Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

the last mile is the hardest

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

the last mile is the hardest

The “last mile” has a reputation. It’s been known as the hardest and the greatest, the final step in getting somewhere, regardless of what that involves [or how far it actually is].

Earlier this month, Ryerson City Building Institute released a video trailer in advance of a Last Mile Meetup event they hosted. The video and meetup invited conversation about the #LastMile, and was the basis for a Toronto Star article. The GTA includes lots of suburban cities and towns. And where there are suburbs, there is that last mile challenge – the beginning and end of a commute to work or school. While most of the commute might be easily done with rapid transit, the last mile usually relies on driving, cycling, walking or taking local transit.

Driving that last mile to a commuter transit station might mean parking in a massive, overcrowded parking lot. Walking or cycling are natural choices as long as there are safe, accessible places to and from the station – this of course depends on weather and the distance travelled. Transit is a good option, but we understand that bus schedules don’t always fit in with the always-in-a-hurry commuter and routes may not get riders close enough to their final destination.

This last leg of the journey can make or break the commute. It’s often the deciding factor on whether the entire commute will be done by car or by transit. Everyone’s trip is unique, and might involve extra stops along the way, like picking up kids from a babysitter or stopping for groceries. So there need to be options, and each option needs to be flexible. To arrive at the right solutions for the last mile, most agree that new ideas need to be piloted, such as the dial-a-ride service in York Region, carpooling, ride-sharing, and safe and secure places for walking and cycling.

It comes down to mobility and quality of life. Mobility is about being able to get to and from where you live easily. Your daily quality of life may depend on how you travel that last leg of the journey – is your last mile the hardest… or the greatest?

 

shifting how we think about transportation

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

shifting how we think about transportation

One of the great things about huge events like the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games is seeing how people adjust to the changes the event brings. Leading up to the Toronto 2015 Games, there were some concerns that the Games would cause severe traffic congestion. But thanks to some extra emphasis put on transit and carpooling across the GTA, people have been exploring other choices in how to get around. This, in turn, has likely helped reduce traffic congestion. Whether it’s taking transit, bicycling or carpooling to make use of HOV lanes, every little bit helps.

It’s a shift that takes some getting used to, adjusting to a new routine using a new mode of transit. And it’s this “modal shift” that is so important when developing transit for a growing community.

Most days of the week, many of our roads and intersections are at capacity or beyond. They’re not going to get any less congested as our cities and regions continue to grow, and since there’s limited space in the GTA for roads, there are really only two ways to address congestion.

The first way involves road design, traffic signals and traffic detection systems – known as Intelligent Transportation Systems or ITS, York Region uses this approach to make our existing roads better.

The other approach, which is known to traffic engineers as transportation modal shift but to everyone else as reducing our reliance on cars, is probably the best long-term strategy to reduce traffic congestion. Modal shift means cutting down on the number of trips made by one form of transportation by shifting to other forms of transportation, including transit, cycling or walking.

Modal shift may sound a little technical, or maybe it’s hard to imagine – as if people would get out of their cars all at once and climb onto buses and trains. But really it’s just a matter of small changes in behaviour: taking the bus to the GO station or subway every now and then; carpooling with your co-worker; walking to the convenience store instead of driving; helping the kids bike to school instead of giving them a ride.  All great ideas that the people at Smart Commute and Pembina Institute advocate for.

For successful modal shift, major infrastructure and land use decisions need to be in place, followed-up by investments.  Transit needs to be convenient and reliable; shops and schools need to be within reasonable walking distance; there need to be bike lanes; and jobs need to be located near housing.

Fortunately, all of the long-term decisions and investments that will eventually encourage and enable more people to reduce their reliance on cars are already underway in York Region.  Modal shift away from cars will be able to happen because people will be offered easier, more convenient and reliable ways to get around.

A gradual shift toward other modes of transportation will reduce congestion on our roads. It’s a long-term process, requiring patience, careful planning, and commitment.  It’s also a big part of the vivaNext vision, and with every rapid transit project we build more transportation choices, and the vision becomes an exciting reality.