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Assessing the First and Last Mile Problem for Intercity Passenger Rail Service

[+] Author Affiliations
Lisa Lorena Losada Rojas, Konstantina “Nadia” Gkritza

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

V. Dimitra Pyrialakou

West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Paper No. JRC2018-6172, pp. V001T05A002; 15 pages
  • 2018 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2018 Joint Rail Conference
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, April 18–20, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5097-8
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


The first and last mile of a trip has been used to describe passenger travel with regards to getting to and from transit stops/stations. Solving the first and last mile (FMLM) problem extends the access to transportation systems and enlarges the number of passengers from a remote community, such as rural areas. The FMLM problem has been addressed in different public transit contexts, mainly within urban areas. However, it is also an important part of the journey in an intercity trip; yet, limited research efforts have been undertaken to examine the FMLM problem that intercity passenger train riders face. This paper fills in this gap and further, aims to identify the best strategies that could serve as a FMLM solution for short distance intercity passenger rail service (i.e., corridors that are less than 750 miles long according to the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act, 2008). The Hoosier State Train (HST) service, a short-distance intercity passenger rail that connects Chicago and Indianapolis four days a week, was chosen as a case of study. The HST has four intermediate stops located in Indiana. For some of those intermediate stops HST is the only intercity public transit service offered to reach either Chicago or Indianapolis. In order to explore opportunities to enhance the HST ridership, an on-board survey was conducted in November and December 2016. The findings of this survey suggested that there are riders who travel from counties further away from a county with a station to reach and complete their journey on the train. Moreover, it was found that most of the respondents drove or rented a car, or were dropped off to reach a train station in Indiana. Unlike the results from the Chicago station, the majority of riders boarding the train from one of the Indiana stations did not use ridesharing services or public transportation. These findings suggest that there is a possible gap into the FMLM travel options for intercity rail riders and alternative options to fill this gap should be considered. This paper discusses the case study results of an accessibility analysis aiming to identify the areas in need of first/last mile service where there are no public transportation services and/or it is costly to reach a station from a desired origin. To that end, a cost surface for the different modes available in the area of study was created to determine the average travel cost to the nearest station. The analysis was carried out in ArcGIS using origin-destination data from the on-board survey, transportation network information from the U.S. Bureau Transportation Statistics, and general transit feed specification (GTFS) data. Subsequently, some of the best strategies identified were modeled around the station (e.g., shuttle buses to/from the station) in order to examine how the accessibility would increase after a strategy implementation. The results of this study may have far-reaching implications for planning strategies that can enhance access to the train stations. Finally, the FMLM strategies could assist intercity passenger rail service providers attract a larger number of passengers.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME
Topics: Rails



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