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In Focus: The Last Mile and Transit Ridership


Bay Area Transportation GHGs

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the transportation sector accounts for 40 to 60% of the global warming pollution in most Bay Area Counties. These emissions can be some of the toughest to reduce since there are hundreds of thousands of individual vehicles and they operate outside of the direct control of local governments.

Written and posted by BAAQMD, January 2011.


In the Bay Area approximately 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) a year come from cars and light duty trucks. Enticing people to get out of their cars and onto transit is a key component of reducing those emissions. If, however, getting to the bus stop, train station or ferry terminal is considered inconvenient, physically difficult, overly time-consuming, or even dangerous then most people will choose to drive. Offering workable solutions that help a person traverse this “first or last mile” between home, work, or another destination and transit, increases the likelihood that residents will leave the car at home.

Eighty percent of trips taken in the Bay Area are in cars and light duty trucks (source, see table E.13), yet according to a 2007 MTC poll most Bay Area residents believe that the majority of our transportation dollars should be spent on public transit and that maintaining transit systems is either “very important” or “extremely important”. Bridging the gap between the public’s support of transit and their willingness to take it is at the core of overcoming first/last mile barriers. While there is no single answer to the problem, a range of solutions is beginning to emerge. Ultimately a coordinated approach to these efforts will have the biggest impact.

Bay Area Efforts to Address the Last Mile

Local governments and regional agencies throughout the Bay Area are looking for ways to solve the last mile problem. Some Bay Area examples include:

Example 1 – Biking and Bike Infrastructure
Biking is increasingly being looked at as an important means to connect people with the vast network of transit systems in the region. Efforts include improving bike infrastructure like creating dedicated bike lanes, and building bike stations at transit hubs, encouraging employers to provide shower facilities and other bike friendly amenities, as well as bike sharing programs. The use of tools like radio frequency-equipped smartcards in the SF bike sharing program is an indication of how new technology will shape our approach to first/last mile barriers. Some funding for project is also available through the Air District’s Bicycle Facility grant program.


  • (Article) San Francisco Chronicle: Bike-sharing project expected to begin next year October 27, 2010 “A thousand communal bicycles would be available for use in San Francisco and along the Peninsula in what Bay Area transportation officials are trumpeting as the nation’s first regional bike-sharing program.” Read more
  • (Article) Press Democrat: Sebastopol distributing free bike racks to schools, businesses November 15, 2010 “Sebastopol is offering free bike racks to schools and businesses as part of a program to encourage people to use alternative forms of transportation.” Read more
  • (Article) San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. Caltrain station offers valet parking for bicyclists January 8, 2008 “A valet service for bicyclists who commute on Caltrain will get an official welcome Wednesday in yet another acknowledgment by Bay Area transportation officials that pedal-power has arrived as a viable alternative to the private automobile.” Read more
  • (Resource)’s list of bike policies for Bay Area transit companies

Example 2 – Planning Based Solutions
First/last mile barriers are compounded by the fact that for much of our recent history development was based on the assumption that most trips will be taken by car. In new developments, however, there is an opportunity to eliminate first/last mile barriers by locating housing close to transit and providing other transit incentives. A number of these planning oriented solutions have emerged in the Bay Area.


  • (Article) SF Business Times: GreenTRIP projects take road not driven
    December 3, 2010 “The program gives developers points for adding features such as providing discounted transit passes, car sharing on premises and proximity to public transportation and bike lanes. Developers are also encouraged to separate the cost of parking from the cost per unit and to limit parking spaces.” Read more
  • (Resource) GreenTRIP webpage - GreenTRIP is an innovative new certification program that rewards residential in-fill projects that apply comprehensive strategies to reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Read more
  • (Resource) FOCUS- A Development and Conservation Strategy for the SF Bay Area FOCUS has sought willing local government partners who share the goals of encouraging more compact development that offers a range of housing and transportation choices. Read more

Example 3 – Shuttles and Feeder Buses
Shuttle services that connect transit with commercial centers and/or places of employment have been shown to help overcome last mile barriers. Oakland’s Broadway shuttle, owned by City of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency, connects BART with Jack London Square and has exceeded ridership expectations. The County of Alameda’s employee shuttle system has helped alleviate employee safety concerns about walking to BART in the dark when leaving work late.


  • (Article) San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland looks to expand popular ‘Free B’ shuttle December 20, 2010 “Five months after Oakland started running its free Broadway shuttle, city officials say ridership is higher than expected and passengers have asked to expand the program.” Read more
  • (Project Description) Alameda County Shuttles to County Buildings – Alameda County employees and residents can take advantage of convenient shuttle service to Alameda County’s Fairmont Hospital and Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro (as well as the Bay Fair Mall) from the Bay Fair BART station. Read more
  • (Resource) BAAQMD’s Shuttle/Feeder Bus service grant page - Up to $4 million is available for pilot and existing shuttle/feeder bus service that connects mass transit riders to rail stations, airports or ferry terminal and regional ridesharing services in the Bay Area for fiscal year 10/11. Read more

Example 4 – Education and Outreach
While there are many challenging barriers to resident’s use of transit, lack of information is one problem that can be overcome relatively easily and inexpensively.


  • (Resource)’s employer services – 511 can help you develop a comprehensive transportation program customized to your worksite, or simply help you provide transportation information to your employees. Read more
  • (Resource) Best Workplaces for Commuters – Managed by the National Center for Transit Research at USF, BWC assists participating employers by offering public recognition and promotion, technical assistance, training, Web-based tools, and forums for information exchange. Read more
  • (Project Description) Stanford University’s Commute Buddy program – The Commute Buddy program matches experienced transit and bike commuters with new alternative transportation commuters. Read more

Additional Resources

  • (Article) Good, The Transportation Issue: Convenience Is King – April 16, 2009  Presents an overview of the last mile problem and profiles various solutions (some like personal rapid transit and carsharing which are not discussed above). Read more
  • (Report) Maximizing Mobility in Los Angeles – First & Last Mile Strategies – December 2009 detailed final report by the Southern California Association of Governments on a study that identified six cost-effective strategies to increase transit use and reduce automobile trips in the City of Los Angeles. Strategies included are: casual carpool, taxis, carsharing, hourly car rental, folding bikes on transit, and bicycle sharing. Read more
  • (Resource) Victoria Transportation Policy Institute – The Victoria Transport Policy Institute is an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative and practical solutions to transportation problems. Read more

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