The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) convened in Atlanta this week for its annual meeting, bringing together transportation professionals from across the U.S., Canada and several other countries. This event was my first opportunity to meet others outside the Atlanta region who work in the same field: “transportation demand management,” or TDM for short.
It’s tough to throw out TDM in casual conversation outside the 2008 ACT International Conference without getting blank stares …
“What do you do for a living?”
“I work in the transportation demand management industry.”
… but TDM is a core concept for The Clean Air Campaign’s efforts to reduce traffic and improve air quality.
What is transportation demand management? TDM is related to the economic principle of supply and demand. It’s the notion that mobility can be improved by making better use of existing transportation infrastructure, instead of just adding more capacity.
Still scratching your head? Think of it this way: If you’ve ever been crawling along in traffic, you’ll agree metro Atlanta’s roadways are in high demand with too many cars competing for a limited supply of navigable space. So there are two possible remedies:
1. Increase the supply of roads by laying down more asphalt.
2. Decrease the demand for use of those roads by promoting alternatives to driving alone, like carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, riding the Xpress Bus, teleworking or even compressing workweeks. Not only do these solutions fight off gridlock, they also help improve air quality, as 50% of all smog-forming emissions come from the tailpipes of cars.
TDM was borne out of the energy crisis of the 1970s, when every motorist wondered if the supply of oil could keep pace with the growing demands of an increasingly mobile nation. TDM provided immediate relief while car companies worked on developing more fuel-efficient vehicles and the government worked to develop more research for alternative energy.
Fast-forward to this decade and it might seem like déjà vu all over again. Nationwide, the question today is whether the supply of oil can keep pace with the simultaneous demands of several growing nations. And in many locales, including Atlanta, the question is how the supply of transportation infrastructure can keep pace with unprecedented demand stemming from population growth.
Fortunately, there is increasing demand for TDM solutions among employers, commuters and municipalities … and there is an increasing supply of bright TDM professionals who came together to share their wisdom at the 2008 ACT International Conference.
To borrow from the ACT Conference’s theme, “the road leads back to you.” So, how are you making smarter use of the transportation options available to you? Do you hop on MARTA to go the airport? Do you carpool to work? Do you walk to do simple errands? Tell us how you’re reducing demand … and your transportation footprint.
Telework holds the promise of improved efficiency for employers -- and improved quality of life for employees -- in metro Atlanta. To many businesses, the concept might seem like it's still light years away. And for some job functions, telework is not an appropriate strategy. But computer technology and quantum leaps in Internet connectivity have put telework programs within reach for a growing number of employers in the region.
Consider the rise of broadband Internet access over the past few years. According to Scarborough Research, 56% of Atlanta households with Internet access now have broadband (DSL or high-speed) connections. That's one of the reasons Forbes magazine recognized Atlanta as the nation's most wired region for telework in each of the past two years.
While more employers are looking into telework as part of a comprehensive workplace strategy -- The Clean Air Campaign presently has 40 active projects with Atlanta employers -- there are some common misperceptions about telework that persist:
1. Employees who telework do so five days a week.
Only rarely are there situations where employees solely telework. For the majority of our employer Partners, their telework programs have employees working remotely just 1-2 days a week. The remaining workdays are spent in the office.
2. If an employer starts a telework program, they must allow all employees to participate.
If telework were considered to be an employee benefit, then everyone would have to be eligible. But The Clean Air Campaign has always promoted telework as a business strategy – and a privilege. As such, the most diligent and capable workers are the ones who should pilot a program.
3. Employees who telework are less productive than their office counterparts.
This concern is common among managers who feel that if they cannot see the work being done, they have fewer assurances their staffers are being productive. Studies show teleworkers are typically 10 to 30 percent more productive because of the reduced number of interruptions encountered, compared to a normal day in the office.
While most employees would jump at the chance to start teleworking, employers have to take time to perform their due diligence and evaluate whether telework makes good business sense in their organization. The Clean Air Campaign stands ready with information and experience gleaned from assisting 80 employers with telework programs, impacting more than 6,000 employees in the past five years.
We’re co-hosting a Lunch and Learn event with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce on September 4 focusing on telework and the Georgia Telework Tax Credit. If you are a manager contemplating telework for your team, register for this event … and post a reply here to let us know what your questions or concerns are about introducing telework into your operation.
Gas prices this year have been a wild ride.
The average price of a gallon of gas in Atlanta rose 33% between January 1 and June 30. And with each painful trip to the pump, our vocabulary was enriched through phrases like "light sweet crude," "E85" and "petroleum reserves" ... and a few words that cannot be repeated here.
Certainly, crossing the $4-a-gallon threshold has motivated people to drive less. Nationwide, June marked the eighth consecutive month that the number of miles driven on our interstates declined. And from May through July, The Clean Air Campaign experienced a 1,800% spike in the number of commuters who currently drive alone who were ready to make the switch (and earn an incentive) compared to the same period last year.
But in August, the price at the pump began to retreat. The marquees at the gas stations have rolled back from $3.99 to $3.69 in the past two weeks. And while we recognize the cost of gas is still hurting our wallets, many commuters are preconditioned to feel like the recent slide in prices is providing significant relief.
How do you feel about gasoline’s wild ride? Is the latest decline causing you to change your commute behavior and drive solo again? Or are you sticking with an alternative mode? Let us know what’s different for you – or what remains the same – in the wake of lower prices at the pump.
Back to school and back to the carpool line. Every year parents wait anxiously in the car to greet their students after the first day back. It’s very tempting to wait with the air conditioning running, especially since we’ve all heard the myth that idling uses less fuel than restarting your car. Actually, idling for 30 seconds wastes more gas than restarting your engine.
And every minute spent idling releases 6.6 pounds of pollution into the air around your child’s school. Pollution from vehicle emissions is especially harmful to children, who are lower to the ground near vehicle tailpipes and breathe on average 50 percent more per pound of body weight than adults. This means their young lungs could be breathing in twice as much pollution.
Not a healthy thought.
Through the Clean Air Schools program, The Clean Air Campaign offers solutions to unhealthy air on school grounds. No idling campaigns, walking school buses and bus ridership empower students to do their part to make the air cleaner and healthier.
Do the programs really work? During the 2007- 2008 school year, 10 Gwinnett County Public Schools participated in a no-idle pilot program and reduced idling on schools grounds by 69 percent, more than double their goal. And thanks to a grant from The UPS Foundation, The Clean Air Campaign will be able to take no idling campaigns to almost 125 schools this coming school year.
Through our longstanding partnership with Mothers & Others for Clean Air, The Clean Air Campaign is supporting greater awareness among school administrators of the health risks that children face when they participate in outdoor physical activities on Smog Alert days.
Do you know if your school system employs no-idling measures? Are students encouraged to form walking school buses or carpool? Let us know how your school keeps the air healthy or blog about getting involved with Clean Air Schools.