What is CTR?
Commute Trip Reduction (CTR), a facet of Transportation Demand Management (TDM), is a suite of strategies (i.e. programs/policies) designed primarily to do two things:
- Reduce long commute travel distances, and
- Encourage and enable alternatives to using a single-occupant vehicle (i.e. more sustainable, healthier travel alternatives such as walking, cycling, taking transit, and carpooling)
The responsibility for implementing CTR strategies falls on employers (typically ‘large employers’ such universities and hospitals), required by some form of government legislation.
Examples of CTR Strategies
- Encourage cycling, walking, and transit instead of using a personal vehicle
- Provide transit-oriented incentives such as pass subsidies or reimbursement
- Provide subsidies or reimbursement for cycling and walking gear
- Provide on-site cycling storage, and shower/change room facilities
- Incentives and arrangements for carpooling/vanpooling to-and-from work
- Allow employees to work full or part-time from home or remote/satellite offices
- Strategically select or move the office location to a transit hub
- Provide a Guaranteed ride home service
An example of a large employer recognized as having successfully employed CTR strategies is The Gates Foundation.The Gates Foundation has reduced their “drive-alone” rate from 88 percent to 34 percent by distributing a suite of transit benefits to employees, including free Monorail punch cars and free monthly Zipcar hours. It also disincentivizes parking: The company lot charges a daily rate instead of a monthly rate. The Gates Foudnation is estimated to employ over 1,500 people.
In addition to the examples of CTR strategies mentioned above, there is also what’s known as the CloserCommutes Strategy:
The CloserCommutes strategy calls for multi-worksite employers – school districts, banks, municipalities, health authorities, retail and hospitality chains, etc. – to update their HR policies to reduce unnecessarily long commutes by the following tactics:
Swapping work locations. Allow and encourage people doing the same job to switch locations to improve the commute for both parties. Maintain data on employees’ commutes and regularly examine for potential voluntary swap matches.
New Hires and internal openings. Assign new hires to sites near their home. Consider transfer candidates’ commute times as a criterion when filling internal job openings. Maintain a roster of employees’ desired work sites.
A CloserCommutes pilot project at 30 Seattle-area bank branches demonstrated a 17% reduction in total employee commute distance could be achieved within 15 months.
Why is CTR Important?
CTR strategies can help tackle critical problems facing today’s [urban] societies. As transportation is one of, if not the, largest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) contributor in urban environments, it is imperative that vehicle-related GHG emissions be reduced whenever and wherever possible – and fast. By enabling people to rely less on the use of personal vehicles, CTR can help to reduce transport-related GHGs.
By enabling people to have a shorter, healthier commute to work, CTR strategies can help to improve physical and mental health. For example, peer-reviewed research indicates that longer commutes are linked to increased worker stress, unhappiness, sedentary living, obesity, job dissatisfaction, illness and absenteeism.
Finally, CTR strategies bear economic benefits by lowering one’s personal travel costs such as car payments, parking, and gas. Importantly, there are benefits not just for employees, but employers. While initially the creation and implementation of CTR strategies may seem inconvenient to employers, doing so can result in reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and a happier and healthier staff.
CTR Frontrunner: Washington State/ Seattle-Puget Sound
Washington States CTR program has helped the state reduce drive-alone commutes—especially in the metro Seattle area—and by extension traffic congestion, car-related pollution, and energy use. It’s also accomplished its goal of convincing employers they’re in the transportation game after all.
Adopted into law in 1991, CTR targets big employers in heavily populated areas, requiring them “to implement programs to reduce single-occupant vehicle commuting by employees at major worksites.”
Washington defines big employers as those with more than 100 workers, though some local governments compel smaller companies to make similar efforts. State agencies provide assistance and oversight, but companies are free to design whatever commute shift plans make most sense for them.
CTR has met its initial goals of “reducing automobile-related air pollution, traffic congestion, and energy use,” and more. The latest progress report found that between 2007 and 2012, the rate of driving alone among CTR participants fell 3 percent and vehicle miles declined 4.6 percent—huge figures extended across 1,100 worksites and two-plus decades. The shift is more impressive when placed against trends toward higher drive-alone rates at non-CTR companies, as well as the rest of the nation, over the same period.
Thanks in part to considerable efforts by the region’s largest employers, the share of commuters driving solo into downtown Seattle is on a dramatic decline.
Just 25 percent of workers traveling into the center city drove themselves, according to the results of the latest annual commuter survey by the Seattle Department of Transportation and non-profit partner Commute Seattle. This is the lowest share since the city started keeping track in 2010.
Additional CTR Strategy Examples:
This post is part one of a two part series. The purpose of part one has been to introduce the concept of CTR by providing a definition and examples of what it is, why it’s important, and who is successfully championing it. Part two focuses on the opportunities and challenges of implementing CTR strategies, highlighting existing local plans, programs, and policies that can serve to support potential future CTR strategies in Vancouver and beyond.