Last week, my co-workers and I joined several hundred other TDM (transportation demand management) professionals at the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) International Conference in Savannah, Georgia. As a first time attendee, it was great to hear about the different programs carried out by agencies and organizations from all over the country that, similar to ATP, work to reduce rates of commuters driving alone and encourage other transportation options. I also enjoyed learning more about ACT as an organization, which has nearly 700 members that come from local governments, consulting firms, and non-profits, among others, that aim to reduce traffic congestion and ultimately improve the quality of life for urban, suburban, and rural residents.
There were a wide variety of sessions that we could attend over the three day conference that featured speakers on topics such as bike sharing, federal transportation policy, public health and TDM, as well as marketing and communications strategies. I especially liked hearing about the different technologies and tools such as tracking programs, real-time data, and social media platforms that are being implemented in places like Los Angeles and North Carolina. The presentations highlighted the success of these programs in being able to incentivize employers to offer transit benefits and encourage commuters to switch to other modes of transportation. It was also interesting to hear a different side of TDM during the presentation on Idaho’s “I-Way” program, which coordinates different transportation modes throughout the entire state, making it easier for residents and workers to get around a predominantly rural region. Finally, I found it informative listening to the details and results of San Francisco’s Commuter Benefits Ordinance, which requires employers in the city with over 20 employees to offer a pre-tax transit benefit, a transit subsidy, or provide a shuttle service. 40% of employers offering commuter benefits have done so because of the ordinance, significantly increasing the number of employees taking transit or other forms of transportation to work.
My favorite part of the conference was hearing keynote speaker Dr. Richard Jackson from UCLA speak about the growing impact that urban planning and transportation has on public health. It was remarkable but unsurprising to hear about how much our dependence on cars over the past fifty years has contributed to a variety of health problems, most notably the obesity epidemic, as well as issues like depression and growing rates of asthma in children. While statistics such as 53% fewer children bike to school today than they did 30 years ago can be disheartening, Dr. Jackson’s presentation reminded us all of how important our industry is to improving public health and making communities better places to live and work.
Overall, I had a wonderful time in Savannah, and it was exciting to meet so many other people who are passionate about the same thing. It’s great to be a part of the TDM industry, and here at ATP we try to incorporate new strategies and programs that we’ve learned to make sure those living and working in Arlington have the most current transportation resources, making it easy to get around the county and DC area.