About EcoDevo 101: The practice of economic development is vital to the advancement of any thriving community. It is also often misunderstood. In this series, we’ll dig deeper into the topics that underpin the profession, from public policy and mobility to technology and community planning, among many others.

These days, everyone from UPS, to Uber, to RTD is talking about the concept of the first and last mile. The meaning varies depending on the industry, but generally the concept refers to the last leg of a multi-leg trip for delivery of people or goods. For example, in logistics – such as when you order a new stand-up desk from Amazon to shake up your telework routine – the last mile is when the branded Amazon van, UPS, FedEx, or USPS truck brings your desk from the local distribution center to your home. It wouldn’t be efficient or practical for the Amazon van to pick up your desk and deliver it from its origin point (let’s be honest – likely in Southeast Asia) to your home. Logistics is difficult work, but delivery of goods is very straight forward as the product usually always ends up at its intended destination. It doesn’t need an alarm clock, or have to pick up kids from soccer practice, or go to the grocery store after work. Its last leg is pretty much always from Point A (distribution center) to Point B (your home).

When it comes to moving people, the first and last mile is a little different. In fact, most of the transit industry refers to the concept as the first and last mile problem because it is so difficult to solve. When we refer to the first and last mile in Denver South, we are usually referring to getting people to and from our nine light rail stations, but it can also refer to getting to and from any form of “long haul” transit such as regional/local bus, shuttle, heavy train, etc. Studies show that commuters will not take the light rail if their trip origin and/or destination is further than about a mile away from the transit station.

As a Denver South specific example, let’s say you live at Garden Court at Yale Station along RTD’s southeast light rail line and work at Merrick & Company engineering in Greenwood Village. From Garden Court to the Yale Station it is only .1 miles, so assuming you don’t have a disability or other limiting factor this makes for a very easy walk. You hop on the E light rail and ride it south to Orchard Station, at which point you hop off and mount the bicycle you keep locked at the station. .6 miles and plenty of fresh air later, you have arrived at Merrick ready for your day and morning coffee.

Living and working within one mile of the light rail line can help solve your first and last mile problem, but not everyone has the means, ability, or bravery in the harsh Colorado winter to walk or bike to the nearest light rail station. This is why Denver South is committed to improving access to transit by promoting and developing choices to solve the first and last mile problem. We’re encouraged by the growing field of tech-based first and last mile solutions including autonomous vehicles, software platforms, e-scooters, e-bikes and other modes as outlined in our Mobility Evolution Initiative study. We would love to hear your thoughts on your first and mile problem and would be thrilled to work with you and your employer to develop creative solutions. Please reach out to our transportation team today!