The Last Mile

I live 1.1 miles from the East Falls Church metro, which can be a pleasant walk on a 75 degree day, but is pretty miserable on days like today or in the rain. One of the hardest nuts to crack for transit providers has been that last mile. Most of the way to and from my destination I can take a transit vehicle, but the last little bit to the front door I can't. Watch this video for an idea whose time has more than come.

Although this is not appropriate for my neighborhood, there are lots of places in the greater DC area where a PRT (personal rapid transit) system like this could really work. A few I can think of are: N. Bethesda/Medical Center, Tysons Corner (particularly after the rail is built, but there's no reason it can't be designed in now), Springfield, Silver Spring, National Harbor (cool if it could be extended over the river to Alexandria, too!), etc.

Imagine how it could be used to transform some of our urban and suburban areas. Well implemented it can reduce the need for parking lots, which can then be converted to better use: retail, office, parks, housing, etc. (any use is better than parking!).

More info here and here and here.

Making the Trip Work for the Traveler

Handheld_animation2The efforts of the transportation professionals working to make it easier and easier to get around this region are working, as demonstrated by this experience I had recently.

Not long ago I purchased my new "toodler" bike, for toodling around. It's an old, rehabilitated 3-speed with a basket on front that I use to run errands and make short trips. I had a doctor's appointment in Falls Church the other morning, which is about a 10-12 minute toodle on the bike. I left early to go to the post office and mail a package. While at the post office, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain pretty steadily. I didn't mind riding in the very light drizzle I encountered going to the post office, but this was a lot harder. It would be a real drag to ride all the way to the Dr.'s in this rain. What to do?

My first thought was to lock up my bike and catch a bus (if one was coming); I could pick up my bike later. But when was the bus? Well, as it turns out, I had bookmarked the mobile services site on my Blackberry a month or two ago . It's a great service for your handheld device, and it's free. It tells you when the next bus is coming based on what time it is right now (it doesn't know where you are yet; you have to enter that yourself). Next bus, 6 minutes. That would get me to the Dr. right on time.

And then--BING!-- CflI remembered that all the Metrobuses have bike racks mounted on them. I could take my bike with me. If it stopped raining, then I could ride home; if not, I'd figure out something else. I was a bit anxious, because I had never used the bike racks before. It turned out to be a cinch, even without any experience. The instructions were right on the rack, and I loaded my bike in about 5 seconds. I also have a SmarTrip card, so I didn't have to worry about exact change or fumbling for money.

When I was done, it was still raining. I did the same exercise in reverse: checked the schedule on my Blackberry, caught the bus, loaded my bike, touched my SmarTrip and got most of the way home. I still had to ride a few blocks from the closest stop to my house, but that was a lot more pleasant than if I had had to ride the entire two miles in the rain.

So all the pieces fit together to make this trip work: Mobile information, bike racks on buses, SmarTrip. Thanks, everyone, for making it work.