Cities across Europe are gradually implementing plans to ban gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles within the next decade or so. The idea has caught on here as well. In 2019, California legislators began entertaining similar ideas for the Golden State. At the center of most of these initiatives is something known as the ‘last-mile’ concept.
The last mile is that distance traveled between the termination of public transport and one’s destination. For example, your office might be as far as a mile away from the nearest bus stop. You would be willing to take the bus to and from work if you could conquer that final mile without walking.
An entire industry has sprung up around the last-mile concept. From carbon fiber e-bikes to subway cars that can accommodate their riders, last-mile design is having a very definite influence on urban transportation.
Making It Convenient
In order for cities to successfully ban gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles without angering the public, they have to get people used to the idea of public transport. It is not enough just to ban internal combustion engines. They have to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads as well. A big part of that is making it convenient to use public resources.
Even while buses and subways still rely on fossil fuels, local governments are trying to encourage people to leave their cars at home. One way to do that is to make it as convenient as possible to take the bus. So buses in many cities are being fit with new bike racks capable of accommodating e-bikes.
Other cities are adopting bike-sharing programs with the goal of locating pickup and drop-off sites very near to bus stops. The idea there is to ensure that bikes are available to cover the last mile to and from the bus.
In other cities, parking garages and lots originally built to encourage people to park their cars and take the subway now include covered areas for bikes. Commuters can park their bikes in a secure location and take the subway into the city for work.
Better Transportation Options
Making public transportation more convenient is only half the equation. Cities hoping to get rid of internal combustion engines also have to come up with better transportation options. After all, a diesel bus is powered by an internal combustion engine. So what are local governments doing? Working with manufacturers to come up with better vehicles.
Electric buses are close to becoming reality in some parts of Europe. Already-electric subway systems are being made more efficient by replacing aluminum bodies with carbon fiber. And of course, carbon fiber e-bikes are the quintessential last-mile commuter vehicle.
Moving Forward with Technology
The last-mile concept is influencing urban transportation by infusing technology into the discussion. In other words, reverting back to horses and carriages is unthinkable. No society in its right mind is going to abandon progress in order to solve a problem. They will develop new technologies instead.
That is where we are right now in public transportation. This is why there is so much emphasis on electric vehicles with large doses of carbon fiber and other composite materials. Composites are the best materials we have right now for last-mile design, explains Rock West Composites. These offer an exceptionally good strength-to-weight ratio that is key to new vehicles that do not rely on internal combustion engines.
Last mile is the centerpiece of new urban transportation design. Solve the last-mile equation and you stand a good chance of getting gasoline and diesel cars off city streets.