The Longest Mile


We all know that taking the bus is a great way to get around – less stress AND better for the environment—but there is a downside. Taking the bus is very often not the quickest, most convenient way to get where you need to go. Dubbed the “first- and last-mile problem”, the extra time and consideration it takes to go from home to a transit station at the beginning of a trip and back on the return trip is often a deal breaker for would-be smart commuters.

Personal rapid transit (PRT) is one idea that’s been touted as a solution for this problem. In the PRT model, vehicles with room for 1-6 passengers travel along tracks elevated above roadways and run on demand. These tracks are cheaper and easier to build than light-rail, and the on demand nature of this mode give it car-like convenience. Unfortunately, many of PRT’s benefits are still untested in large markets, though some smaller networks have had some success, particularly at West Virginia University. Other networks are in the works, including a pilot project at London’s Heathrow airport, but at this time the promise and potential of PRT on a large-scale remains untested.

Of course, there are less futuristic tactics to help solve the first and last-mile problem. Park and rides and encouraging bikes on buses do a lot to give commuters options and greater flexibility and are relatively easy to implement, but do they do enough?

Currently all Triangle Transit, CAT, DATA and Chapel Hill Transit buses can carry two bikes on a rack at the front of the bus, but what else could be done to make it easier for people to access public transit?  How would you combat the  first and last-mile problem? Do you see PRT working in our area?  We look forward to reading your suggestions in the comments!

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