Neighborhood Based TDM

My idea is to develop internally-funded, neighborhood-based Transportation Demand Management programs. Portland State University and OHSU have shown us the way. Both institutions collect parking revenues from those who drive into their “neighborhood” and recycle these funds to reduce parking demand. They do this by:

  • Subsidizing transit
  • Investing in bicycle infrastructure
  • Subsidizing car sharing for non-SOV commuters

Any employee who gives up their parking space at PSU or OHSU gets a free transit pass and/or a safe place to park their bike, and free daytime use of Flexcar. Why play Robin Hood? Because it saves everyone money – even those who drive to work and pay to park. PSU and OHSU avoid building more structured parking, which costs anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 per space, and continually drives up everyone’s parking fees. In other words, it’s cheaper to subsidize alternatives than it is to accommodate more cars with new parking structures.

For PSU, at least, this approach has worked incredibly well. According to Dan Zalkow, PSU’s Transportation and Parking Manager, since the year 2000 PSU’s campus population has grown by 7,000 people (42%) and its classroom and office space has increased by 1 million square feet, but the campus has added fewer than 350 new parking spaces. Why? More people 42% (vs. 35% previously) are riding transit and bikes, and since daytime Flexcar use is free for non-SOV commuters, there’s no longer any need to drive to campus.

My question to the Portland Transport readership is simple: how about trying this on a neighborhood scale?

11 responses to “Neighborhood Based TDM”

  1. I like the concept Steve outlines…but the devil is in the details. For instance:

    OHSU employees do not get “a safe place to park their bike” if they give up their car. A recent survey conducted among OHSU cycling commuters found that 25% store their bikes in offices, restrooms, hallways, etc in defiance of official policy due to fear of theft. Many respondents said they are discouraged from riding to work due to poor bike parking. OHSU has only one locked bike room – with capacity for about 20 bikes. First come, first serve. (9,000 employees plus/minus per shift up on the Hill). The room is filled to capacity almost every day of the year. A few more lockers at the Nursing school are available by highly competitive lottery. You must compete every quarter to get one. Demand far outstrips supply. All other cyclists take their chances on OHSU’s highly unsecure garage parking.

    There have been 4 documented bike thefts at OHSU since June 1. Vandalism and/or theft by partial disassembly is not uncommon.

    Why does OHSU, supposedly the state leader in public health research and promotion, passively discourage its own staff from riding by providing such lousy bike parking? How many millions and millions of dollars have they spent accomodating SOV travel with parking garages?

    This is just one small example of how much easier it is for institutions to talk the talk than to walk the walk. The sad thing is that for .0001% of what OHSU has spent on parking garages for cars they could have world class bike parking for all employees who wanted it. They just can’t summon the managerial will to do it as long as slogans stay cheaper.

    For the record – PSU may be even worse, but I don’t have details at the moment.

  2. One place to start would be with the schools.

    Central Catholic creates huge problems for the neighborhood around it with parking for both faculty and staff, as well as traffic. They ought to include a bus pass for every student as a part of their tuition and have students organize a TDM program to promote use of active transportation and transit by their fellow students and faculty.

  3. Ross, it sure is a pity that Portland Public Schools is closing neighborhood schools; it’s going to be a lot harder for kids to walk and bike to school if they’re having to travel halfway across town and cross multiple busy streets instead of being able to stay within their neighborhoods.

    PPS’ decisions will lead to more traffic problems around schools, and more children being chauffeured individually by parents. Nationally, we’re already seeing that 20% of rush hour traffic is parents driving children to school. The kind of TDM programs we’re talking about can only go so far to mitigate the damage.

    School siting and consolidation is such a key transportation issue (or, in terms of how it’s playing out now, problem), yet decisions aren’t being made in collaboration with land-use and transportation plans.

    What can we do to address this problem? Is there a legislative solution that could work? Is there some kind of key connection at the city level between PDOT and PPS that could be forged? What are the hidden costs involved in closing and consolidating schools, and how can we integrate those costs into the decision-making process? Have any other communities come up with approaches that work to address this issue?

