It’s no secret that San Francisco is growing. The California city is projected to add some 190,000 jobs and 100,000 homes by 2040 – which means massive congestion.
To brace themselves, the city is requiring that new construction build fewer parking spaces, or else encourage alternatives to solo car trips, by using a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) points system.
For an eligible building, the number of parking spaces is cross-indexed against building type—retail, office, residential or other—to create a target number of points. Having more parking spaces mandates more TDM measures. For instance, a residential building with five or fewer spaces must provide 10 points worth of TDM measures, while one with 16 to 20 spaces must provide 13 points of such measures.
Points can be earned by subsidizing transit or bikeshare; improving walking conditions; adding biking facilities; providing car share membership; adding van pools, shuttles, or car sharing; unbundling parking; adding on-site affordable housing; and a few other measures. So, for instance, bicycle parking can be worth 1 to 4 points.
This isn’t the first program to “gamify” TDM: Arlington Transportation Partners has used the Champions program to successfully encourage Arlington organizations to adopt TDM practices, like biking and carsharing.
But San Francisco’s incentive system is the first mandatory one. “This is actually a regulatory program,” said Corey Teague, Assistant Zoning Administrator of the San Francisco Planning Department. In other words, the city has mandated certain standards that eligible buildings must meet.
However, “project sponsors or property owners get to choose how they meet their requirements,” said Audrey Harris, Transportation Demand Management Performance Manager of the San Francisco Planning Department. Buildings can design an individual plan based on circumstances and preferences.
For the TDM program to apply, a new construction must have at least 10 dwelling units or bedrooms if it’s residential or 10,000 square feet if it’s non-residential. In addition, buildings that change use—say, from a warehouse to an office building—must follow the TDM program if they occupy at least 25,000 square feet.
Because the plan only came into effect recently—it is “a year young,” said Harris—the monitoring process has just begun and it is too early to draw conclusions about its effectiveness.
Therefore, San Francisco will be closely following up, gathering data, to learn as much as possible about best practices. “One of the great things about this program,” said Teague, is that “as more and more projects come online” the city will gather data and analysis to answer what “is most effective and why.” Measures then can be improved, and data concerning best practices can be shared.
Direct measurements, for instance of bicycle trips caused by specific building plans, are difficult. Therefore, monitoring will depend largely on intercept surveys, where researchers “stop people as they’re coming in and out of specific buildings, and you actually ask them,” said Teague. Other potential methods being discussed include special surveys and travel journals.
Monitoring and measuring are crucial not only for improving the program in San Francisco but in demonstrating its viability elsewhere. San Francisco’s plan differs from other cities that use voluntary measures, often in conjunction with employers. Might this be the beginning of a new standard practice?
“We definitely have received a lot of feedback from other municipalities, other jurisdictions who have a lot of interest in the program,” said Teague. The new plan may thus be the start of a trend that gets more out of public transit, biking, and walkability, making for healthier, happier cities.
Read more of our coverage of San Francisco’s TDM efforts over the years.
Photo by Miriam Miro.