Offering transit incentives is a way to avoid costly infrastructure spending

In the department of “Where Are They Now?,” Chris Hamilton is a prominent face around Mobility Lab, as one of our contributors and the former bureau chief of Arlington County Commuter Services, of which Mobility Lab is a part. He just appeared as a guest on the excellent GovLove podcast.

Host Ben Kittelson asks to learn more about transportation demand management – Mobility Lab’s bread-and-butter – and Hamilton answers: “Transportation tends to revolve around adding supply and adding infrastructure. And TDM is all about changing the behavior of people so that you better meet the demand.”

Hamilton gives the TDM example of “if the roads are clogged, rather than widen the road, which is really expensive and in tons of places we can’t even do that anymore, what if we could get more people to ride the bus if there’s not a lot of people [already doing that]? Or what if we could get more people on bikes or even walking?

“In TDM, you use a set of tools to educate people about alternatives to driving. It’s often about marketing and carrots and sticks and incentives and disincentives. If you apply those tools correctly, you can often get that change and you don’t have to spend all that money on expensive infrastructure or ruin your downtown by adding more cars.”

Now serving as the program manager of Car-Free Key West in Florida, Hamilton was a key ingredient in the founding of Mobility Lab back when he was in Arlington. He tells the amazing origin stories of Arlington’s transit retail outlets, its pioneering online transit pass-purchasing program way back in 1997, and its ongoing corporate transit-sales program.

Hamilton also gives a nice shout-out to Mobility Lab as one of the industry’s “biggest thought leaders.” The host asks for more information, and Hamilton says, “We needed to tinker with better ways for making it easy for people to think about taking bike, walk, or public transportation. We birthed Mobility Lab to do research and find best practices across the industry so that we could then bring that knowledge back home to us and make our own operations better.”

Listen to the full GovLove podcast, and wonder in amazement how Hamilton took off for Key West, abandoning both his Redskins season tickets of 37 years and his streak of attending opening-day Orioles baseball games (he loves the Nationals too) since 1981.

(This article originally misstated the origin date of Arlington’s online transit-pass program. The date, 1997, is now correct.)

Photo: A street in Key West, where Hamilton is program manager of Car-Free Key West (Kenneth Garcia, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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