SHIFT: Transportation Demand Management FAQs

What is transportation demand management?
Transportation demand management (TDM) describes policies, programs, or resources that support and incentivize sustainable travel choices like walking, biking, taking transit, or carpooling. TDM is an important strategy to minimize traffic while ensuring that people can get where they need to go. TDM also delivers environmental benefits (lower emissions) and health benefits (reduced risk of injury and collision, increased active transportation).   

What is the TDM Program?
The TDM Ordinance creates a TDM Program for new development in San Francisco. This program requires land use development projects to incorporate TDM amenities into their project to support residents, workers, and visitors in making trips by sustainable modes. The goal of this program is to reduce driving trips (or, vehicle miles traveled) associated with new development.

How does this program fit in with San Francisco’s Transportation Sustainability Program?
San Francisco is growing at a tremendous pace. About 10,000 new people arrive each year. The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that the City will add as many as 190,000 jobs and 100,000 homes by 2040. If all of these new people try to get around by car, our streets will be gridlocked. That’s not sustainable.

The Transportation Sustainability Program (TSP) has been a multi-year, multi-agency effort to improve our transportation system as the City accommodates new growth.  The TSP has three components, two of which have already been put into place:

  1. In November 2015, the Board of Supervisors adopted a Transportation Sustainability Fee, which collects funds from new development to invest in transit and safer streets.
  2. In March 2016, the Planning Commission replaced level of service analysis (LOS), with analysis that looks at vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Instead of counting car throughputs at already congested intersections, the City is evaluating the more meaningful metric of how much new driving a project generates. This is consistent with state policy and a better standard of environmental review.
  3. In February 2017, the Board of Supervisors adopted a TDM Program for new development. The TDM Program requires developers to provide on-site amenities or services that support sustainable transportation choices for site users to reduce the need to drive.

How will the TDM Program work?
Through this program, developers will provide on-site amenities that will encourage sustainable trip choices and reduce driving trips from their projects. Projects will determine what amenities to include early in the design of their project, which means that the project sponsor, planners and members of the public can all have better understanding of how the project may affect the transportation system.

Project sponsors will identify their TDM requirement based on specifics of their project. The project’s development application will include a TDM Plan listing selected measures that meet the project’s requirement. An online tool has been created to help developers calculate their project’s required points and forecast different ways to meeting the requirement though different TDM measures.

The final TDM Plan will be recorded as a condition of approval for the project and a proactive monitoring program will ensure that the project delivers the measures that they are committing to.

What is the TDM menu and how will it work?
The City has developed a menu of 66 sustainable transportation options that developers can pick from and incorporate into their projects.

Each option on the TDM menu has a different point value based on its relative ability to reduce the number of trips by people driving.  For example, providing showers and lockers as a benefit to commuters who walk or bike counts for 1 point, providing car share membership and on-site car-share counts as 3 to 5 points, and reducing the amount of onsite parking carries up to 11 points.

Developers will use the TDM menu to choose specific measures that will get their project to its target point threshold. Targets will be unique and calculated by the type of land use and the number of parking spaces the project is proposing. 

How was the menu developed and how were points assigned?
The menu was developed based on a review of literature and best practices across the country, local research, and professional expertise. Measures were assigned points based on relative efficacy in reducing vehicle miles traveled from site residents, tenants, and/or visitors.

Why aren’t more points given to measures that support other city policies (like supporting walking or supporting families living in San Francisco)?
Points are allocated to TDM measures based on their relative efficacy in reducing vehicle miles traveled, as demonstrated by literature, other data, and professional expertise. While many of the measures are amenities that support other city policies, the focus of this program is on reducing vehicle miles traveled. As such, other policies that do not reduce vehicle miles traveled are not part of the points calculation.

How will the TDM menu keep up with new technologies and new practices?
The City is committing resources to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the TDM Plans that projects put in place. This will allow the City to study individual measures at the project and city levels over time. If certain measures are found to be less effective than desired, or not appropriate for certain land uses or locations, the TDM Program may be amended. We will also track new research that looks at effectiveness of TDM measures not currently included in the program.

Will a project be able to change measures over time?
Yes. We understand that property owners may wish to revise approved TDM Plans in response to changing circumstances. Such projects may submit a TDM Plan Update Application, which will be reviewed by TDM Program staff to ensure the proposed revision conforms to the requirements.

Why is the target related to how much parking a development provides?
Research shows that the biggest factor in someone’s decision to drive is the availability of parking. Reducing on-site parking means fewer people driving alone in their cars – which translates into benefits for the city and the individual, ranging from less congestion and better air quality, to healthier and more active lifestyle.

A summary of relevant research is available on the SFMTA blog, including findings from research of cities across the country that providing parking increased residents and employee driving, research that found a relationship between guaranteed parking at home and greater driving (even when well-served by transit), and local research on the relationship between providing parking and increased driving trips.

Although not the reason for tying the target to parking, providing parking also comes at the expense of something else, like using the space (and the investment put into making it parking) for affordable housing in a city experiencing a housing crunch.

