Cities bustle with movement. People hurry from corner to corner; cars and trucks zoom along the roads, while bicycles and scooters jostle for space. However, sometimes that movement falters, and with it, the dynamism that is the hallmark of great cities. A 2019 global congestion and mobility survey by traffic data company Inrix showed Dubai motorists spent the equivalent of nine working days stuck in traffic last year.
As cities such as Dubai expand, the need to move residents and visitors through existing transportation networks is becoming ever more pressing. While mass transit remains the most efficient means of transporting large numbers of people long distances, getting people to and from transit remains a perennial difficulty – the much-discussed first and last-mile challenge.
The first and last mile problem, which is the gap between the level of transit service and the needs of a community, can create “transit deserts”. These are areas that would greatly benefit from micro-mobility, a solution that can address transit-dependent populations that lack an adequate public transit service.
Furthermore, micro-mobility can extend well beyond solely connecting people to mass transit and offer a tremendous opportunity for cities and service providers to address some of the most vexing transportation challenges facing urban areas including congestion, emissions and air quality, and uneven access to transit.
Understanding how a city’s mobility system will evolve is complex, and it requires bold, coordinated actions from all sectors involved. Technological advances and commercialization, funding, intelligent policies, and business model innovation are all needed to realize productivity improvements while creating more sustainable environments in cities.
Communities today are underserved in terms of their mobility needs. The main reason being that there are no mobility services focused and tailored to the needs of communities. Specifically, mobility within, in and out of communities, for the most part, is not available and if it is, it is not provided in an optimal way rendering the service unusable. For example, a metro line might have a station within a community, however, it does not have ease of access to get to and from the metro station, with a taxi or ride-hailing service being too expensive and unjustifiable for such a short distance.
Trips within communities are characterised by short distances, for example, a trip to the grocery store, an outing to a restaurant, trying to catch a bus or the journey to a metro station to get to work, is often referred to as “the first mile”, with getting back to the original destination, such as one’s home, from a metro stop is sometimes referred to as “last mile”. For these types of trips, a new kind of mobility service is needed, dedicated and tailored to the requirements within that community.
To that end, Careem is currently focusing on creating and making available an affordable multimodal community mobility service specifically tailored to those communities, offering several options such as public bike share scheme that covers the first and last mile as well as short trips within a community. In addition, Careem intends to offer an on-demand community shuttle service that complements the bike scheme for those customers who might not be able to use the bikes for their trip, for example, a mother with her child or those who are carrying groceries back from the store. These, over time, will be offered as electric shuttles, making them a more sustainable and greener service for communities.
It is with this in mind that Careem will continue to develop and deploy autonomous shuttles as the technology becomes more mature to increase availability and safety for use within communities.