  4. Jessica.

    I agree its a pity. And I think part of the problem with the Portland Public Schools
    decision on closing schools relates to how that decision was made.

    Vickie Phillips may have made the correct decision from the point of view of a professional educator trying to figure out the best way of providing educational services within a limited budget. But that is ultimately too narrow a view. The best decisions require considering the wide range of experiences that only come from a broad public process.

    I agree transportation issues are a part of that decision that needed to be carefully considered. Whether the public health and other issues raised by forcing kids to be driven to school would have changed the decision I don’t know. But it doesn’t seem to me they were really even part of the discussion. They should have been.

  5. We charge the School Board with generating educational attainment. We don’t charge them with building communities. Perhaps the City should assume responsibility for school facilities and just let the School Board run the staffing and curiculum. Then the City can make the trade off on whether a small population in a given building has a benefit over consolidating with another facility.

  6. Question: how many “Flexcars” are there in the city and who manages the system and who paid for these?
    If Transit on Demand is to be the “big” thing then why not open the transit marketplace to more service providers be they taxis, ride sharing cabs,
    private bus companies, jitneys, or maybe something we have not thought of?

  7. Flexcar is a private for-profit company. I don’t have a count of the number of vehicles, but here’s a listing page. (Steve, are you lurking out there with more info.)

    I believe there was a jitney trial out in Beaverton a few years ago, but I didn’t hear the results.

  8. Chris Smith asked about the “jitney” trial in Beaverton a few years ago.

    This was not really a jitney service although it pretended to be one. Tri-Met officials tried to reinvent a nearly 90-year-old idea as if it was new and patted themselves on the back too hard.

    The service involved using a van or similar vehicle to handle multiple fares. Its resemblance to jitneys ended right there.

    Tri-Met contracted with Sassy Cab, a Milwaukie-based company that in the late 90s had been granted permission to join the taxi cartel operating within Portland. This contract made the cost of each ride expensive for the taxpayers, but reasonable for the passengers.

    One had to call for a ride the day before it
    was needed.

    A jitney service would be, say, an owner-operated
    vehicle (with no parent company to contract with)
    with the driver free to operate only in parts of the city he wishes to operate in. For example, a retired gentleman could use his vehicle as a jitney and start to build a customer base of assorted car-less people, probably senior citizens and other people who have neither the time nor the ability to walk distances. These patrons may wish to use these jitneys for rides to and from the supermarket, the doctor, to friends’ homes, to Wednesday bingo, whatever.
    The patrons in this scenario (based on actual service existing in Detroit) get to know some drivers and use them over and over again, and drivers get to know patrons they can trust as well.

    In Detroit, seniors call up their favorite jitney driver and then get transported to the market and back, with the driver waiting in the lot and helping with the bags. Cost of the rides were about $2 to $4 in the late 90s, and that when a similar ride in a Portland taxi would be about $20 (and that one-way).

    In Portland, I’d like to see something like, say, a group of retired and semi-retired gentlemen start their own jitney services, with one example being some who operate solely in the St Johns and
    Kenton areas. Patrons will as usual get door to door service, on demand. Occasional longer rides could of course be made. The problem with taxi laws here and in most cities when these laws were implemented, is that the taxi service (almost always a company) *must* serve the entire city. And provide 24/7 service even though the government transit service doesn’t have to. This
    requirement to serve the entire city is mandated under the guise of protection of patrons, or equal service or something, but it is unreasonable to demand it of every single potential taxi-like service that a city might have. All this does is limit the service available, but then that’s the idea.

    Jitney-like service can fill a void and meet a demand that no planner can predict and manage.
    There are niche routes, niche services. These have been outlawed in most cities for many years.

    By the way, the jitney that have been operating in Detroit have been illegal for many. many years, yet the city government of this Democratic, working class city refuses to do anything about them. That’s because there are no complaints, and because the patrons make it known that they want jitneys to remain.

