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The First and Last Mile Challenge: Bridging the Gap

Published on
October 18, 2022
Jessica Johnson
Content Marketing Executive
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  • The First and Last Mile (FM/LM) challenge refers to the initial and final segments of a journey, crucial for seamless mobility. Solutions like Mobilleo enhance accessibility and convenience by providing real-time data and various transport options.
  • With an increase in public transport usage, enhancing passenger convenience and safety is vital. Mobilleo integrates shared mobility options, offering real-time data and alternative transport choices, improving the passenger experience.
  • MaaS platforms support local authorities and housing developments by providing diverse and eco-friendly transport options, facilitating planning permissions and community investment.
  • In rural areas, where private car dependence is high, MaaS solutions like Mobilleo improve connectivity and accessibility, offering various transport options and supporting tourism without harming the environment.
  • MaaS encourages active and shared travel modes, aligning with government initiatives to promote cycling and walking, supporting the UK’s net-zero carbon target by 2050, and fostering a shift towards sustainable travel behaviors.

MaaS Connects the First and Last Mile

The First and Last Mile (FM/LM) challenge is a concept in transportation that describes the first mile that the customer travels to reach a form of shared, active, or rented travel option and the last mile before arriving at their end destination post-departure. This challenge will be familiar to town planners, housing developers and local authorities who aim to construct or enhance the travel infrastructure in an area to make mobility simpler and easier to access for inhabitants.

Historically, the narrative of mobility has been marked by a focus on efficiency and profitability but in recent years, mobility solutions have a clear societal context. Access to mobility and a greater diversity of travel options is known to have a direct impact on human health, the environment, the economy, and equal opportunities. Greater knowledge of local transport links can improve an inhabitant’s access to vital services, green spaces, schools, employment, and shops and decreases the temptation to travel via sole occupancy vehicles that are often highly emitting.

By connecting the user to multiple modes of transport including active, shared and micromobility options, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions like Mobilleo can help to solve this challenge from both a social and economic perspective. Mobilleo provides the user with real-time data on multiple modes of transport that seamlessly takes the user from door-to-door. Different journeys can be booked all in one application with contactless tickets which greatly improves the ease and accessibility between transit points.

Enhancing Passenger Convenience and Safety

Quarterly bus statistics have shown the number of local bus passenger journeys in England was 2.91 billion in the year ending March 2022, an 85% increase when compared with this period for the previous year. The Government has announced £130 million in funding to support the national bus infrastructure from October 2022 to March 2023 and £3 billion to 2025, including funding for zero emission buses. For trains, there is promise of an Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) which will invest a £96 billion package in construction and upgrades of rail for the Midlands and the North of England.

While this is promising, the real-life experience of public transport transfers can be challenging. The prices of rail tickets are set to rise to unprecedented levels in 2023 due to inflation increases. Workers are generally willing to travel further from home to gain employment, but the first and last mile may not always be particularly reliable in terms of congestion and delays. The transport may even make the commuter feel unsafe when waiting a long time for a bus or a train to arrive. The ideal transport of the future must provide a seamless journey from door-to-door which is exactly what MaaS solutions provide.

“The ideal transport of the future must provide a seamless journey from door-to-door which is exactly what MaaS solutions provide.”

In recent years, new modes of shared mobility such as car sharing, car clubs, and micromobility have arisen in the transportation sector. According to a McKinsey survey, consumers look to shared mobility primarily for convenience, secondly to cut costs compared to private rides (car or taxi), and thirdly for reimbursed business trips.

Mobilleo integrates these novel transportation forms within its platform as part of the larger mobility ecosystem. It stands out from the market by using several APIs and aggregators to provide real-time data to the customer, so even if there are delays, the consumer will be able to switch between different travel options using the app.

This means that there will be no more waiting around at bus stops for hours waiting for a bus to arrive. Customers are given the most up-to-date information to be able to change their mind, for example taking a short walk to a bike hub instead, which increases the convenience and safety of passenger trips.

Supporting Local Authorities and Housing Development

The UN predicts that the total number of people living in cities is expected to grow to 6.7 billion in 2050. The rise in population means there has been a huge drive for local authorities to build better infrastructure in and around communities to support shared inner-city transport options that reduce congestion, air pollution, and improve community health and well-being.

Housing developers can receive planning permissions from local authorities based on Section 106 which allows properties to be built on the requirement that developers invest in the community in return. MaaS provides an excellent opportunity for housing developers to fulfil this requirement. The software that powers Mobilleo displays the widest range of transport options on the market including low emission and active travel options. The platform can be re-branded for the residents of new housing developments, allowing them to quickly connect to multi-modal travel that is better for their health and the environment.

Mobility hubs are also an opportunity for developers which are a relatively recent phenomenon. The term describes multi-purpose buildings that are situated close to residential estates that connect shared transport with public transport and active travel options. In certain cases, mobility hubs have been powered by MaaS technology on a self-service screen that connects the user to various transport modes within the hub.

For local authorities, Mobilleo can be re-branded and used as a multi-mode transportation app for the colleagues that work at the council, business travellers to the area, and local residents. MaaS can be used to improve safety, increase environmental benefits and make public transport options more accessible to the wider community by connecting consumers to a wide variety of travel options at the click of a button.

Connecting Transport in Rural Areas

Connecting transit between and within rural areas is also an important factor to consider in solving the FM/LM challenge. Rural areas have a high dependence on private cars which is largely driven by an older residential population and a lack of available alternatives. Public transport and active travel routes in between towns and villages can be limited or simply too complex to encourage a behaviour change away from sole car ownership. Rural locations can also face issues regarding tourism due to seasonal peaks in the volume of cars and congestion which decays the natural environment that draws visitors to the area.

“…transport providers can capture data via the software that allows them to understand the demand in particular areas…”

One example of how MaaS has successfully been used to connect the first to last mile in rural communities is the Go-Hi MaaS app from The Highlands and Islands Partnership (HITRANS) in Scotland. The Go-Hi app is a bespoke, white-label version of the Mobilleo platform, which integrates various local travel and transport providers within the region. Local residents, tourists and business travellers are able to book ferries, buses, car club vehicles, car hire, trains, flights, Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) and bike hire. What’s more, transport providers can capture data via the software that allows them to understand the demand in particular areas, which provides further returns by ensuring the investments in transport infrastructure are spent in the locations that need it the most.

Encouraging Active and Shared Modes of Travel

A 2019 report by the Department for Transport stated that 69% of the UK population have personal access to cars and 87% of the population are weekly car users. There are currently no formal carbon budgets set for all industries as the cost to decarbonise certain industries can be cheaper than others. However, Government statistics show that transport has remained the most highly emitting sector since 2016, accounting for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. Greener Transport Solutions have estimated car travel must decline between 20 and 27% in order to meet the UK’s net zero carbon target by 2050.

Active forms of travel such as walking and cycling are being encouraged by the Government with aims to double cycling and increase walking by 2025. Greener travel habits are the goal with a greater investment in cycle lanes, GPs prescribing cycling and walking as exercise, and a long-term budget being created for walking and cycling like with roads. This relates to the COP26 targets to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050 as active travel is better for the environment and reduces air pollution.

When considering whether to travel by car or more sustainable forms of travel, the ease of getting to the destination is crucial. Not only do MaaS platforms like Mobilleo offer a wide range of transport options, they can also encourage a behaviour change to include active travel options such as walking and bicycle hire, in addition to car sharing and shared public transport options. In the Mobilleo app, a user can book a shared mode of transport i.e., a train, and then get detailed information on how to get to the nearest station, either by walking to it or using a nearby bike rental or car sharing location.

MaaS Can Bridge the First Mile / Last Mile Gap

With greater awareness of the climate emergency and the effect of mobility options on human health and the wider economy, it’s clear that shared, active, and rented forms of travel are the priority for sustainable development to meet COP26 goals. MaaS uses real-time data to increase customer convenience and agility when travelling, display transport links in both cities and rural areas, present usage data to show transport operators where investment is needed the most, and presents climate-related data such as CO2 output of different travel modes, realising the vision of smart, sustainable cities and bringing governments closer to reaching net zero emission targets.