What is this wonkish term Transportation Management Association, and why should you care?
If you’re like most people, you have to commute. With expenses like health insurance rising, TMAs can offer a way to reduce costs associated with driving by bolstering services that make alternatives more appealing.
Cities such as Pittsburgh and Nashville have TMAs in areas like university campuses and business districts. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Consider the average cost to build a parking garage is $15,000 per spot. Also, there are soft costs in asking employees to fend for themselves.
These are public-private partnerships that usually hire staff to figure out what incentives will get people to leave the car at home sometimes.
Incentives improve business competitiveness. Instead of asking workers to pay out of pocket for a monthly parking spot, a TMA can work with a group of employers in a district to subsidized transit passes.
The Victoria TMA discovered a link between the size of the incentive and the number of people riding the bus or biking. One study showed that shifting modes reached as high as 35% when a transit pass was free.
TMAs work even with people who enjoy driving, but who don’t necessarily want to drive every day.
Cleveland’s best shot for a TMA would be University Circle or downtown. Transit already serves the area but a TMA would coordinate and market it for wider appeal.
For example, there are at least three separate shuttle bus services in University Circle. University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and University Circle, Inc. run free shuttles all day long or on demand, but they're unoccupied most of the time. A TMA could figure out how to better schedule and advertise them. It could plan expanded service to Cleveland and Shaker Heights, where many University Circle commuters live, or to the Rapid station.
TMAs have also been used to set up bike share, car share, guaranteed ride home, and telecommuting. Studies of TMAs show a 4-20% reduction in car trips when transit, bikes and walking infrastructure is done in a coordinated fashion.
Hitting those numbers in University Circle or downtown Cleveland could be a game changer. For starters, it could unlock land reserved solely for storing cars. TMAs are usually non-profit organizations. Would it make sense to set up a new non-profit to run a TMA in University Circle and downtown Cleveland? Or could University Circle, Inc. and Downtown Cleveland Alliance or Positively Cleveland fold a TMA into their operations?
The case to be made is instead of always asking their members to plan for the next parking garage, they could achieve multiple objectives such as extended goodwill and support to thousands of people commuting everyday to their campus.
To dig a little deeper into TMAs in Cleveland, check out the new page in Transportation Choices.