Personal electric bikes could help public transit systems manage the first-mile-last-mile problem, encouraging ridership and lowering mass transit costs. But like many possible solutions to this problem, electric bikes still face challenges. If privately-owned electric bikes are to impact the first-mile-last-mile (FMLM) transit problem, communities must address infrastructure, transport, and storage.‹ Go back to the blog
What is the FMLM Transit Problem?Few homes are built directly next to a light rail line. This is especially true in relatively less dense areas. So if a commuter wants to get from home to work using public transportation, he or she needs to travel to a rail station or bus stop. This is the first mile of the journey. When this same commuter arrives at a station near his or her office there will still be some distance to go, since, again, the office is probably not built directly on a public transit line. This is the last mile of the journey.
Source: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. http://media.metro.net/docs/First_Last_Mile_Strategic_Plan.pdf“The FMLM problem is drawn originally from telecommunications, then supply chain management (goods movement),” explained Arizona State University Assistant Professor, David A. King. “For telecommunications FMLM is the final leg (or first leg) to the consumer. With physical infrastructure, it is expensive to match high capacity hubs to individual units. In the 1970s and 1980s, as cable TV was being deployed across the US, cable companies had to individually wire each and every household. This was a tremendous but necessary cost, and the cable companies were able to amortize the expenses over many years. Rarely did an individual household pay the full cost of running cable, instead they just paid a small installation fee and their monthly subscription,” King continued. “FMLM then was used by logistics companies (FedEx, UPS, etc.) to describe their endpoint deliveries from centralized warehouses.” More recently, FMLM has been used to describe how commuters and other travelers get to and from a public transit station. At first thought, this might seem like a simple thing, but the first and last miles can be daunting. Most American commuters are only willing to walk about a quarter of a mile to or from a transit station, according to transportation consultant, Jarrett Walker. This means that if public transit is to be the only method of transportation it would need to build stops within 1,320 feet of a person’s doorstep. As you can imagine, this approach would be both ridiculous and expensive. Rather, transit lines are most effective when they provide relatively direct routes between popular hubs. And when they are full and fast. Thus the FMLM transit problem. How do travelers effectively get to a station more than 1,320 feet away?
Electric Bikes Could Help Address the FMLM ProblemElectric bikes are one possible solution to the FMLM transit problem. In particular, privately-owned electric bikes may be especially well suited for the first mile of the journey. Let’s consider a morning commute. Melisa needs to get from her home to her office. The trip is about 30 miles. The regional light rail system has a stop less than a block from her office, but the station closest to her home is about three miles away. Her situation is typical. Many Americans work in relatively dense areas with many nearby transit stops but live in suburban neighborhoods. Melisa could ride an electric bike, perhaps the EVELO Galaxy, the short three-mile trip to the rail station, ride the train to the stop near her office, and either walk or ride the short distance to work. In theory, this simple arrangement should make it easy to combine electric bikes and public transportation for a smooth easy commute. But there are problems.
FMLM, Electric Bike ChallengesMelisa has essentially two problems, which create three challenges for transit authorities and communities that want to encourage public transportation. Here are the problems.
- Melisa needs to feel safe and comfortable riding from her home to the rail station.
- Melisa needs to do something with her electric bike while she rides the train.