TDM 101: How the Bay Area encourages sustainability

Welcome to the second installment of our TDM series, where we’ll be taking a deep dive into one city’s efforts to encourage sustainable transportation modes. (If you have questions about what that stands for or what any of that means, we recommend you start here with part 1.)

Today, we’ll be looking at the Bay Area — San Francisco, Oakland, and other surrounding cities. Let’s dive in.

The Mobility Landscape

The Bay Area has an extensive public transportation network. For commuter rail alone, there’s ACE, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, and SMART, which can connect you to BART, Muni Metro, and VTA Light Rail. That barely scrapes the service — there’s AC Transit, SamTrans, Muni Bus…. the list goes on.

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An example of Chariot’s shuttle vans across the San Francisco area. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)

As a technology hub, it’s also home to private shuttle companies that pop up seemingly every week these days. Lyft has used San Francisco as a testing ground for its quasi-bus service, and Chariot’s commuter shuttle service is headquartered there as well.

However, the area is also geographically quite large, making it tempting for commuters to opt for driving alone rather than taking multiple buses or biking up those iconic hills.

TDM Practices

Let’s look at just a selection of TDM practices being put into place around the Bay Area.

San Francisco’s Shift

We’ve actually talked about this on the blog in the past, but here’s a refresher: Shift is a (relatively) new component of San Francisco’s Transportation Sustainability Program. It’s meant to incentivize alternative mode travel as the city’s population continues to increase.

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Shift is part of San Francisco’s Sustainable Transportation Policy plan. (Source: BOMA San Francisco)

What makes Shift different than other similar programs? Well, perhaps most importantly, developments are required to comply with the measures before construction begins, and the city will follow up to ensure they are being met. Additionally, the program allows developments to mix and match from a menu of options, allowing them to customize their choices to best fit their specific needs.

We’re hopeful that this policy, as it plays out, will help the city handle the 100,000 new households and 190,000 new jobs projected to come its way by 2040.

Oakland’s GreenTRIP Connect

TransForm launched the GreenTRIP certification program in 2008 to help cities and developers design projects that include TDM measures from the beginning. The aim is to create communities unencumbered by traffic and parking spaces.

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The GreenTRIP Connect dashboard, waiting to be filled out to compare different TDM options for potential developments.

Its GreenTRIP Connect tool allows anyone to visualize how a proposed or potential residential project could impact greenhouse gas emissions and parking. This easily shows how slight tweaks — offering carsharing memberships, for example — would change the number of miles added to the roads, increasing the information developers have to make informed decisions.

The Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program

Good TDM isn’t just practiced by developers of residential and commercial spaces; employers are a key factor in making sure commutes are as sustainable as possible. In 2014, the nine-county-wide Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program began requiring all employers with at least 50 full-time employees to provide transportation benefits.

This type of program is essential to incentivize alternative transit options over driving alone to work, whether it’s by providing a free employee shuttle or a cash allowance to give up a parking space.

What next?

These are just a few example of TDM programs across the Bay Area. The biggest takeaway? A successful city will have participation from all parts of the equation: real estate developers, urban planners, transit agencies, and employers alike. This way, there’s equal investment from all sides to create a more sustainable community — and that’s how it gets done.