How Broader Thinking Can Broaden Your Funding Sources

Arlington County, Virginia, with the help of a grant from the Virginia DOT, recently rolled out a cutting-edge multimodal trip planner, CarFreeAtoZ.

In 2014, Salt Lake City launched the Hive Pass, a reduced-cost monthly transit pass for all city residents.

In order to increase housing affordability, Seattle’s DOT may require new multi-family housing developments to offer “residential transportation options programs” that provide residents with transit passes and other mobility options.

These are amazing initiatives, but they’re too rare in the world of transportation demand management. That’s because the lion’s share of TDM funding comes from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program – and none of the above efforts have a primary goal of reducing emissions.

The dominance of one funding source means that many agencies that work on demand management define their work in ways that are strikingly similar to the federal government’s guidelines for CMAQ. This leads to a heavy focus on work commutes in congested corridors.

But the agencies above have been able to think more creatively in supporting the broader needs of the local community. After all, cutting traffic and improving air quality aren’t the only worthy goals that demand management can accomplish. Smart programs, targeted to the right places, can support economic development and quality of life, and even help build community.

Some places, like the ones above, are realizing this, reconceptualizing their demand management programs to focus on broader goals. By broadening their definition of what TDM can do, they can often justify the use of broader revenue sources.

For example, Oregon’s DOT has released one of the most progressive documents on TDM we’ve seen come out of a state transportation agency.

Oregon plan

The department’s Transportation Options Plan doesn’t think of demand management just as a reactive tool for mitigating congestion. Instead, it casts “transportation options strategies” as an integral way to reduce costs for travelers, improve access, and address demographic change in the state.

Rather than thinking of TDM as a siloed program, it calls for it to compete on an equal basis with other transportation projects for funding.

Some of the funding for the development of Oregon’s plan came from a Federal Highway Administration grant – evidence that federal policy often works best when it creates a supportive environment for innovation. Even as TDM remains heavily influenced by federal policy, innovation bubbles up primarily from the local level.

If you’re a TDM planner or practitioner, what innovations are you developing? What impact does federal policy have on your work? We’d love to hear. Tweet Kirk at @khoven, Steven at @shigashide, and Mobility Lab at @MobilityLabTeam.

Photo by Gary Howe

This is adapted from an article originally published by TransitCenter.

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