We just returned from the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT)’s International Conference in Anaheim, Ca, the annual meeting of transportation demand management (TDM) professionals from around the world. Mobility Lab was a media sponsor.
This year’s conference was the biggest yet, with over 500 attendees from across North America, Kenya, Australia and New Zealand. They represented all sorts of organizations, too: transportation management associations, university and business campuses, transit agencies, vanpool operators, and more.
So naturally, we reaped a lot of good ideas from this great gathering of minds. Here are five quick TDM takeaways from the conference.
1. “Transportation is a behavior, not a type of person.”
We love this line from John Landolfe, the transportation options coordinator at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. This means that instead of calling people “bicyclists” or “pedestrians,” we should say “people who bike” or “people who walk” to make these behaviors seem more achievable to others. He continues: “Focus on behavior to invite behavior change.”
2. We can’t change the entire car culture of North America.
But we can make transit, biking, and walking attractive and competitive options, according to Andy Boenau of the Gotcha Group. On the same note: in car-dependent regions like Southern California, transit needs to be “connected, convenient, customer service-oriented, and clean,” in the words of Michele Boehm of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
3. Don’t focus on commutes.
When trying to get people to switch transportation modes, TDM professionals focus a lot on commuting. But commutes tend to be the most entrenched transportation habit, making them the most difficult trips for TDM to influence.
Opportunities abound for mode-shift in non-work trips, like special events. That’s the strategy of Capital Metro in Austin. “You have to convince people that transit might be good for a particular occasion,” said Cynthia Lucas of Capital Metro. Lucas believes that this strategy is why weekend ridership has increased at a higher rate than weekday ridership compared to last year.
Running errands is another avenue for mode-shift. “‘Bike to Coffee Day’ is more manageable than Bike to Work,” said Boenau of the popular Bike to Work event.
4. Hire people from the community.
It’s easy – but ineffective – for transit agencies or DOTs to swoop into a neighborhood and tell residents to use transit or ride bikes. The better method is to work with community leaders and organizations. This is what Jessica Roberts of Alta Planning + Design learned when working with Chicago neighborhoods to help residents switch to multimodal transportation options. “Don’t hire the bright, young bike nerds,” she said. “Hire the connected, community people.”
5. “We deserve great places.”
This mantra should be at the heart of everything TDM professionals do. It’s what Jason Roberts of Better Block Foundation believes – and what guides his organization. “We shouldn’t have to go to Paris to walk to a neighborhood cafe,” he said.
What was missing
The TDM industry is doing a whole lot of good: running incentive programs, marketing campaigns, and more. But to be more effective, the industry needs to measure its results: both to improve their programs and get more funding.
Shameless plug: our new TDM return on investment calculator – grant funded by the Federal Highway Administration – does exactly that. (And it’s super easy to use, too.)
Photo of a LA Metro bus by Jenna Fortunati