What We Did Over the Summer

The annual Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) conference is always one the Movability Austin team looks forward to. It’s a great way to share ideas and learn more about what other cities, organizations, and employers are doing to combat mobility problems. This year was no exception, and our Program Managers Alix Scarborough and Thomas Butler attended the conference in New Orleans. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Econ 101

Nelson Nygaard’s Principal and Director of Strategy, Jeff Tumlin, reminded attendees to remember Economics 101 when working to change the transportation landscape. Tumlin said that there’s a very big economic factor to transportation – after all, personal mobility is incredibly inefficient. Privately owned cars are only used about 5% of the day, and sit taking up space for the other 95%. Yet commuters tend to habitually choose driving alone at peak rush hours rather than using options – and consequently pay a price of wasted time. Rather than urging commuters to change their habits based on ideology like “I’m better than you for riding my bike or taking the bus,” Tumlin urged mobility leaders to make a case based on efficiency and geometry – people traveling alone by car take up 10 times more space than needed for other modes of transportation, space that’s increasingly valuable in our cities. Do we really want to give it all over to cars?

  • The Role of Parking

Free, plentiful parking will always make it easy for commuters to stick with ingrained, drive-alone habits. But many employers are facing parking pinches. So how to incentivize other commute options? Employers like Google and the City of Austin spoke about incentivizing alternative commutes. Google provides preferred parking spaces for electric vehicle carpoolers and provides shuttles and bike facilities. The City of Austin’s Tien Tien Chan talked about its success in encouraging friendly competition among departments when it comes to alternative commutes and Smart Commute Rewards, which gives City employees vacation time for using mobility options.

  • What Changes Technology Will Bring

There’s no doubt that with autonomous vehicles now hitting the roads, technology will reshape transportation. But there’s not yet consensus on just how it will change. A road filled with individuals in self-driving cars will not improve any of the challenges we currently face, like congestion and pollution. But leaders in TDM can be proactive about shaping an autonomous future with shared, electric cars that in turn leave more space for people in our central cities.

Some experts believe there will be a reduction in parking demand of about 80% if people shift from private car ownership to hailing autonomous vehicles. That could have big implications for our downtown spaces – think more space for walking and increased economic vitality – but only if we are proactive about how to put this technology to use.

Photo by Alix Scarborough

Comments are closed.