Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tacoma Set to Strengthen Commute Alternatives Push

Continuing growth in downtown Tacoma requires creative new strategies, including Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) as a means to better manage parking demand and build market share for commute alternatives. A big push to encourage downtown workers to leave more of their cars at home is being planned for 2008.

Statewide, CTR programs--mandated for major employers (i.e., those with 100+ at a worksite)--remove approximately 20,000 vehicles from roadways every morning, reduce air pollution by 3,200 tons every year, and save 6.5 million gallons of petroleum annually. More than 1,100 worksites participate in programs. These companies encourage employees to find alternatives to driving alone, such as working from home, using an alternative work schedule, vanpooling, riding the bus, walking or riding a bicycle.

By 2020, Tacoma’s downtown area is expected to add 11,600 jobs (Puget Sound Regional Council estimate). Given current commute patterns, accommodating this growth will require creation of more than 11,000 new parking stalls (at a cost of more than $200 million); increasing transit use by 4% over the same period will save Tacoma more than $9 million.

As the City of Tacoma moves forward on parking & transit recommendations made by the City Manager--as well as the ongoing work of the Transit & Parking Advisory Committee--commute trip reduction efforts are essential to managing demand for parking and increasing mobility. CTR offers other benefits, including:
  • Increased ability to strategically address new regulations from the state and federal levels (i.e., new, higher attainment standards for clean air);
  • Building stakeholder support for new technologies and funding methods (e.g., pay stations);
  • Allowing support for new development without raiding the general fund to build more parking structures;
  • Helping to conserve road surfaces, parking spaces and fuel resources;
  • Improving competitiveness versus other downtowns in the Northwest;
  • Providing a foundation for introduction of new services (e.g., Flexcar);
  • Reducing emission of greenhouse gases to help forestall global warming;
  • Giving downtown workers the precious gift of more time and a better quality of life.

The City of Tacoma already sponsors a CTR program that includes transit and vanpool subsidies which employers can offer as an employee benefit. Another outgrowth of the City's program has been development of a Growth Transportation Efficiency Center (GTEC) plan for downtown to further reduce solo commute trips. Recently, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) approved $300,000 to fund implementation of the plan, which will focus on University of Washington Tacoma students and faculty, new residential development in the north end of downtown, and smaller clustered employers.

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