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Demand Management Q & A

How does demand management work?


Demand management helps transportation projects and existing facilities perform closer to their highest potential. It provides more commute options, as well as information and incentives to steer people toward efficient alternatives to driving alone on busy routes and during peak periods. It encourages people to think about how, where and when they travel.

 This approach makes avoiding drive-alone trips an easier, more attractive choice for commuters. It heightens the value of the existing systems by increasing person throughput, while reducing or delaying the need for costly new infrastructure. These strategies also help cut road maintenance cost, enhance community safety and livability and reduce vehicle carbon emissions.

Demand management strategies often fall in one or more of the following categories:

  • Education, promotion and outreach encourages voluntary changes in commuter behavior by raising awareness of existing travel options and providing information and incentives to encourage people to drive less or shift their travel plans to less congested times and routes.
  • Ridematching services and information help commuters and travelers organize carpools and vanpools or find one-time rides, reducing peak-period volume.
  • Employer programs and incentives reduce peak-period commutes by offering employee bicycle parking and showers, ridematching services, subsidized transit passes, and flexible work scheduling. Employer-based programs historically generate roughly $16 of additional investment in demand management for every dollar WSDOT invests.
  • Land-use/transportation coordination improves connectivity between roads and bike/pedestrian paths and supports high-density, mixed-use development near transit.
  • User fees (e.g., tolls for freeways or parking fees) encourage more efficient use of transportation infrastructure by shifting demand to alternate modes and routes or to less congested times of the day.

Is demand management a consideration for all WSDOT projects? Yes. Whether the project objective is safety, mobility or preservation, an executive order directs WSDOT planners and project engineers to consider strategies that optimize system performance and efficiency and reduce the need for additional capacity. That means planners and project engineers are expected to consider ways to manage demand early in planning by collaborating with project stakeholders, jurisdictions, employers and communities.

Does demand management work for all transportation plans and projects.

Demand management strategies must be considered in all projects and plans. If it's a traffic safety improvement, for example, these strategies help roadways perform more efficiently. It often delays the need for additional capacity or reduces the scale of needed projects. When a project is under construction, demand management can help reduce construction-related traffic impacts. While demand management may not play a role in every plan or project, planners and engineers should understand its benefits and always look for opportunities to use its tools and methods toward a more efficient transportation system.

How does WSDOT consider including demand management in a project?
Let’s say you need to create a plan to improve a corridor. The overall approach is to establish corridor performance targets, evaluate how existing and ongoing services and strategies support the targets and then identify additional demand management strategies to achieve the targets.

Early in the process, identify project-area partners who play roles in demand management. These may include local jurisdictions, transit agencies, the regional planning agency, employers and others.

Based on your project team's analysis of the corridor and planned growth, including any existing and planned demand management programs, your team determines mobility and/or operations could be sufficiently improved if peak-period traffic volumes decreased by 200 vehicles, or if person throughput increased by 300 people.

demand management graphic teleworkTo develop a plan, you form a study team with partners, community stakeholders, city planners and employers to review the corridor. The study team examines existing traffic constraints and local commute patterns. Information from this collaboration guides you in structuring a demand management approach best suited for the corridor, the community and local business.

In this example, the study team identifies four major employers without an active or effective demand management program, such as commute trip reduction, for workers. CTR survey data for similar worksites in the area suggests establishing telework programs at all four worksites could double the number of workers who don't commute at least one day of their work week by. It could reduce peak-period vehicle trips by 200. Alternatively, the team might conclude that increasing peak-period vanpools and employer-sponsored transit passes could increase peak-period person throughput by 300.

For some projects or plans, it is more effective to consider a range of demand management options - modest, moderate and intensive approaches, for instance. The study team selects the best approach and develops a program tailored to the area, engaging the local CTR program administrator to target employers, monitor progress and measure the program success based on trip reduction or person throughput targets.

This report, Transportation Demand Management: A Guide for Including TDM Strategies in Major Investment Studies and in Planning for Other Transportation Projects (pdf 6.5 mb), serves as a useful guide.

How does demand management make a difference in system performance?
Yes, but results vary. In urban areas, opportunities for managing demand typically are many. From priced parking to incentives to use transit and other efficient modes, more concentrated work centers typically mean more available commute choices. In rural areas where commutes tend to be longer, vanpooling and ridematching might be the best strategies to reduce drive-alone trips. Demand management already plays an important role in our transportation system by managing congestion and freeing capacity for freight and commerce vital for jobs and economy. Along Seattle’s I-5/SR-99 corridor, for example, 46-52 percent of commuters take transit, carpool or vanpool (peak period and direction). If they drove alone, this already congested corridor would be in gridlock.


In the mid-1990s, the Lloyd District in Portland, Ore., set ambitious goals for new housing and jobs but recognized that these goals would be unattainable due to the congestion that would be generated under their existing car-centric travel patterns. With a bundle of new strategies that included reducing public parking, increasing parking prices, upgrading transit service, and enhancing pedestrian and bicycle access, the District was able to meet its housing and economic development goals while significantly reducing vehicle miles traveled. More information is available in this report on the Lloyd District Regional Center Plan (pdf 798 kb).


What factors are proven most important for successful demand management?

  • Strong collaboration with committed local partners
  • Clear understanding of affected travel markets
  • Thorough analysis of existing and potential opportunities to manage demand

What elements of demand management strategies should be considered at the planning stage?

The planning stage should establish corridor or system performance targets, such as person throughput or traffic reduction. The planning team should then evaluate existing and ongoing services and identify additional demand management strategies to achieve the targets. Effective strategies evolve from stakeholder partnerships, including local governments, transit agencies, regional planning and management organizations and employers with ongoing plans to implement or improve existing TDM programs. These partners may be planning to implement changes that affect corridor performance. They might offer strategies for funding. The planning stage should identify additional funding resources, policy changes and other approaches, such as local land use.


What is WSDOT doing now to manage demand?
Among other activities, WSDOT leads the statewide Commute Trip Reduction program, uses HOV lanes and electronic tolling in congested corridors, manages construction traffic impacts, builds new pedestrian and bicycle facilities, administers Regional Mobility grants and manages a free tri-state ridematching service called RideshareOnline.com.


Who pays for strategies to manage demand in WSDOT projects?
Funding comes from multiple sources because effective TDM takes many forms. Common funding scenarios include:

  • Local employers offer incentives for workers to reduce drive-alone work commutes.
  • Transit agencies fund services through local sales tax revenue and fares.
  • A statewide multimodal budget pays for the state Commute Trip Reduction program.
  • State and federal grants help fund local and regional TDM programs.
  • WSDOT sometimes mitigates construction impacts by funding short-term transit service improvements.
  • Some demand management strategies, such as tolling or priced parking, also generate revenue.

Where can I find data to get started, such as mode share statistics?
Many different organizations have data that may be helpful. For instance, regional planning organizations may have mode share data from household travel surveys. Alternatively, the National Household Travel Survey may have data that could be helpful. WSDOT’s Commute Trip Reduction office has mode share data for the commute trip for our most populated areas of the state. The American Community Survey has statewide journey to work data. Local transit agencies typically have an abundance of data. Local jurisdictions may have bike and pedestrian count data.


Who at WSDOT can help me use demand management to improve my projects?
Keith Cotton or Stan Suchan in WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division can provide information about WSDOT's experience with demand management in communities across Washington.
Soon this team will begin a research project to determine the best ways to directly support WSDOT projects and programs to incorporate strategies that manage transportation demand.