The Role of TDM in Reducing Carbon Emissions

David Straus headshot


Transportation Demand Management (TDM) can play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions and making our communities more sustainable.

The Logo for The Climate Action Summit.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) can play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions and making our communities more sustainable. That is why the Association for Commuter Transportation is launching a new event this year to discuss fresh ideas and explore new strategies for improved mobility within sustainable communities.

We are excited about this new event, and Hallcon President and CEO John R. Stoiber will be speaking on a fleet electrification panel, so we sat down with ACT’s Executive Director, David Straus, to learn what we can expect to see.

Hallcon: What inspired ACT to create THE (Transportation Helping our Environment) Climate ACTion Summit?

David Straus: The ACT board is always working hard to stay ahead of the curve, focusing on issues that are vital for our members. Our spring event has continuously evolved to keep pace with this change. It originally started as the Emerging Mobility Summit, as technology quickly infused itself into transportation. It then evolved into the Future of Commuting Summit to address new trends and issues about employee transportation.

For this year’s event, we decided that climate is an area that needs attention. We are trying to raise the profile of how TDM strategies are an effective tool in addressing climate change. The transportation sector is the most significant sector in climate emissions, and the personal trip is a significant piece of that.


Hallcon: Why is this the right time for ACT to promote the benefits of TDM as a climate strategy?

David Straus: We’ve seen some fascinating things happen recently connecting TDM and climate. The White House released in January, The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, which specifically identified TDM as an important lever for communities to use in addressing transportation decarbonization and carbon emission reduction. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes new funding available for TDM programs and strategies with the new carbon reduction programs.

The timing is perfect for this event because many pieces are coming together to enable change on a local level while getting support from local policymakers.


Hallcon: What role does TDM play in climate change mitigation efforts?

David Straus: TDM is critical to providing people with more transportation options that are sustainable in the long term. These strategies enable people to get out of their single occupancy vehicles (SOV), especially a personally owned SOV, and into other modes and shared options.

But TDM has much broader benefits than just the climate. It helps create a more efficient and equitable transportation system that benefits all the people in the region.

People always talk about the freedom that comes with a personal vehicle. But, in reality, there’s much more freedom when you walk out the door and can decide whether to take a bus, a train, a bike, a shared ride, or a walk. Freedom comes when everyone has better mobility options that are efficient, affordable, and sustainable.


Hallcon: What can TDM professionals do to help further carbon reduction efforts in their local communities?

David Straus: We need to proactively push the benefits of TDM. This means engaging in debates about what is best for our communities and whether it makes sense to continue the strategies we’ve been following for the past 70 years. We must stop the status quo that says personal vehicles are the only solution.

For this to happen, TDM professionals must actively promote the benefits of our work. We have to change the policies and decision-making processes in communities.

It’s a heavy lift, and it requires being more engaged on the advocacy front. We have to educate the larger public and our policymakers on the benefits of TDM to reduce carbon emissions.


Hallcon: What are some of the most significant roadblocks in reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector?

David Straus: The most significant challenge is changing mindsets. Many TDM programs measure success one person at a time, comparable to public health initiatives like anti-smoking.

It’s getting people to understand that we’ve been sold a belief that freedom comes from owning a car. There’s greater freedom of movement, economy, and economics when you aren’t limited by a personal vehicle.

We are telling people that to participate in today’s society, you must spend thousands of dollars a year to own a personal vehicle. Instead, we should invest in systems that provide mobility options to more people at a lower cost.


Hallcon: Can you tell us a little bit about the format of this event and what attendees can expect to experience at the summit?

David Straus: This is actually my favorite structured event of the year. It’s aimed at participation from attendees and getting everyone to engage in the panels and conversations that are taking place.

We start the morning with three great panel sessions that will tee up some big ideas about TDM and climate change. Then, in the afternoon, we move into a discussion table format where attendees can choose from 10 different themes and engage in a discussion facilitated by a subject matter expert. We’ll do three of those round robins in the afternoon, so everyone can engage in thought-provoking conversations on various topics.

The next day we’ve got an important panel session on transitioning your fleets from carbon-based fuels with some great speakers, including Hallcon’s John Stoiber. That will lead us into a tour of IndyGo’s electric bus system.

The tour is an excellent opportunity to see firsthand what a transit agency can do when they commit to investing in this type of electric bus system. We’ll hear directly from the IndyGo team about the processes that they went through and how they are continuing to grow that system there.


Hallcon: What are the major themes shaping this inaugural event, and why are they essential for addressing the climate impacts of transportation?

David Straus: I think the biggest one is how we take action on the new federal resources available in the IIJA and the Inflation Reduction Act. We have a session focused on maximizing federal programs to advance sustainable transportation. We will hear from experts in the Tennessee DOT, Georgia DOT, Indiana DOT, and Federal Highway Administration, who will discuss how they are looking to funnel dollars into sustainable transportation.

We hope attendees will leave this event with an understanding of the funding opportunities out there for them. We want them to feel knowledgeable and empowered to engage directly with their DOTs and MPOs back home on how to prioritize those funds.


Hallcon: John R. Stoiber will be participating on a panel on Wednesday Morning on Transitioning Your Fleet from Carbon Based Fuels. Can you give us a preview of this panel and what attendees can expect to learn by attending this session?

David Straus: This is an important panel for us. There is a tremendous focus right now on shifting away from carbon-based fuels. And with the significant impact that our current fuel systems have on the environment, it will lead to immediate positive change. Our challenge is that the focus is primarily on the personal vehicle going electric.

We have to invest and support the transition of shuttle and bus fleets where you’re not just creating that positive impact from a carbon reduction on the fuel source, but increasing the efficiency of the transportation system. Moving more people in fewer vehicles and taking up less space on our roadways positively benefits long-term infrastructure and capital needs. And it just makes more sense.

This panel will feature a private employer, a public transit agency, and Hallcon, a mobility service provider, who are all leading the charge and helping their communities and clients shift away from carbon-based fuels. It should be a great discussion and an important one for everyone to hear.


Hallcon: What key takeaways can attendees expect to gain from the summit, and how do you hope they will apply what they learn in their work and communities?

David Straus: We want attendees to feel that they can play a role in these programs and understand that funding is available for them. We will demystify the bills because the legislative language is written in a way that most people can’t understand and is hard to interpret. Having conversations will break down those barriers and make the legislation more understandable.


Hallcon: There is a lot of participation in this event, which is why it’s so fantastic. Is there anything you would recommend for attendees to familiarize themselves with coming in?

David Straus: I would recommend taking a look at some of the legislation. The IIJA and the Inflation Reduction Act are definitely good places to start. They are massive, so ACT has put together some IIJA fact sheets and quick guides that present the best opportunities to support TDM strategies.


Hallcon: What are the ways that people get involved in this discussion if they can’t attend the Summit?

David Straus: The best way is participating. We have a couple of work groups that have popped up in recent weeks with ACT members coming together to develop resources and templates to influence the implementation of these programs at the local level.

I would encourage participation in ACT’s councils. We have thematic councils for shuttle operators, the TMA council, Van Pools, Employers, Higher Education, and Technology.

Decarbonization will be a driving focus of transportation funding over the next two years. So all members should consider integrating this idea into their niche area within TDM. It’s just a matter of stepping back and saying, how do we look at decarbonization on the work we’re doing? This could be a council or a chapter hosting an event or perhaps bringing in local organizations working on these issues and highlighting what can be done within your community.