September 13, 2019

The Quest for Commute Trip Reduction Part – II: Opportunities and Challenges for Effective CTR across B.C.


In Review: The Quest for Commute Trip Reduction Part – I

In part one of this series, CTR was described as a collection of tactics designed to reduce commute duration and distance, as well as reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles in favour of more sustainable, healthier modes of travel. The primary responsibility for implementing CTR tactics falls on employers (typically ‘large employers’ with over 100 employees). State/provincial and regional governments typically have responsibility for encouraging or legislatively mandating participation by employers, and offering support, incentives, and/or disincentives/penalties. Apart from legislation, governments may also work toward CTR through trip reduction ordinances (TROs), regulations, policies and guidelines that apply not only to large employers, but municipalities, transport authorities, housing developers, building owners, among others.

At the time of this writing, CTR is not mentioned in any B.C. provincial legislation. CTR is not mentioned in Clean BC, despite its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Metro Vancouver, no municipalities appear to have adopted ordinances specifically for CTR, however, some plans and programs do support and reflect CTR-related principles, including:

Transport 2040 Plan, City of Vancouver

Motor Vehicles: M4 Other Demand Management Tools

  • 1.1. Support programs that help large employers, institutions, strata councils, business improvement associations, and others develop strategies to reduce motor vehicle trips and encourage trips by walking, cycling, and transit.
  • 1.2. Demonstrate leadership by providing a transportation demand management program to all City employees and at civic facilities and by sharing strategies and results with others.
  • 1.3 Encourage a BIA-led pilot to enable small businesses to share resources in developing a district TDM program.
  • 1.4. Support programs such as TransLink’s TravelSmart that provide personalized travel advice and support to residents, schools, and workplaces.

“Sustainable Commuting” Program, City of Vancouver

Following M4.1.2 above, this program offers incentives to City employees to encourage them to use alternative forms of transportation when travelling to work such as walking, biking, or car pooling. Incentives are funded by charging employees for parking, and include the following:

  • Rebates on transit passes.
  • Monthly incentives and access to reserved parking for staff who share rides.
  • Incentives for biking, walking, skateboarding, and rollerblading, such as gift cards for rain gear,
  • Cycling skills courses and subsidized bike tune-ups.
  • A “Guaranteed Ride Home” program in the event of emergency or sickness.

TravelSmart Program, TransLink 

The TravelSmart Program partners with various groups, organizations, and municipalities to help implement transportation demand management (TDM) programs tailored to unique contexts. In particular, TravelSmart offers advisory services to businesses, newcomers, schools and seniors.

While the TravelSmart program has potential to contribute to CTR, it remains a reactive program relying on groups, organizations, and municipalities contacting TransLink on a voluntary basis.

Opportunities and Challenges for Effective CTR


  • Opportunity for the creation of government legislation, policies, and /or guidelines that help guide employers on how to create, implement, and maintain effective CTR strategies, while collecting data on employee travel patterns, preferences, and barriers.
  • Establish jurisdictional responsibility for creating CTR-related legislation, policies, or guidelines. For example, upper-tier levels of government (Province of B.C.) may provide legislation that helps inform lower-tier governments (TransLink or local municipalities) of how they may or must go about creating, implementing, and maintaining CTR strategies.
  • Opportunity for upper or lower-tier governments to provide incentives (e.g. economic assistance) to employers who wish to get CTR strategies “up and running”. Additionally there could be opportunities created for other institutions and organizations such as transportation authorities and real-estate developers, managers, and tenants to create, implement, and maintain effective CTR strategies.
  • B.C. could become the first jurisdiction to include “CloserCommutes” (aka proximate commute) in its CTR toolkit for employers. This tactic has been demonstrated to reduce total employee vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by over 17% within 15 months for a multi-worksite employer such as a bank. About half of all commuters are employed by multi-worksite organizations, such as school districts, health authorities, municipalities, credit unions and banks, retail and hospitality chains, etc.
  • The absence of an existing province-wide CTR program allows B.C. to create a world-leading program from the ground up by examining best practices in other jurisdictions and then creating a modern program including local innovation.

