing, or, at least, as eager as I to make the necessary sacrifices to avoid automobile ownership or car travel. Moving beyond the perceived comfort of transit, making it to and from the station can be a pain. Knowing your journey has yet to end, or even begin, after a tired morning or long day of work is absolutely demoralizing. It’s also totally valid for some to say they simply don’t have the time to extend their commute – if only by the time spent walking to and from the bus station.  In fact, called transit’s “peskiest problem” in an article from The Atlantic’s CityLab, conquering that “last mile” from the transit station to work or home is a major barrier to moving people out of cars and into cleaner, high-capacity, public transportation modes.

That’s why we at SFCCC will be hosting a “first/last mile” technology ride/glide/skate event early this summer (details to come: stay updated by checking our news feed, events page, and twitter). To feature technologies like the NorCal Glide – advertised as “a small, affordable personal transporter” and resembling a high-tech version of an old-school lawn mower – this interactive exhibition will provide participants with options for that extra boost to take transit and make it all the way. Personally, I’m most excited for a test cruise on one of Boosted’s electric longboards (we’re getting closer and closer to the hoverboard – just sayin’!). Attendees more inclined – pun intended – towards balance-responsive MonoRovers (single-wheel modes are no longer reserved for juggling clowns), or electric bikes/scooters will not be disappointed.

Overall, it should be a lot of fun. Let’s be honest, if I had a portable mini-Segway-esque device to scoot me home from the BART station every once in a while (on those tough shoe days, you know?) it wouldn’t be so bad. Please do consider joining us for the event, and, regardless, think about how you might overcome the barriers that prevent you from taking transit. After all, doing so is the only way you, and all of us, can reap the benefits.

So in committing to make (and stick with) clean transportation choices, I implore you to brush the dandruff off, step onto your electric skateboard, and travel the last mile with a smile. Here’s to making responsible travel mode choices, moving in style, and crossing the finish line!