How to travel the Last Mile: Urban Mobility Options

Hi! As a passionate transit-oriented teen, I wanted to write this blog post to detail how multi-modal transportation options can be used to best fit one’s transportation needs. For context, I am currently a student based in Santiago de Chile (May 2019).

Here are my realistic transportation options:

  • I could either walk or run, as my human-powered mobility options.
  • I could bike (or ride an electric scooter, skateboard etc), if I owned these micromobility options.
  • I could also use dockless bikes (such as Mobikes), docked bikes (Bike Santiago) and dockless scooters (such as Lime, Scoot, and other local companies) for shared micromobility options.
  • I could ride the subway or bus in Santiago for public transit options.
  • For my vehicle-for-hire options, I can ride a taxi, or call an Uber.
  • Finally, for my auto-oriented options, I could rent a car, or I could own one. (unrealistic and undesirable).

Here, I am not considering other unrealistic forms of transit, such as helicopters, horses, teleportation, etc.

I am considering the monetary and temporal costs as my main factors. Though running or biking accrues amortized cost of purchasing shoes or bikes respectively, for this example I will not factor it in. Other factors in the decision process may include environmental costs (cars pollute the most!), social appropriateness (for example, running to a formal event probably is not the best idea), laziness, or even the weather.

Example One: Commuting

One’s daily commute is usually the most important and consequential transit decision (TODO CITE?). I currently live near the Santa Isabel Metro station on line 5 (green), lucky to have good transit options near me. While Santiago’s bus network has quite good coverage, buses are generally not preferred to rail transit. Thus, I consider the Beauchef campus of University of Chile in a transit desert because it takes at least ten minutes to walk to the closest subway station.

Here are my daily commute options:

  • walking: The shortest distance is about 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers, which would require about 45 minutes. There is no monetary cost.
  • running1:. I can complete the run in about 20 minutes, with no monetary cost either. I will arrive at work sweaty, which is either a plus given that I got a workout in, or a minus given that I’ll need to shower.
  • biking:
    • If I own my bike or electric scooter, there is no daily monetary cost, and it takes around 15 minutes.
    • I could also rent a bike or participate in a bikeshare program, though there is no convenient docked or dockless solution at the moment2.
  • public transit: There is no one-seat metro ride, so I could take the metro from Santa Isabel to Republica, and then either walk or take the bus to my final destination. Walking or taking the bus at the end takes the same amount of time for me. The monetary cost is $800 CLP (or about $1.20 USD) during rush hour, for a journey of about 30-40 minutes depending on traffic.
  • taxi or rideshare: The time cost varies from 10-30 minutes depending on traffic, and the cost is about $3000 CLP or ($4.50 USD).

Winner: Biking is my preferred daily transit option. With a decent amount of bike lanes in Santiago, I feel safe choosing this option. Biking also is the fastest and least expensive option, making it a no-brainer for me. Rain is infrequent in the city, and winters aren’t too cold making this commute option appropriate for the city all year round.

Of course, I could also work from home.

Example Two: Eating out

A few months ago, my parents visited and I met them for dinner at Mestizo, a very tasty and reasonably priced restaurant in Vitacura. Located in Parque Bicentenario, the open-air restaurant provided picturesque views of sunset facing Sanhattan, and we had a pleasant experience. However the restaurant is also in a transit desert –and how exactly should I go there?

  • Walking and running: not realistic due to the distance and the social circumstance. Running would about 40 minutes.
  • biking: I do not trust parking my bike outside in Santiago, precluding this option. I could use a bikeshare, though riding on a slower MoBike would take about 35 minutes and leave myself sweaty.
  • public transit: this option requires a metro transfer to a bus. Due to the location of the restaurant, the journey is 40 minutes with a cost of $800 CLP.
  • Uber: this is probably the simplest option, taking 17 minutes (maybe 30 in rush hour traffic) with a cost of about $3800.

Winner: a combination of metro and micromobility. I took the metro to Los Leones (15min), and then I rode a Lime scooter the rest of the way (10min). The total cost was about $2800 (800 for metro and 2000 for Lime), as the scooters in Chile are quite expensive relative to other transit forms, but I had fun and this was also the most eco-friendly. Unfortunately Google maps does not currently provide multi-modal routing, but I believe this combination of transit options is the best overall value.

General Thoughts

I hope the two examples above illustrate the many transit options. Transit is a personal choice, depending on one’s preferences towards time, money, environmentally friendliness, or simply knowledge of options. I personally am of the millenial generation, preferring not to use cars, though I also understand that for some people driving may be the best option. As micro-mobility and last-mile transit options increase, and as people prefer to live in cities over suburbs, hopefully though a combination of public transit and micro-mobility options we can reduce our dependency of cars and cut carbon emissions.

Here are some examples where micro-mobility options can be the best:

  • I go to a bar, and I want to return home late at night. The bar is about a mile away. I could take the metro ($800), an Uber ($2000), or ride a Mobike back ($400)3. I choose the last option, as I am sober enough, the neighborhood is safe, and I prefer the cheapest option as my value of time is low at night.
  • I’m shopping at a supermarket. The supermarket is about twenty minutes from my house, which is a bit long for walking, so I could also call an Uber ($1200) or rent a Mobike ($400). I bike back, with the front basket carrying my groceries.

That said, I also have some questions about micromobility…

  • Can this be a social activity? For example, while it is socially acceptable to go on a date via an Uber, could one do so on a Lime Scooter?
  • How can this be more of an inclusive tech? Dockless options allow for scooters and bikes to move to less affluent neighborhoods than docked bikes, though how can roads be designed to allow cyclists and scooter riders to feel safer? Can older people or children feel comfortable using this tech too, even if they aren’t the main market?

Thanks for reading! And please feel free to reach out if you had any thoughts too 😊

  1. I’ve actually done this once!. ^
  2. Both Mobike and Limebike are not permitted to operate in Santiago Central, the region where my university lies. ^
  3. I would not have used my personal bike to go to the bar, because in a group setting we often do not know where we will go next, thus it would be inconvenient socially to drag along a bike. ^