What about projects that have so much parking that there are no more items on the menu to help them meet their target?
For the rare project that provides so much parking that there are not enough menu options available to meet their target, we are capping the target at 80 percent of total available points at that time.

For example, a project with 900 residential dwelling units and 450 parking spaces would have a target of 56 points. However, there may only be 40 points available to that project from the menu. This project’s target would be capped at 32 (80 percent of 40), despite the raw target calculation of 56 points. This ensures that a project of this type can move forward, has a robust TDM Plan, and still has some flexibility in creating its TDM Plan.

This situation is unusual. There were only three projects (out of 106 that went to the Planning Commission for approval) in the fiscal years 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 that had such large amounts of parking that they would have confronted this situation if the TDM Program had been in place at the time.

Will any development be forced to reduce its parking?  What if a development is in an area that has minimum parking requirements? 
This program will not require any project to limit the amount of parking it proposes (though Planning Code limits the amount of parking allowed). The program does require that projects increase the amount of TDM provided to account for more parking.

If a project in an area with minimum parking requirements wants to provide parking below that level, the code will allow it to do so, and the project’s target would be calculated based on the amount of parking proposed. If the project wishes to provide the minimally required parking, nothing in this program will prevent it from doing so. The project would be in compliance with this program by selecting sufficient TDM measures to meet its assigned TDM target points.

How will the City ensure developers are implementing the TDM measures?
The TDM legislation will be adopted by ordinance.  As a result, the Planning Department will have the same authority to enforce TDM requirements as with any other Planning Code requirement. However, unlike most requirements in the Planning Code, this program will include proactive monitoring.

For physical measures such as bicycle facilities, appropriate signage, and number of car share spaces, monitoring will be determined by inspection both prior to occupancy, and on an ongoing basis. For programmatic measures such as transit passes, carshare memberships and marketing, monitoring will be determined through ongoing reporting. The City will work with non-compliant projects to bring them into compliance, and those that do not come into compliance would face monetary penalties.

The Planning Department will collect an ongoing fee from approved projects that supports the monitoring and reporting work.

Which projects will have to comply with the TDM Program?
This program applies to projects with 10 units or more of new residential development, 10,000 square feet or more of commercial development and relatively large (25,000 square feet or more) changes of use like expanding an auto shop or other small industrial space into office space. 

Residential projects that are 100 percent affordable are exempt. 

Why doesn’t this program exempt non-profit health and human service organizations?
The Planning Department regulates land uses rather than ownership and tenancy. It would be difficult to track an ownership change to uses within a building. For example, a new building could include 25,000 square feet of health and human services non-profit office uses. A private office tenant could then move into the building without any Planning Commission discretionary approval. If health and human services uses were exempt from this TDM Program, the subsequent private office tenant would also not be subject to the TDM Program, as the Planning Code requirement would not be triggered.

In addition, the TDM Program is intended to reduce vehicle miles traveled from new development, regardless of land use. Non-profit organizations contribute to impacts to the transportation system too. Furthermore, employees to these sites would benefit from additional transportation options.

For reference, a review of recent non-profit health and human services projects only identified one non-profit health and human services project, the Boys and Girls Club at 380 Fulton Street that would have been subject to the TDM Program had it been in place at that time. Even without the TDM Program in place, this project’s conditions of approval included TDM measures based upon its environmental review.

Additionally, the reason staff could locate only one project is that most often non-profit organizations move into existing buildings that would not trigger the TDM Program, either because they are less than 25,000 square feet or would not result in an intensification of the use. These existing buildings have little-to-no accessory parking, so if the use were to be subject to the TDM Program, the target in the TDM Plan may be met by existing Planning Code TDM requirements (e.g., bicycle parking, lockers/showers).

However, in recognition of the funding challenges city-funded non-profits face, these types of services can proactively apply for a waiver from the administrative fees associated with the TDM Program. In addition, the TDM Program excludes service vehicles for city-funded non-profit health and human service organizations from the definition of a parking space in recognition that these vehicles are not substantially increasing VMT.

How can the community weigh in on a project’s TDM plan?
Under the TDM Program, the TDM Plan becomes part of the Development Project. This means that environmental review documents that are circulated for public comment and other notifications may include TDM Plan details, and provide an opportunity for public review and comment. Additionally, the community will have the opportunity to discuss with project sponsors potential TDM measures for all projects that require a community meeting prior to submitting a Development Application.

Why are the fees the same for large and small projects?
There are two fees associated with this program: a $6,000 application fee and a $1,000 ongoing monitoring and reporting fee. Both fees are set to recover staff costs associated with the program. It is anticipated that it will take a similar level of effort to review a TDM plan associated with a large and a small project. Similarly, it is anticipated that a similar level of effort will be required to review monitoring and reporting of a large and a small project, although Development Projects consisting of 24 dwelling units or less are exempt from the ongoing monitoring and reporting fee. The fees were set using conservative estimates of the level of effort anticipated with administering the program. Should a project of any size require greater effort, that project will be charged for the additional effort. As part of the program tracking, staff will look at whether there is a distinction between effort spent on different sized projects and adjust the fee accordingly.