Updated: Jul 14
If getting to and from the bus or train stop is starting to bore you, listen up - we will show you how to bridge this gap from home to hub and spark a change in the way you commute. The underlying problem of today’s urban transit often lies in the fact that we must walk from home to the closest stop if we live not far from it. Although walking is often an acceptable connection, typically it robs us of precious time, energy and inner peace.
In many cases, people will find this challenging, particularly if the nearest stop is difficult or impossible to access by a short walk. This gap is typically termed a first mile connection. Those whose workplace is far from the bus or train stop will again walk for some time after taking transit. This is termed a last mile connection.
Addressing the first-and-last-mile challenge is never easy. Simply getting up earlier every morning or missing coffee in exchange for a walk more than half a mile to the nearest stop is not the best solution. Aside from adopting personal mobility devices, the next best answer is the first-mile-last-mile (FMLM) deployment or Microtransit. It can bridge the gaps between departure and mass transit points and then again to the final destination.
But what’s the advantage of FMLM deployment? And how by deploying vehicular assets to ‘ulu’ places in Singapore do underserved communities get increased access to the most urbanised region in Singapore? Here, we like to dive right in and see how each transit in Singapore works, and if they help solve the first-and-last-mile challenge.
Getting you to and from - public transport
Traditional public transit is pretty straightforward. You have buses of several configurations (single deck buses, double deck buses, articulated buses, etc) that can seat up to a high number of people, usually 40-80 people. These buses pick up passengers at set stops and at set times. The mode is what we call fixed-route and is predicated on the idea of mass transport.
This kind of public transit is great and can be very effective. But because the bus stops often have a big gap between them and are rarely sighted in those low-density living areas, getting to and from the bus stop can sometimes be half the battle. This has created the first-mile-last-mile transport problem for those living outside busy transit corridors.
Simultaneously, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) collected some S$912 million in operating income for the 2018/2019 financial year but expenditure came up to S$1.925 billion, resulting in a shortfall of some S$1 billion. The deficit was about 50% higher compared to five years ago. These facts mean that traditional public transit has been under strain over the past years in Singapore. Operating expenses and mileage by these regular bus services are increasing while ridership is declining due to other novel and nimble options that are surging in Singapore.
This massive loss incurred by LTA somehow raises a question: How do we provide transport to the public without investing in expensive fixed-route buses that end up underutilised? How can we gain complete access to public transit in Singapore without putting the onus on transport authorities to run money-losing, empty buses?
Why not ride-hailing?
Heads-up: when it comes to ride-hailing, we will be referring to low-capacity or small-scale (4-6 seats) privately owned vehicles operating on-demand to pick up and drop off riders in a flexible manner. Riders use an app to book travel. Then an algorithm pairs the request with the best possible vehicle nearby, taking the riders to their destination.
But as pleasant as this may sound, underneath the services, disturbing facts are burgeoning. Riders mainly request transit through smartphone apps. They do not know who their ride-hailing driver is, and this puts one concern into question - rider safety.
Also, because ride-hailing is not part of an on-demand transit, these vehicles are usually seen roaming around the island state. Rather than efficiently pooling passengers, they are often empty, thus increasing carbon emissions and traffic congestion.
But on-demand Microtransit is not ride-hailing because everything is handled seamlessly via a holistic approach. For example, with RushOwl’s service, mass transportation is facilitated in a cost efficient manner with vehicular optimisation. We took the effort to partner with fleet owners, smart cities and even the government to activate smart transport networks islandwide.
So for low peak periods, smaller vehicles can be called upon to serve the public at a lower cost model. When this happens there is a huge opportunity to bring about optimisation and sustainability of the public transit operations.
Microtransit as a solution
The first-and-last-mile challenge is not going away and neither is our need for the FMLM deployment services offered by Microtransit. With RushOwl’s services, even if the bus or train stop is far from home or workplace, we get more people into the mobility world with our fleets of vehicles and ensure everyone can get to their destinations via the most efficient option.
That’s really all the work we at RushOwl do - keeping prices for passengers low, providing superior ride experience and bridging the gaps between your two destinations.