What is TDM?
A solution that moves all people
Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is the use of strategies to inform and encourage travelers to maximize the efficiency of our transportation systems leading to improved mobility, reduced congestion, and lower vehicle emissions.
TDM aims to provide all people with real transportation options that enable them to travel from their location to a destination in an affordable, efficient, and sustainable way.
TDM strategies have been shown to be a cost effective means of meeting key policy objectives. One study of projects funded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program concluded that TDM measures were among the most cost effective in reducing automobile emissions. The analysis showed that as a group, traffic flow projects received 33% of all funds, but resulted in a cost per pound of emissions reduced of $42.70. Rideshare programs accounted for only 4% of all funds, yet reduced a pound of emissions for $10.25. Likewise, miscellaneous TDM programs accounted for 3% of all CMAQ funds but reduced a pound of emissions for $7.66.1
Effective TDM strategies include:
Access to the Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit (i.e. pre-tax purchasing, subsidies)
Cash incentives and gamification
Appropriate pricing of parking, tolls, transit, and other options
Carpooling and vanpooling
Trip planning & Ridematching
State and local TDM ordinances, commute trip reduction laws or other similar regulations
Parking management and pricing
Use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes
Promotion and support of telecommuting, remote & hybrid work schedules
Marketing, outreach, and education to inform people about options and shift behavior
Investment and support of bicycle & pedestrian infrastructure
Real Transportation Options for all People
TDM programs and policies aim to provide all people with a mix of reliable and affordable transportation options. Supported with effective marketing and advanced technologies, individuals can make informed choices to meet each trips unique needs, while considering cost, time, and convenience.
Efficiency within our Transportation Systems
To work well, a transportation system must bring together and support all transportation options within a neighborhood, district, region, or state. Effective TDM programs help ensure that an individual is able to bike/walk to the bus, connect to the subway, and complete their trip on their employer provided shuttle; or that an employee is able to drive to their park & ride facility to join their vanpool into the city and complete their trip on foot.
Reduced Traffic Congestion
With even a small reduction in the number of single occupancy vehicles on our nation’s roads, communities can see significant reductions in congestion. TDM supports the most efficient use of our existing infrastructure by increasing per person throughput and allowing more people to use our limited and often stretched infrastructure.
Improved Climate, Health and Safety
With reduced reliance on personal vehicles, our communities will see reduced greenhouse gas emissions leading to cleaner air and direct improvements in public health. TDM has been identified as a key lever to reduce carbon emissions within the National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization. ACT has released a call to action outlining opportunities for Congress, US DOT, and states to implement TDM in these efforts.
TDM initiatives that encourage mode shift from single occupancy vehicles, support increased levels of walking and cycling, and support the development of complete street, enhance overall quality of life; and more people on our streets and sidewalks will create safer neighborhoods.
Access to Jobs & Supporting Economic Activity
With more transportation options and the ability to telecommute, people will have better and more reliable access to jobs. Businesses will see increased productivity from employees who spend less time stuck in traffic; and products will move quicker to market.
Public & Private Sector Involvement in TDM
At the Federal level, transportation authorization sets the tone and provides the financial resources to implement TDM at the state and local level. Commuter benefits are established by Congress and are an impactful tool to incentivize mode shift through the employer.
The Federal government, recognizing the connection between transportation and climate, has noted the importance of implementing TDM strategies to decarbonize our transportation systems. In January 2023, US DOT, DOE, and HUD released the National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization which recommends the use of TDM strategies, policies, and regulations to increase the efficiency of our transportation systems.
State Departments of Transportation, play an important role in supporting and implementing TDM as part of their efforts to deliver safe, reliable, resilient, and efficient transportation. State DOTs should look to incorporate TDM into their long-range statewide transportation plan, which develops a 20-year vision for how the transportation system will meet the state’s economic, transportation, development, and sustainability goals.
States can implement TDM policies like Washington's Commute Trip Reduction Law or the recently passed Alternative Transportation Options Tax Credit in Colorado to encourage more efficient use of our transportation infrastructure through increased use of sustainable transportation options; leading to reduced traffic congestion, improved air quality, and smoother movement of goods.
States invest in TDM strategies to also prolong the lifespan of infrastructure, reduce the need to build large and costly expansion projects, improve the resiliency of communities, and leverage private sector investments in transportation.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Regional Governments
MPOs and other regional governing bodies like regional planning organizations and councils of government play a key role in TDM. A transportation system is often times greater in scale than a single municipality and the impacts of carbon emissions and congestion impact the broader region. MPOs are federally mandated entities that are empowered to develop transportation plans and allocate transportation funding, including funding to support the implementation of TDM within the regions and communities they bring together.
The North Front Range MPO in Colorado adopted a TDM Action Plan in 2022, to guide their regions TDM initiatives and coordinate efforts between public and private sector partners. The Atlanta Regional Commission's Atlanta Regional TDM Plan, a long-range plan that will define a strategic framework for developing and integrating TDM strategies into planning, project development and system operations investment decision-making. It is intended to build off The Atlanta Region’s Plan and provide input into the update of future regional plans and programs.
Cities and towns have great motivation to support the use of TDM within their communities, to ensure that all people are able to move from place to place through a range of flexible transportation options, without creating traffic, air-pollution, and wasting money - creating an increased quality of life for all.
Developer requirements are the most commonly used approach by local governments to encourage the use of TDM strategies within their jurisdiction. These requirements aim to mitigate the potential impacts of the development on the surrounding transportation system and may include investments in Transportation Management Associations like the City of Boston's Transportation Access Plan Agreements, require trip reduction plans like the City of Santa Monica's TDM Ordinance.
Local governments can also influence the provision of TDM strategies through employers through local ordinances like the City of San Francisco's Commuter Benefits Law or Washington, DC's Parking Cashout Law.
Transportation Management Associations/Organizations (TMAs/TMOs)
TMAs/TMOs and other similar non-governmental organizations serve as important providers and aggregators of TDM services within the communities they serve. They are most often a membership based, public-private partnership of businesses, institutions & municipalities that are joined together under a formal agreement for the purpose of providing and promoting transportation options for commuters that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.2
They can aggregate the provision of services, coordinating local employers, in efforts to achieve goals within state & local TDM plans, regulations, ordinances, and laws.
When committed, employers, whether they be Fortune 500 companies, institutions of higher education, or a small family-owned business, can have great influence over the mode choice of their employees. Organizational leadership can establish the corporate culture that makes the use of sustainable transportation options the desired mode of choice.
Employers provide the menu of commuter benefits – including, transit passes, shuttles, EV infrastructure, and even incentives to purchase electric vehicles including bikes. Provision of the Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit program (IRS Sec. 132f) allows most employers to provide transit and vanpool "commuter" benefits on a tax free basis.
TDM Research, Reports, and Studies
- FHWA-HOP-12-035, Transportation Research Board. The Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Program: Assessing Ten Years of Experience. Special Report 264. National Academies, 2002
- MassCommute - The Massachusetts Coalition of TMAs. http://www.masscommute.com/what-is-a-tmatmo/