Q&A with Tien-Tien Chan, TDM Program Manager for the City of Austin

The City of Austin is ramping up its efforts to implement Transportation Demand Management, or TDM. While the particulars of TDM can vary from city to city, it is essentially a way of helping more people use existing infrastructure for options like transit, walking, ridesharing, bicycling or telework, instead of building new roads. It also helps cities guide new transportation design so that alternatives to driving are more balanced and easy to use. That’s where Tien-Tien Chan, Austin’s TDM Program Manager, comes in. We sat down to talk with her about what TDM in Austin can look like, and how it can help people get around.

Q: How is TDM policy and planning different in Austin than in other cities?

A: The City of Austin is still in its early phases in focusing on TDM policy and planning. There has been a traditional emphasis on infrastructure solutions but that has been shifting over the years. We are understanding that we cannot build our way out of congestion any more.

Q: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities around making TDM work in Austin?

A: A big challenge we have here in Austin is that the City has been predominately a car-centric culture.  We’ve prioritized the vehicle by investing in roadway infrastructure, using vehicle throughput as a measure of success, and providing abundant free parking. This is also the reason why there are so many opportunities in Austin.  Implementing new TDM strategies in Austin will have a lasting impact – updating parking requirements and adding TDM requirements to our land development code (CodeNEXT), implementing neighborhood focused education campaigns (Smart Trips Austin), partnering with the Mayor on the Mobility Challenge to reach a 20% sustainable mode split by year 2020, and expanding the reach of Movability Austin are just some of the things to look forward to.

Q: What mobility option or trend are you most excited about when you think about the next few years in Austin?

A: This is a boring answer but I’m excited to see a rebound in carpooling and vanpooling. Especially in a City like Austin that has a more suburban land use pattern and only one rail line, carpooling and vanpooling are key solutions. It’s been great to see the increase in vanpool participants with the CapMetro program and seeing participants of the Mobility Challenge explore those options. Having a vanpool-like service like Chariot recently come into Austin is also very exciting.

Q: You lived car-free in Austin for a while – what are your pro tips for making that work?

A: Make a sustainable housing choice – live somewhere that is close to work, where amenities are accessible via transit/bike/walking.

Choose a job that supports sustainable commuting – this is an employee benefit and employers that want to attract and retain talent get it. The City of Austin provides free transit passes, provides free b-cycle memberships, subsidizes vanpooling, and has teleworking and flex schedule options.

Crunch the numbers – I always have to remind myself that I am saving a lot of money on gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, etc.  On average, I would have to spend over $60 a week on transportation to make it more expensive to be carless. So I don’t need to be so hard on myself to always bike, walk, or take transit everywhere.  It’s okay to splurge on a RideAustin (or other TNC). It’s okay to rent a car for the weekend from Zipcar (or other car rental agencies).

Make it easy on yourself – I have a membership to Austin B-cycle, Zipcar, and Car2Go. I have RideAustin, Fare, and Fasten all downloaded on my phone.  At any time – I have multiple options to get to my destination. Instacart (a grocery delivery service) has also been a life-saver.

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