Corporate Partner Commutifi: The Missing "Carrot" of CTR Programs?
Category: General News
Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) programs are slowly gaining popularity nationwide. The State of Washington has had a program in place since 1991, Rule 2202 in the Los Angeles area was implemented in 1995, and now the State of Colorado is considering adding this regulation to their rulebook starting in 2022.
At its heart, a CTR is a quintessential transportation demand management (TDM) regulation. It requires or recommends employers to meet certain single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commute rates. To do this, employers must implement TDM solutions and prove to the regulatory body that there are programs in place to make non-SOV commuting possible.
In Colorado’s proposed rule - called the Employee Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP) - employers with more than 100 employees at a single site must achieve a 75% SOV commute rate by 2023 and a 60% rate by 2025. To achieve these goals, employers must name an employee transportation coordinator (ETC) and create an “ETRP plan” outlining the TDM strategies they’ll use to meet compliance requirements.
It’s an effective program to make employers consider TDM, many for the first time. But in public meetings during the Colorado ETRP planning process (and for other similar efforts nationwide), employers are pushing back. The potential cost and effort of meeting the requirements seem intimidating, and many have pointed out the possible inequity of the rule - will the burden to mode shift out of SOVs be placed on low wage workers who already have poor transit access?
So in terms of the traditional carrot-and-stick behavior change theory, a CTR offers up the “stick” - the punishment for non-compliance. It also provides a strategy to avoid the “stick” - in Colorado’s proposed ETRP, this is the ETC and ETRP plan. But more can certainly be done to bring the “carrot” into the picture and shift some of the burden away from employers and commuters.
The Connected Data Approach
To demonstrate compliance, a typical CTR program asks employers to survey their employees, perform some calculations, and submit the results to a regulatory body. The regulatory body then determines whether or not the employer has met compliance, issues a punishment (if applicable), and waits for the process to start over the next year.
But what else happens to all this information?
CTR-regulated regions have an advantage because they have a rich dataset of commuter information pouring in year after year. This is the kind of data that can make the lives of transportation management associations (TMAs), transportation consultants, transit authorities, departments of transportation (DOTs), and regional and city planners so much easier. It’s also the kind of data that, if used correctly, can help provide the incentive employers may need to feel good about their participation in a CTR.
How can CTR regulatory bodies leverage this data to offer the support employers want to see and the incentive they need to participate?
The solution: a centralized commuter data dashboard.
What is a Centralized Commuter Data Dashboard?
It all starts with the data. Data is collected on a regular basis indicating where and how employees are commuting across the region. If we connect all that survey data and integrate it into a single system, we can effectively paint a complete commuting picture across an entire CTR-impacted region without needing to send out additional surveys and fund further projects.
While a centralized dashboard can take on many different forms, to be effective, it should:
Provide stakeholder access to the data in their region
Quantify the impacts of commuting and display key metrics (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), vehicle miles travelled (VMT), SOV rate) on a per individual, employer, and regional basis
Visualize important data in charts and graphs and map commuter habits and mobility access
Provide modeling tools to explore new TDM programs
An effective centralized dashboard with these features would allow stakeholders at every level to access the data that’s relevant to them, and start working to assist employers in meeting their CTR goals:
A local TMA may notice that 30% of commuters within a mile of their office are driving alone to work - they use this data to apply for a grant to fund a parking cashout program;
A transit agency may see in a heatmap that a specific pocket of commuters has no access to transit - they use this data to design a new bus route; or
The CTR regulatory body identifies that low wage workers are disproportionately impacted by the regulation - they use this data to build an exemption or subsidy for certain industries.
The centralized commuter data dashboard enables key stakeholders, like TMAs and transit authorities, to more effectively help commuters by implementing programs, incentives, and subsidies better targeted to the needs of the community. Vanpools can be formed more effectively, bus and shuttle lines routed more accurately, and active transport initiatives targeted to the right commuters. And as new survey data comes in each year, tracking mode shifts and measuring the impacts of programs is easy.
Is this the Missing “Carrot” for CTR Programs?
TDM faces unique struggles as a relatively new and yet-to-be-officially-defined term (hopefully the MORE Through TDM Act can help change that!). Practitioners understand the positive impact successful TDM programs can have on commuting time, cost, and emissions, and employers who have already embraced these strategies have seen great results. The hard part is getting people to adopt TDM in the first place.
Commute Trip Reduction programs are a great way to start that conversation, but employers will keep pushing back until they’re coupled with actionable support - the “carrot” missing from the regulations.
Not only can a centralized commuter dashboard provide the infrastructure for TMAs and others to offer the CTR “carrot” separate from the regulation, the dashboard can in itself be the “carrot.” This sort of strategy can tell employers that they're not doing it alone. The pressure (and cost) to comply with a CTR regulation is no longer squarely on them.
Explore this Solution for your Region
Commutifi has created a centralized commuter data and TDM planning tool. Commuters, employers, TMAs, and city, regional, or state agencies can access anonymized information about commuting habits to guide transit and TDM planning using existing survey data or data collected through Commutifi’s connected Commuter Survey. Our connected data platform automatically calculates the time, cost, carbon emissions, and VMT of each commute. Simple visualization tools then help officials understand where to improve infrastructure and how to support employers impacted by a CTR regulation. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, and check out our newest solution for the Colorado ETRP regulation at etrp.co.
About the Author
Andy Keeton is the Data & Product Strategist at Commutifi and the host of the Between the Lines TDM podcast. He’s a member of the Public Policy Committee and on the leadership team for the Employer Council at ACT. He also proudly displays his TDM-CP badge on all his Zoom calls. He’s always happy to discuss anything TDM, travel, or food.
The fresh-start effect and a personal touch are key to influencing a commuter's choices. By combining them and creating new fresh-starts we may be able to break through strong commuting habits and reduce the number of cars on the road.