Earlier this week I sat in on a very interesting breakfast presentation by Adrian Bell from TransLink on Travel Demand Management, or TDM as its is commonly referred. The aim of TDM is to manage the movement of people to better make use of existing capacity and infrastructure and promote more sustainable choices rather than building new infrastructure primarily to accommodate private vehicles at great cost. As implied in the picture above, its about trying to change peoples mindset from thinking the car is the only available option to better understanding and considering their other options. Read on for some of the key messages I took from the presentation.
In addition to traditional infrastructure based solutions. Adrian is working on ways to adapt our behavior and travel habits to achieve mode shift, and better utilize the available capacity in our overall transportation system such that our growing population can be better accommodated both in terms of efficiency and safety. TDM is not the only solution, but it is a key part in growing our region in a sustainable manner.
TDM can vary from very obvious things such as road pricing, whereby traffic demand is controlled by adding a cost to the car trip, or increasing parking costs at peak times to reduce the desire to take the car to more intangible things such as marketing alternative options and adjusting attitudes. These more intangible things were the focus of Adrian's presentation.
The comparison made with smokers was very interesting. What was once a very fashionable thing to do is now deemed unhealthy and socially unacceptable. People are much more aware now that it is not good for themselves or those around them, and this knowledge has led to reduced numbers and people giving up the habit.
We can look at cars in very much the same way. I think we are just past the point of it being the fashionable must have accessory. People are now realizing that it is often not the best way to get about or at the very least, the cost financially, in terms of time spent in it, and stress while using it are just not worth it. People are starting to better understand the implications and that by driving a car they are all part of a problem with our cities. Many are already looking for alternatives, whether that be living close to transit or living close enough that they can choose to cycle or walk to work. To do that, they may be making compromises in the size of their house to live closer to employment centres, but equally they gain other lifestyle benefits by having more disposable income and amenities nearby. Part of what Adrian and TransLink are trying to do is speed up this understanding through marketing with initiatives such as the Travel Smart program. It will be an never ending and ongoing task.
Marketing is a big part of TDM, and comparison was made with other industries. For any other multi million dollar 'thing' we were trying to sell, there would be a significant budget to promote the sale of that thing. So why when we build bike infrastructure of transit infrastructure do we do so little to promote it to the public.
Marketing can also be used to adjust peoples perceptions. For instance, because of modal stereotypes, you may believe there is an apparent war on the road between "car drivers" and "cyclists". Its terrible that people think this way, but from inside their protective metal bubble, car drivers often just see cyclists as something in their way rather than a fellow human being. What if instead of "car drivers" and "cyclists" it was "a person driving a car" and "person riding his bike". Using appropriate marketing material and different language to make each other seem more human, rather than competing road users. For example, educational material telling drivers this is a person, that has a family, maybe he's your cousin, or your child's teacher, he's not just a "cyclist". Humanizing language should be used in all circumstances, perhaps the word "cyclist" should be banned!
The conclusions from Adrian's presentation include: