Welcome to our 12 Days of Mobility series, which celebrates the launch of our Transportation Cost-Savings Calculator, a tool that measures the return of investment from transportation demand management (TDM) programs. Click the image to see the entire series.
There’s a misconception that getting Americans to use public transportation, walking, or biking is a waste of money because all Americans “intrinsically” love to drive.
But this idea rests on the (mistaken) premise that Americans decided out of their own free will that driving would be their only mode. The truth is that our public policy has for decades concentrated on making it easier for people to drive and harder to walk, bike, or use transit.
Transportation demand management (TDM) counters decades of policy decisions and their negative outcomes that made this country so reliant on cars. By raising awareness of modes other than driving alone and providing incentives for people to switch, TDM reduces vehicle miles traveled – while improving public health and air quality.
When TDM measures are considered, cost is always a factor – as it should be – but often the costs to facilitate driving are forgotten. While deploying real-time transit displays, installing bike racks and showers, and providing transit benefits costs money, so does providing downtown parking and highway use for free. Parking spaces cost tens of thousands of dollars each to construct and urban highways can cost more than $11 million per mile yet governments and employers often charge far less for these services than they cost.
While both encouraging transit and active transportation and encouraging driving cost money, mobility decisions are not neutral in their impact. Individual car trips are a major contributor to climate change, and our deference to the car above all other mobility methods has made our streets incredibly dangerous through deadly collisions and harmful exhaust.
On the other side, biking or taking the bus can have major mental and physical health benefits for the user by integrating moderate exercise into daily life and relieving the stress of driving in traffic.
In a world dominated by the automobile, other forms of mobility can seem daunting, or worse, the possibility of not driving does not even enter people’s minds. Breaking that mindset takes education for both the user and the designer of mobility infrastructure. TDM can help us rethink our travel and our lives to put people at the center, rather than cars.
Photo by Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab.