From August 5 – 7, I had the pleasure of attending the ACT (Association for Commuter Transportation) International Conference, held this year at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The annual conference serves as an opportunity for Transportation Demand Management (TDM) professionals to gather to learn about the latest trends in alternative transportation, as well as to network with one-another. For those not familiar with the term Transportation Demand Management, it simply means managing demand of our roadways by promoting alternative modes of transportation, such as carpooling/vanpooling, walking, bicycling, telework, etc.
The keynote address on Monday, August 5th, was given by Gil Penalosa, who provides consultation services to cities around the world; he guides these cities with regard to creating healthier and happier cities for all. He noted that cities should be designed for both 8 and 80-year olds, as well as everyone in between, and that cities should consider closing a major road perhaps once a month (preferably on a weekend day) to promote use of the street space by residents. He added that pop-up parks could be temporarily created on streets, which comprise 30% of city space. Mr. Penalosa noted that sidewalks are the life of cities, as each trip – regardless of whether it is taken by transit, automobile, or bicycle – begins and ends with walking. The theme of the address was that a new paradigm must emerge in which cities are designed for people and for quality of life, rather than just for the efficient movement of automobiles. The photo below shows a bike lane in New York City, situated on former street space, which is an excellent example of how roads in many towns and cities can be reconfigured to promote active transportation and a greater quality of life for residents.
On Tuesday, August 6th, a second keynote address was delivered by Janette Sadik – Khan, who served as the Transportation Commissioner for New York City within the Bloomberg Administration. Under her leadership, some 400 miles of on-street bike lanes were constructed throughout the city. What’s more, she noted that these bike lanes were created using less than 1% of the capital budget. This is significant because it demonstrates that towns and cities can often promote active transportation – thereby leading to greater public health outcomes and enhancement of quality of life – by perhaps restriping a roadway to accommodate more than one mode of travel. Ms. Sadik – Khan noted that where protected bike lanes and plazas were created, retail sales increased dramatically. The photo below illustrates a seating area situated on a portion of Broadway near Times Square in New York City, which previously consisted of vehicular travel lanes. This serves as another example of how street space can be cost-effectively repurposed for public space.
Many smaller sessions were offered, through which latest trends in TDM were conveyed. For example, one session advanced techniques for promoting TDM strategies at large businesses, exemplifying alternative transportation efforts at several hospitals around the U.S. In many cases, hospitals were facing parking shortages because of facility growth and a fixed supply of parking spaces. Various TDM strategies were implemented so as to encourage employees to utilize forms of transportation other than the single-occupancy automobile. One hospital provides generous benefits to its employees – including transit benefits – to encourage transit use. This hospital also pays employees $4.50 daily to use travel modes such as carpooling, bicycling, transit, etc. Considering a five-day work week, this amounts to more than $1,100 extra these employees can earn annually.
One last example of an effective TDM strategy is bicycling – particularly bike sharing. A representative of a popular bike-share company was present at a session pertaining to the promotion of bicycling and pedestrian mobility. This bike share firm launched service in an outlying area of New York City, and to the company’s surprise, users of the service were largely those earning less than $35,000 per year. This is an interesting fact, and evidence that bicycling can demonstrably increase equity, while serving as a first-mile/last-mile link for a locality’s transportation system. Furthermore, bicycling is a very low-cost, pollution-free, and active means of transportation.