Cost savings from educating people on sustainable transportation can now be measured - Mobility Lab

Transportation projects that save the most money – and yield the most return – are the few that get funded. But the quality-of-life improvements from transportation demand management (TDM) programs haven’t always been easy to measure by dollars saved.

That’s why Mobility Lab, a program of Arlington County, Virginia’s Commuter Services Bureau, along with LDA Consulting, and the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida – through a grant from the Federal Highway Administration – have created a pair of calculators for the TDM industry to quantify the return on investment (ROI) in local economies from its strategies.

“These tools can help agencies evaluate options and make the business case for the most effective investments for their transportation dollars,” said Howard Jennings, Mobility Lab’s former director who helped design the calculators.

The calculators are straight-forward, easy-to-use tools that include a package of three reports. TDM professionals, planners, and departments of transportation in any size jurisdiction and region can download them for free. Users enter some basic information about the TDM services they offer and the participation level of those services – such as transit incentives, carpool ride-matching, and bicycling and walking programs, for a few examples. Both calculators also come loaded with data from more than 30 surveys from across the nation that users don’t need to enter because it’s embedded in the background of the tool.

As an example of TDM impacts, the TDM ROI Calculator estimates that in the Arlington County, Virginia, area, up to 45,000 vehicle trips are taken off the roads each workday by people shifting from driving alone to other modes of travel. That’s 900,000 vehicle miles traveled.

Those eliminated trips result in approximately $75 million per year in congestion relief, road construction deferred, noise and air pollution avoided, fuel saved, and crashes avoided. This comes out to every $1 invested in Arlington’s TDM programs yielding up to $9 in return on investment.

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