July 5, 2016 Tim Colen

Transportation Demand Management Ready to Launch!

Over the last few years, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC) has watched as urban transportation policy planning morphed from a car-centric approach to one that recognizes the environmental challenges actually faced by cities. The goal was to create policies that incorporate transit and alternatives to cars during the project’s planning. The Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program is a new planning strategy that looks at strategies to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) attributable to new projects. VMT is the number of miles driven by car to and from a site. This new direction is something that SFHAC has long supported – it moves us towards better functioning, more livable cities with smaller carbon footprints.

TDM replaces Level Of Service, the old environmental planning tool that examined the negative impacts a new project would have on automobile travel delays and parking availability – clearly not the right approach in dense urban locations! Instead, project sponsors will soon be required to incorporate a variety of features into the project’s design that minimize VMT.   

San Francisco is projected to continue adding a lot of new jobs and housing. As the City densifies, we need to find creative ways to help our growing population move around. The TDM program is designed to give residents multiple transportation options while reducing car use and VMT.

San Francisco Planning Department, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Agency and County Transportation Agency, recently released a draft of the standards for the TDM program. This document provides detailed information on the upcoming TDM ordinance and includes information on how to apply, the TDM menu of options, and what the compliance requirements are. We strongly encourage SFHAC’s members with projects in planning stages to check out this report.

As the Planning Department said in its announcement, “a series of development-focused TDM measures will incentivize sustainable alternatives to driving and discourage people’s usual practice of driving alone in their cars.”

Under the new ordinance, each TDM measure would be worth a certain number of points based on their expected ability to reduce VMT. Each project would have a specific numeric target assigned that must be met by a combination of TDM measures that reduce VMT.

Before submitting a development application, a developer could request assistance from the Planning Department to identify the TDM measures that make the most sense for their specific project and neighborhood. Planning’s website will also publish a document called “TDM Program Standards” and an online project planning tool that tallies points for their selected measures.

Once the TDM measures have been selected, the developer submits his or her choices along with their TDM plan review application. The Planning Department would then work to ensure that the selected measures appropriately meet their VMT targets.

About two months ago, the Planning Department initiated a Planning Code Amendment for the TDM Ordinance. It is scheduled to be voted on for adoption at the Planning Commission on July 14, 2016. Again, anyone with a project undergoing design should become acquainted with the “Draft TDM Standards” document. If you see shortcomings in it or have suggestions, get in touch with the Planning Department’s environmental review staff. You can contact tsp@sfgov.org or check out their webpage, here.

Are you interested in becoming an advocate for more housing in San Francisco? Then become a member! We have options for individuals and businesses of all levels.

Tim Colen

Tim is a Senior Advisor to SFHAC and the former Executive Director. His passions, in no particular order, include urban environmental issues, politics and baseball. A really cool future job would be comparative studies of cities around the world. He can be reached at tim@sfhac.org.

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