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Our Takeaways from the Bay Area TDM Summit 2023

Our Takeaways from the Bay Area TDM Summit 2023

ACT brought together sustainable transportation experts from across disciplines. Here were some of our key learnings.

Ruth Miller
September 26, 2023

This past week, I attended ACT’s (sold out!) Bay Area TDM Summit in San Francisco. Here are a few of my highlights from the event.

Explain those acronyms

Transportation Demand Management is all about making it easier for people to get around without a car. The term dates back to the 1970s, when the gas crisis first forced people to imagine moving around the world without endlessly cheap fuel. As climate change is now forcing us to take action on carbon, and private automobile use makes up an enormous portion of emissions, more people and organizations are taking a closer look at TDM. 

The Association for Commuter Transportation is a group of individuals who provide, plan, regulate, and use transportation, who are all committed to making these transportation systems more sustainable and efficient. ACT is a great advocate for TDM, maintaining a platform for sharing questions and best practices. Jawnt is a proud member of ACT.

Advancing Equity

Equity was a common theme throughout the event. California’s Secretary of Transportation, Toks Omishakin, kicked the day off with data showing how far California has come, but how much further it needs to go, and how badly we need to ensure that these positive changes benefit our whole community.

“We need to change how we calculate our bottom line to fully weigh safety, equity, climate action, and economic prosperity… we are moving from being symbolic to being systemic.” - Toks Omishakin, California Secretary of Transportation
Toks Omishakin via CalSTA

This was followed by a panel discussion about equity in practice. John Ford, Executive Director of, introduced their program to distribute free monthly passes to Caltrain riders. His team distributed 700 passes in the first year of their pilot, working through 16 community benefit organizations. It’s an admirable project and similar to the 25,000 passes being distributed by the City of Philadelphia’s Zero Fare Program, which Jawnt is supporting.

The panel also discussed how even choosing the kinds of trips we focus on is an equity issue. Our transportation networks prioritizes commutes as the result of gender bias. When we schedule more trains at rush hour, and the tracks connect the suburbs to the city center, we’ve prioritized getting people to and from work over getting people to schools, appointments, and stores. This kind of neighborhood travel is more likely to involve multiple short trips chained together (“trip chaining”), and is more likely to be undertaken by women and people of color.

“Women still hold the majority of trips, and trip chaining is less supported by traditional transit.” - Clarissa Cabansagan, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition 
Clarissa Cabansagan via SVBC

Electric cargo bikes are an example of how we can help families move more efficiently, and several cities are redesigning their bus networks with similar goals in mind. I want to know how we can ensure these kinds of chained local trips are affordable, too.

Distributing Mobility

Fewer people are commuting these days, but those miles still matter. For the time being, when we look to implement TDM policies and reduce miles driven, we’ll continue to look to commuters. Pre-Covid, many employers considered it sufficient to facilitate carpooling and promote transit. Whether or not that was ever really sufficient, it’s clear now that we need to do more.

The new paradigm is about more than telling commuters to leave their cars at home, but actually making it easier to do that. Imagine that you work in a remote and isolated office park. Sure, you could take a bus or bike there, but what if you’re tired of the cafeteria and want to leave for lunch? Or what if you need to run some errands? Enter mobile vendors. Office managers throughout the Bay Area are bringing in rotations of food trucks to keep people from needing to drive during the day. The mobile service industry is also blooming. Book a haircut, optometrist exam, or pick up your dry cleaning inside a modern mobile office.

What about all the employers that are too small to bring in a whole mobile optometry unit? To ensure that these small businesses and their employees don’t get left behind, the Bay Area is building out public Mobility Hubs. If people are already going to have to wait for a train, how can we make that time more productive? Several hubs around the Bay have installed package pickup/dropoff sites, gyms, small restaurants, and even pickleball courts!

Photo by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates

Evolving commutes

Many of the speakers throughout the event spoke about cutting edge programs that hadn’t been tried before and were upending the politically possible. Planners from BART and MTC (the regional transportation agency) presented their promising findings from phase 1 of BayPass, an unlimited regional transit pass pilot. Many celebrated the recent passage of the landmark California SB 253, which just landed on Governor Newsom’s desk and would hold large employers responsible for the carbon emissions of their commuting employees. Others called for looking towards Europe for more effective models of employer transit participation and subsidy. 

Rachel Hiatt, Deputy Director of Planning of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, said it perfectly:

“Commuters’ needs have evolved, and we need to offer more than a commute check.”

Jawnt couldn’t agree more.

Coming soon

Jawnt will be attending the next ACT event, which is the annual TDM Forum this November. If you’d like to learn more about Jawnt, reach out to us at!


Blog hero image via Alfred Twu

Ruth Miller

The Jawnt blog

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