A selection of CTR practices from elsewhere:

1. Washington State

Commute Trip Reduction Law (1991), and Washington State Efficiency Act (2006)

Washington’s CTR Law was passed  in 1991 with goals to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce the consumption of petroleum fuels through employer-based programs that encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone.

2. State of California

South Coast Air Quality Management District: Rule 2202

A program designed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to reduce emissions caused by employee commuting. The South Coast of California includes primarily Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.

City of Santa Monica: TDM Ordinance, Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 9.53

The purpose and objective of the TDM ordinance is to implement the goals and policies of the City’s General Plan by proactively managing congestion, reducing automobile dependence and enhancing transportation choices by requiring trip reduction plans for all types of trips—work, shopping, leisure, school, and appointments.

S.M.M.C. Chapter 9.53 requires employers to submit detailed reporting on the transportation habits of employees. This information is provided annually to the City of Santa Monica by completing plan forms.

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG): iCommute Program

The iCommute program assists commuters by providing carpool and ridematching services, a subsidized vanpool program, transit solutions, regional support for biking, the Guaranteed Ride Home program, information about teleworking, and bike and pedestrian safety program support for schools. Employer Services provides assistance to local businesses, helping them develop and implement customized employee commuter benefit programs that lower costs, increase productivity, and help the environment.

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG): TDM Strategic Plan and Final Report

3. State of Massachusetts

Effective Commute Reduction Policy in Massachusetts: Report (2014)

This report provides an assessment of best practices in Trip Reduction Ordinances (TRO) from around the United States and is intended to guide and inform policy at the city and state level in Massachusetts in the hopes of strengthening the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) Rideshare Regulation and the city of Boston’s Transportation Access Plan Agreements (TAPAs).

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP): Rideshare Regulation

The Rideshare Regulation is an air quality initiative that requires employers exceeding applicable employee thresholds, including businesses, academic institutions, and healthcare facilities, to develop plans and set goals to reduce commuter drive alone trips by 25% from a baseline established through an employee survey. 


  • As mentioned previously, CTR is not currently mentioned in any B.C. provincial legislation, and municipalities do not appear to have not adopted ordinances or implemented programs specifically for CTR.
  • Unwillingness of employers (as well as other intuitions and organizations) to create CTR strategies when it is not legislated by the government to do so. Similarly, there may be an unwillingness of governments (be they upper or lower-tier) to create, implement, and maintain CTR legislation, policies, and/or guidelines.
  • Inadequate/ineffective regulatory framing that fails to incentivize/encourage employers to continuously work towards achieving CTR goals. Related to this is inadequate implementation and monitoring of strategies.
  • Maintaining driving as a “cheap” and “convenient” mode of travel (e.g. not charging the full cost of using roads, cheap car insurance, gas, and parking).
  • Providing inadequate provision of transportation alternatives (walking, cycling, transit, HOV facilities) and unsupportive land uses (low-density, suburban style development).
Conclusion: how to move forward?

A CTR program has potential to improve upon environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Based on the examples of CTR legislation, plans, and programs presented in Part I and II of this series, it is clear that the Province of B.C., municipalities, and other agencies have a role to play in the design, implementation, and monitoring of effective CTR. What is also clear is that there are many ways to do so.

Given how common CTR programs are becoming in other jurisdictions, and the effectiveness being recorded, one wonders why the Province of B.C., districts and municipalities aren’t moving together on this already…

What could be done to encourage more discussion on this topic? …who could, or should be included in this conversation?

How might CTR garner more attention from planners and decision-makers in all tiers of government, as well as agencies and organizations such as ICBC, WorkSafeBC, chambers of commerce, transport authorities, large employers, and real-estate developers?

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  1. “In part one of this series, CTR was described as a collection of tactics designed to reduce commute duration and distance, as well as reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles in favour of more sustainable, healthier modes of travel.”

    If this were really the desired outcome the remedies would have almost nothing to do with transportation and everything to do with land use. Yet land use is barely a half of one of a series of points under the small category of “challenges and threats”. Nothing can reduce distance other than reduced distance. Nothing can promote walking and cycling more than reduced distance. Reduced distance also makes transit more attractive.

