Somehow we have leapfrogged from talking about active transportation and transit, but we’ve not really included the most important active transportation piece of all-in this piece from The Torontoist by Tricia Wood,she identifies the “last mile”of sidewalks as the missing link.
“The “last mile” problem refers to the gap between transit riders’ residences and their transit stations. The GO Train system is a perfect example. Train stations are surrounded by vast moats of parking because riders commonly have few (or no) good options for getting to the station except to drive. More people will take transit if they have better access to it. It’s not merely a question of distance. Studies have shown commuters will walk as much as a mile, but what that route looks like can make all the difference.”
Surprisingly one-quarter of all Toronto streets are without sidewalks. And Ms. Wood gets it right when she refers to “plain old walking as “among the most useful and cost-effective first and last mile strategies”. Take away the parking lots at rail stations, make the stations more accessible, and reuse that land for a higher purpose. Make it so people can access the trains by foot, securely and comfortably. “Solutions such as shuttle buses and cycling get a lot of attention” but it is the access to transit and the journey by foot to get to transit that needs to be paramount. “Walking and sidewalks are part of the public transit system.”
Reducing the need to drive to train stations will also free up lots of valuable land around stations for a more useful purpose, and make the stations more accessible. While solutions such as shuttle buses and cycling get a lot of attention, experts say that plain old walking is “among the most useful and cost-effective first and last mile strategies.” Walking and sidewalks are part of the public transit system. And sidewalks should not be a subject to debate about their usefulness-city direction should ensure they be installed across the city for the comfort and security of all walkers.
As Ms. Wood observes “Sidewalks are part of solving the last mile problem for Toronto transit. It’s not just a local issue. It’s about access to the whole city for everyone.”