    If this sounds like something that could work here (and of course it can), then we’ll never get there until it’s allowed to exist. It will take time for driver-patron relationships to develop, but we’ll never get there by refusing to allow this service to exist.

    When I was at a neighborhood meeting in Cedar Mill (where the alleged jitney service was operating) when this trial period was under way, I passed out articles about the Detroit service to the eight or so people who were there to ask that the jitney service remain. All of them, and I do mean all of them, were surprised to find out that individual owner-operators were not allowed to provide jitney services such as that done in Detroit. This is an example of the disconnect between the rule makers and the people. The people may read that “the market” doesn’t provide this or that, but the people rarely realize that the service in question is outlawed.

    Bob Tiernan

  9. Flexcar is a private, for-profit company with more than 30,000 members and roughly 350+ vehicles nationwide. I’m preparing a posting explaining the service in detail, but for now, here are the high points:

    – paired with a bus pass and/or a bike, Flexcar is an inexpensive alternative to owning a personal vehicle.

    – over 150 private business also use Flexcar in lieu of owning & operating fleet cars. Why? It’s way cheaper, since we spread the cost of ownership across many, many users, and our rolling stock is far better utilized than most company-owned fleet cars.

    – Flexcar is membership based ($75 to join; $40 recurring annual fee; must meet eligibility requirements, including a reasonable driving history)

    – Flexcar is fully automated (online or touch tone reservations); “keycard” (proximity card) access; PIN-activated ignition

    – the cost is almost entirely incremental (vehicles can be hired by the hour or by the day; $7-9 per hour; $35-$85 per day). Pricing includes FULL INSURANCE, gas, maintenance, cleaning, and unlimited miles.

    – Flexcar’s locations are decentralized (85 current locations in PDX; another 250-ish in other cities). There’s a single car (occasionally 2) at each location. Usually there’s a local network allowing members to use any of several vehicles within walking distance.

    – Flexcar is convenient: there are cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs in the fleet. An onboard computer eliminates all paperwork by capturing the member’s ID and usage, which is transmitted wirelessly to a central database, which generates a monthly invoice similar to a phonebill. The invoice is itemized and very detailed — one line per trip.

    – members can use our vehicles in 5 metropolitan areas: Seattle, Washington DC, LA, San Diego and Portland.

    – the carsharing industry and Flexcar are both growing rapidly; Flexcar’s membership and revenue nearly double every year.

    Most members commute by bike, carpool, foot or transit, and supplement with Flexcar. They typically drive about 70% fewer vehicle miles than when they owned a car. Why? The incremental pricing encourages very judicious driving, and shifts most trips to other, less expensive (and “greener”) modes like bikes, walking and public transit.

    (I guess that’s a pretty full explanation…! I’ll probably clean up, copy and post something similar to the blog in the next few days).

  10. Steve thanks for the info on Flexcar. I notice that they are parked on the streets next to the Metro building and at New Seasons off of Division.
    How much does the city charge them to park each month and who stripped the location? Are these location available for other uses, or are they specific for Flexcar?
    Michael Wilson

  11. The City has an interim agreement with Flexcar which allows them to use the spaces without charge (the City has to approve and stripe each space). If there were a competing company, they would probably get the same terms.

    The City is likely to eventually start charging. The policy rationale (which my neighborhood supported) for not charging right now is that:

    1) Flexcar is still in startup mode and needs to become established.
    2) The service represents a public good because it reduces car ownership in the vicinity, reducing pressure on scarce on-street parking.

    For example, in the case of my family, we added a 3rd driver (my 17-year-old stepson), but did not add a 3rd car. On the few occasions when I need a car and one of the two family cars is not available, I rent a Flexcar.

    It’s also great to be able to rent a specialty vehicle. Last weekend I needed to haul some old patio furniture to the waste transfer station (it was too far gone even for Goodwill) and I was able to rent a pickup from Flexcar for a couple of hours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *