Why is TDM Fiscally Responsible?


“Transportation demand management” is the flip side of infrastructure. It focuses on helping people use the infrastructure in place for transit, ridesharing, walking, biking, and telework. It is cost-effective in guiding the design of our transportation and physical infrastructure so that alternatives to driving are naturally encouraged and our systems are better balanced.

TDM thus underlies most of the important new initiatives of today: transit-oriented development, complete streets, walkable activity centers, livability and sustainability initiatives, and integrated corridor management.

Third-party research shows that the TDM work that Arlington does has been very successful, even though TDM investment pales in comparison to the dollars required to build roadways. TDM outreach work throughout the county helps shift more than 40,000 car trips each work day from solo-driven cars to some other forms of transportation. That’s roughly the equivalent of the number of vehicles on six lanes of I-66 and I-95 during the three-hour morning rush hour. Thus TDM cost-effectively supports the investment the county has made in its land-use plan and transportation infrastructure, resulting in better use of Arlington’s transportation system.

Up to $11.80 in benefits can be gained for every $1 invested in bicycling and walking opportunities, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking. Increased active transportation could yield an estimated annual benefit of $10 to $66  billion for the United States, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent on highway projects, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

As noted in the graphic above from Arlington County, Virginia: The work of Arlington’s TDM agency, Arlington County Commuter Services, supports the investment the county has made in its land-use plan and transportation infrastructure, resulting in better use of Arlington’s transportation system. Getting more people to take transit, carpool, bike, and walk reduces traffic congestion, improves air quality, benefits Arlington businesses, and has a positive impact on public health and quality of life. From ACCS’s website: “There are many benefits for a modest investment by Arlington taxpayers.”

TDM programs that successfully promote active transportation systems result in costs-savings through:

  • Booming businesses. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales. And every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.
  • Tourism dollars. For example, a $6.7 million investment over 10 years in bicycle infrastructure on the Outer Banks in North Carolina resulted in $60 million annually in revenue from nearly 700,000 visiting bicyclists each year, according to NCDOT.
  • Job creation. In Vermont, bicycling and walking created at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in wages, and $83 million in revenue from bicycle and pedestrian-related businesses and major events (which attracted more than 60,000 people to the state), according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
  • Booming real-estate markets. A one-point increase in the WalkScore correlates with a $700 to $3,000 increase in home values — which can then result in higher property tax revenues for local governments, according to CEOs for Cities.
  • Safe routes to school. The cost-savings associated with the reduction of child pedestrian injuries resulted in an overall net societal benefit of $230 million over a projected 50-year period, according to findings published in the American Journal of Public Health.
  • Extra money for families that don’t have to consume $4-per-gallon gasoline. A two-person household can save, on the average, more than $10,174 a year by downsizing to one car, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

How to start? Communities should invest in TDM infrastructure and programs. Investments by communities typically result in increased use of bike, walk, rail, bus, and other active forms of transportation, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Such investments yield results regardless of climate, hills, city size, or other external factors. In fact, some of the most successful bicycling cities, such as Portland, Ore., Minneapolis and San Francisco, have challenging weather or topography. U.S. cities that have invested in bicycle infrastructure see increases in bicycling from year to year of 10 percent and more, and in some cases as high as 30 to 100 percent. More on the benefits of investing from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:

  • The federal government invests only about $1.50 in walking and bicycling per resident each year, and we have the lowest mode share for active transportation — as in, the fewest number of people using walking or bicycling for regular transportation — of all western countries.
  • Since its beginning, the interstate highway system has cost approximately $5 trillion to build and maintain. Over the same time, federal investments in bicycling and walking amounted to less than a tenth of a percent of this amount. Yet benefits from bicycling and walking far outweigh the cost of upfront investments in infrastructure and programs — in many cases, with benefits-to-cost ratios of 5 to 1 or more.
  • For the cost of one mile of a four-lane urban freeway ($50 million), you can build approximately 1,000 miles of bike lanes and bicycle boulevards, or more than 150 miles of trails.
  • In 2001, walking and bicycling accounted for 23 billion miles traveled, worth billions of dollars in fuel savings alone.
  • In 2008, skyrocketing gas prices and the worst recession in decades reduced driving by about 90 billion miles, and as a result, vehicle congestion by about 30 percent.
  • Modest improvements for active transportation could avoid 70 billion miles driven; more substantial changes could save as many as 200 billion miles driven.
  • Improvements in active transportation could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles by 3 to 8 percent, and these reductions would produce significant net savings of several hundred dollars per ton of CO2.
  • Portland’s 300 miles of bikeways cost $57 million, and the city plans to invest another $100 million over the coming years. By 2040, these investments will have yielded $1.2 billion in net benefits from fuel and health-care savings alone.
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