Progressive communities are bucking a current trend by improving the reverse commute to attract large companies and talent to the suburbs. The missing link is the lack of connection between existing transit stations and key employment centers that are beyond walking distance—aptly named the “first mile last mile.” By bridging this gap with shared-use mobility, hundreds of thousands of workers can be connected to existing opportunities that were not previously viable. This gives companies much more flexibility when choosing the right location, and encourages their participation in determining the best first mile last mile solutions.
Planning is already underway between the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and DuPage County to improve transit connectivity in three corridors that offer nearly a quarter of all employment in the county: Wood Dale, Addison, and Naperville–Warrenville Road. By creating “mobility hubs” near corresponding Metra stations, they hope to make the commute more seamless. These mobility hubs will centralize multiple transportation options such as Pace buses and vanpools, taxis, rideshares, carshares and bikeshares. In addition to known providers like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar, solutions under consideration include Getaround peer-to-peer car rental, Innova EV zero emissions electric mini cars and Zagster bikeshare. Input from commuters, employers, transportation providers and other stakeholders is key to delivering the right blend of these solutions and balancing costs.
In addition to large-scale applications, some companies and communities are choosing a specific provider to meet their first mile last mile needs. Two towns in the U.S. recently made news by subsidizing ridesharing services to increase transit ridership. Locally, an on-demand shuttle (using Innova’s 100% electric vehicle DASH) will begin serving employees commuting to and from the Itasca Metra Station to Hamilton Lakes in late 2016. According to Innova EV project manager, Katya Iwanik, this will “help tenant companies at Hamilton Lakes recruit a greater employee pool (specifically millennials) from the city to work in DuPage County, and help these employees get to their destination in a more streamlined, cost-effective fashion.” The goal is to grow the program and eventually connect all Itasca residents to the Metra station via a user-friendly mobile application.
The bottom line is that there are more first mile last mile solutions than ever. Any community looking to enhance its connectivity to employees and increase its economic opportunities can explore the options above and the potential for public-private partnerships.
By: Tammy Wierciak, Metro Strategies’ Director of Policy and Public Affairs. Wierciak attended the John Noel Public Transit Conference and Shared Use Mobility Workshop in DuPage County in September. A number of suburban “first mile last mile” transit solutions were discussed and are worth sharing to continue the conversation.