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Closing the First/Last Mile Gap

21 March 2017
Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC)

Kayleigh Lombardi, Policy Analyst, Partnership for Strong Communities

The Partnership is excited to host its March IForum, First/Last Mile: Ensuring Transit Opportunities are Shared by All, on March 31st at the Lyceum.

In a housing market where it is oftentimes too expensive to live close to work and other services, commuting is the only option for some families. Furthermore, we know that for many families without a car, public transportation is critical to accessing employment, education, vital services, and childcare. When public transportation is a quick walk from home or work, greater opportunities are available. Researchers even link this increased access with upward mobility – by filling an essential gap in access, and increasing employment opportunities, individuals have a better shot at moving out of poverty. However, for those who aren’t a short distance, are traveling with small children, or are unable to walk any distance, safe, affordable links to close the First/Last Mile gap are essential.

Connecticut has been auto-dependent for many years. Transportation is one of the top three household expenses, when not accounting for childcare, representing 19% of household expenditures. Studies show that utilizing mass transit can bring that 19% down to 9%. A 10% cost recapture might provide households funds to save for a down payment on a house, repay debts, save for their children’s future, or help a family make ends meet in this difficult economy. In recent years, Connecticut has seen a number of mass transit opportunities added (or in the process of being added) to the state’s public transit portfolio. Connecticut’s first Bus Rapid Transit system, CTfastrak, extends just over 9 miles in central Connecticut, with links to a larger system of bus routes, making connections faster and easier. Over 150,000 jobs are located within one mile of the corridor serviced by this system.

Studies have shown that individuals are typically willing and/or able to walk up to ¼ mile to and from mass transit. Knowing that over 150,000 job opportunities rest within one mile of CTfastrak, how can we close that resulting gap to ensure everyone, especially those who cannot afford to live close to jobs and services, have access to these new transit opportunities?

Wayfinding efforts and improved streetscapes are essential pieces to solving this issue, however, they are not absolute. For families with children, persons with disabilities, or in extreme weather conditions, the ability for individuals to walk even ¼ of a mile may not exist.

This IForum will explore important considerations for closing the First/Last Mile gap, from innovative approaches to closing the gap, to re-envisioning existing infrastructure, while highlighting that safe, affordable links are key to ensuring access to all. 

Our keynote speaker, Christof Spieler, comes to us from Houston, Texas. Mr. Spieler, P.E. LEED AP, is a member of the Board of Directors of Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Vice President and Director of Planning at Huitt-Zollars (formerly Morris Architects), and a Senior Lecturer at the Rice University School of Architecture. As part of his work at METRO, he initiated the Transit System Reimagining process, a blank sheet re-design of the entire Houston bus system. Mr. Spieler has also written and spoken extensively on transit and urban planning and has helped Houston neighborhoods shape transportation projects. As a member of the American Public Transit Association's Sustainability and Urban Design Working Group, he has helped draft national standards on transit and urban design.

Mr. Spieler will present how he used a people-focused approach to solving transportation problems in Houston, and share some of his insights on closing the First/Last Mile gap. We are thrilled to host him, as well as the rest of our IForum guests, including: Lyle Wray (Central Connecticut Council of Governments), Douglas Hausladen (City of New Haven), Michael Sanders (Department of Transportation), Matt Powers (Uber), Tanya Barrett (United Way of Connecticut), and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies.

For more information about this event, click here.

Space is limited and we expect strong attendance, if you haven’t done so already, register here!

Click here to read previous blogs.