In Review: The Quest for Commute Trip Reduction Part – I
In part one of this series, CTR was described as a collection of tactics designed to reduce commute duration and distance, as well as reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles in favour of more sustainable, healthier modes of travel. The primary responsibility for implementing CTR tactics falls on employers (typically ‘large employers’ with over 100 employees). State/provincial and regional governments typically have responsibility for encouraging or legislatively mandating participation by employers, and offering support, incentives, and/or disincentives/penalties. Apart from legislation, governments may also work toward CTR through trip reduction ordinances (TROs), regulations, policies and guidelines that apply not only to large employers, but municipalities, transport authorities, housing developers, building owners, among others.
At the time of this writing, CTR is not mentioned in any B.C. provincial legislation. CTR is not mentioned in Clean BC, despite its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Metro Vancouver, no municipalities appear to have adopted ordinances specifically for CTR, however, some plans and programs do support and reflect CTR-related principles, including:
Motor Vehicles: M4 Other Demand Management Tools
- 1.1. Support programs that help large employers, institutions, strata councils, business improvement associations, and others develop strategies to reduce motor vehicle trips and encourage trips by walking, cycling, and transit.
- 1.2. Demonstrate leadership by providing a transportation demand management program to all City employees and at civic facilities and by sharing strategies and results with others.
- 1.3 Encourage a BIA-led pilot to enable small businesses to share resources in developing a district TDM program.
- 1.4. Support programs such as TransLink’s TravelSmart that provide personalized travel advice and support to residents, schools, and workplaces.
Following M4.1.2 above, this program offers incentives to City employees to encourage them to use alternative forms of transportation when travelling to work such as walking, biking, or car pooling. Incentives are funded by charging employees for parking, and include the following:
- Rebates on transit passes.
- Monthly incentives and access to reserved parking for staff who share rides.
- Incentives for biking, walking, skateboarding, and rollerblading, such as gift cards for rain gear,
- Cycling skills courses and subsidized bike tune-ups.
- A “Guaranteed Ride Home” program in the event of emergency or sickness.
The TravelSmart Program partners with various groups, organizations, and municipalities to help implement transportation demand management (TDM) programs tailored to unique contexts. In particular, TravelSmart offers advisory services to businesses, newcomers, schools and seniors.
While the TravelSmart program has potential to contribute to CTR, it remains a reactive program relying on groups, organizations, and municipalities contacting TransLink on a voluntary basis.
Opportunities and Challenges for Effective CTR
- Opportunity for the creation of government legislation, policies, and /or guidelines that help guide employers on how to create, implement, and maintain effective CTR strategies, while collecting data on employee travel patterns, preferences, and barriers.
- Establish jurisdictional responsibility for creating CTR-related legislation, policies, or guidelines. For example, upper-tier levels of government (Province of B.C.) may provide legislation that helps inform lower-tier governments (TransLink or local municipalities) of how they may or must go about creating, implementing, and maintaining CTR strategies.
- Opportunity for upper or lower-tier governments to provide incentives (e.g. economic assistance) to employers who wish to get CTR strategies “up and running”. Additionally there could be opportunities created for other institutions and organizations such as transportation authorities and real-estate developers, managers, and tenants to create, implement, and maintain effective CTR strategies.
- B.C. could become the first jurisdiction to include “CloserCommutes” (aka proximate commute) in its CTR toolkit for employers. This tactic has been demonstrated to reduce total employee vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by over 17% within 15 months for a multi-worksite employer such as a bank. About half of all commuters are employed by multi-worksite organizations, such as school districts, health authorities, municipalities, credit unions and banks, retail and hospitality chains, etc.
- The absence of an existing province-wide CTR program allows B.C. to create a world-leading program from the ground up by examining best practices in other jurisdictions and then creating a modern program including local innovation.
A selection of CTR practices from elsewhere:
1. Washington State
Washington’s CTR Law was passed in 1991 with goals to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce the consumption of petroleum fuels through employer-based programs that encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone.
2. State of California
A program designed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to reduce emissions caused by employee commuting. The South Coast of California includes primarily Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.
The purpose and objective of the TDM ordinance is to implement the goals and policies of the City’s General Plan by proactively managing congestion, reducing automobile dependence and enhancing transportation choices by requiring trip reduction plans for all types of trips—work, shopping, leisure, school, and appointments.
S.M.M.C. Chapter 9.53 requires employers to submit detailed reporting on the transportation habits of employees. This information is provided annually to the City of Santa Monica by completing plan forms.
The iCommute program assists commuters by providing carpool and ridematching services, a subsidized vanpool program, transit solutions, regional support for biking, the Guaranteed Ride Home program, information about teleworking, and bike and pedestrian safety program support for schools. Employer Services provides assistance to local businesses, helping them develop and implement customized employee commuter benefit programs that lower costs, increase productivity, and help the environment.
3. State of Massachusetts
This report provides an assessment of best practices in Trip Reduction Ordinances (TRO) from around the United States and is intended to guide and inform policy at the city and state level in Massachusetts in the hopes of strengthening the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) Rideshare Regulation and the city of Boston’s Transportation Access Plan Agreements (TAPAs).
The Rideshare Regulation is an air quality initiative that requires employers exceeding applicable employee thresholds, including businesses, academic institutions, and healthcare facilities, to develop plans and set goals to reduce commuter drive alone trips by 25% from a baseline established through an employee survey.
CHALLENGES AND THREATS
- As mentioned previously, CTR is not currently mentioned in any B.C. provincial legislation, and municipalities do not appear to have not adopted ordinances or implemented programs specifically for CTR.
- Unwillingness of employers (as well as other intuitions and organizations) to create CTR strategies when it is not legislated by the government to do so. Similarly, there may be an unwillingness of governments (be they upper or lower-tier) to create, implement, and maintain CTR legislation, policies, and/or guidelines.
- Inadequate/ineffective regulatory framing that fails to incentivize/encourage employers to continuously work towards achieving CTR goals. Related to this is inadequate implementation and monitoring of strategies.
- Maintaining driving as a “cheap” and “convenient” mode of travel (e.g. not charging the full cost of using roads, cheap car insurance, gas, and parking).
- Providing inadequate provision of transportation alternatives (walking, cycling, transit, HOV facilities) and unsupportive land uses (low-density, suburban style development).
Conclusion: how to move forward?
A CTR program has potential to improve upon environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Based on the examples of CTR legislation, plans, and programs presented in Part I and II of this series, it is clear that the Province of B.C., municipalities, and other agencies have a role to play in the design, implementation, and monitoring of effective CTR. What is also clear is that there are many ways to do so.
Given how common CTR programs are becoming in other jurisdictions, and the effectiveness being recorded, one wonders why the Province of B.C., districts and municipalities aren’t moving together on this already…
What could be done to encourage more discussion on this topic? …who could, or should be included in this conversation?
How might CTR garner more attention from planners and decision-makers in all tiers of government, as well as agencies and organizations such as ICBC, WorkSafeBC, chambers of commerce, transport authorities, large employers, and real-estate developers?