The digital last mile

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place

The last mile of urban travel has meant a walk after parking the car, stepping off the bus or train or even making a quick trip to a corner store. And conversely, the first mile has also becomes a critical part of our daily lives as not all public transit infrastructure reaches the front door of suburbia.

Earlier this week we explored how a multitude of technology and data solutions are supporting our first and last mile experience. From e-scooter mobility to digital wayfinding, MAAS apps and more.

When our focus remains fixed on outcomes for people and place - what does the 'last mile' of the future look like?

Providing their expert perspectives to this topic were four guests, including:

So what did they say?

Katherine reminded us that key to success for the first and last mile is a need to plan and design for all users, not just the few. And while digital literacy is high among the commuting population, not everyone has a smart device in their back pocket. She continued by sharing the key influencers when users make a mobility choice - accessibility at origin/ destination, safety, confidence, travel time, journey purpose, information, linked trips, affordability, reliability, interchangeability, place making and wayfinding.

With 12 billion (that's right, billion) car trips of less than 2km made each year in Australia, Stephen was clear that the first and last mile is ripe for a new transformation, through personal e-mobility. Whether 1, 2, 3 or 4 wheels, micro-mobility is an opportunity for the first and last mile that offers potentially profound outcomes.

Based on SAGE's experience on leading autonomous shuttle pilot projects around the nation, Damian observed that the experience at 'the bus stop' was key to providing users with information on travel options, retail offerings and other relevant notices on services. A digitally enabled transit stop, like Matilda, becomes a data platform for the local community, ultimately enhancing user experience.

And Oliver was advocating that our urban infrastructure requires a greater level of digitisation, to enable us to dynamically manage assets with a level of fidelity that enables real time experiences with users. There is not one city in the nation that has a real-time copy of their curb, for example - one of the most highly contested spaces in the public realm. Without Digital Twins of our urban infrastructure, we will continue to struggle in providing the best possible first and last mile experience.

Our audience contributed to the dialogue as we worked through some rapid card-storming, with their views captured below.

The discovery board can be downloaded below:

F_P_The Digital Last Mile
Download PDF • 15KB

Our guests observed, that while over the years we have innovated with incremental enhancements to user experience for the first and last mile, we don't seem to have a replicable blueprint or standard we can align with as policy makers and practitioners.

However, through many pilots and pop-up initiatives, our digital last mile toolkit may be slowly assembling. Inclusions being:

  • Digital replication of first and last mile infrastructure, enabling policy makers and businesses to make the best decisions that drive users engagement, and experience

  • User engagement where and when it counts, using push notifications to your smart phone, digital humans through wayfinding kiosks and the like

  • Personal mobility devices that can substitute the often 400m drive in a vehicle to bus or train

And the common thread? - data. Something that continues to be an emerging priority for the future of place.

But lets be clear, the digital last mile toolkit doesn't replace the 200 year technology of the bicycle, or walking. Rather, it provides additional enablers that make our commute more equitable, engaging and sustainable.

And that's all we have ever wanted - more sustainable mobility. And for the future of place, this will remain the outcome.

The relationship between people, place, technology and data is changing. Join us.

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