    Reducing duration can be achieved through other means like higher speed, grade-separated transit and transit/carpool/lanes with encouragement to use them. But it will always have to overcome the lack of reduced distance. There is nothing speed can do to overcome distance because the higher speed can always be applied to the shorter distance too.

    I fear, as you all know by now, that our current model of higher speed sprawling gangling, un-networked mass transit merely encourages longer commutes and discourages the very thing that works every time at much lower cost: reduced distance. And that harms us in so many other ways too.

    1. Good points, Ron, about land use. That’s one of the long-term solutions.
      This needn’t be an either/or situation, of course. By all means let’s have best land use planning.
      Meanwhile why not allow some people to work closer to their existing homes? For example, using a StatsCan commuting flow dataset, we discovered there are over 17,500 teaching professionals with long commutes across Metro Vancouver – despite the distribution of teachers’ homes being almost exactly matching the positions in local schools. Most bank staff don’t work at the nearest branch. Nurses, firefighters, retail staff, etc…
      So let’s arrange for all large employers to consider a range of tactics to reduce the distance and duration – and improve the mode of travel – for their employees’ commutes. This is an employee commute trip reduction program. BC doesn’t have one… yet.

  2. (1 )Too many people live where there are not enough jobs—–Too many jobs in C O V — where there are not enough residents to do them—–I C I & residential zoning needs to be re- balanced (2) H O V priority access to bridges & other choke points would make car pooling an attractive option

    1. Hey, Bob. Bet you would be surprised by the commuting flow data in the National Household Survey about where people live and where they work. For example, considering the teaching professional labour code:
      City of Vancouver
      7,460 teaching jobs. 7,965 teachers live there of whom 4,700 [59%] work in Vancouver and 3,265 [41%] work elsewhere. Examples:
      • 510 commute to jobs in Surrey vs 200 who commute from Surrey
      • 80 commute to New Westminster vs 725 peers who commute in the opposite direction
      • 210 commute to Coquitlam vs 220 commuting in from there
      • 20 commute to Maple Ridge vs 20 who commute from Maple Ridge
      • 125 commute to Delta vs 170 who commute from Delta
      • 600 commute to Richmond vs 420 who commute into Vancouver
      • 75 commute to Port Coquitlam vs 85 who commute in from there
      • 235 commute to North Vancouver vs 325 who commute from North Vancouver
      • 270 commute to West Vancouver vs 85 commuting in the opposing flow.
      The statistics show an opportunity to investigate peer swaps to shorten commutes of 3,060 Vancouver-resident teachers and the same number of their teaching peers who commute into Vancouver. That’s potentially 6,120 closer commutes.

      Here are more examples:
      North Vancouver
      2,010 teaching jobs
      2,680 teachers live there of whom only about 1,020 [38%] work in North Vancouver

      2,000 teaching jobs
      2,010 teachers live there of whom 705 [35%] work in Coquitlam

      West Vancouver
      915 teaching jobs
      405 teachers live there of whom only 145 [36%] work in West Vancouver

      There are 2,790 teaching jobs within Burnaby City census area. 2,485 residents of this census area are teaching professionals of whom 825 [33%] work within Burnaby and 1,660 [67%] work elsewhere. Examples:
      • 305 teachers living in Burnaby commute to work at schools in Surrey while 115 teachers commute from Surrey to Burnaby teaching positions
      • 175 commute to Coquitlam vs 180 who commute to Burnaby from Coquitlam
      • 115 commute to Richmond vs 60 commuting from there
      • 725 commute to Vancouver vs 670 peers commuting the opposite direction
      • 40 commute to Delta vs 80 commuting in
      • 80 commute to Port Moody vs 130 commuting in
      • 70 commute to New Westminster vs 180 commuting in
      • there are similar patterns to and from all other census areas.
      Proponents of CloserCommutes believe there is an opportunity to explore peer exchanges/transfers to shorten the commutes of 1,660 Burnaby teachers and the same number of their peers who commute into this city. That would be up to 3,320 closer commutes.
      (All data from Statistics Canada*, counts rounded to nearest 5.)

      By all means, let’s improve zoning and HOV. Meanwhile let’s help perhaps 10% of commuters have a closer commute – within a year. That will help everyone, the economy and the environment.

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