VMT Reduction Innovation
2009 RTP: Land Use and Climate Change.
MTC adopted this Cities21 recommendation. A new, well-funded
grant program called the Climate Grants Program was created:
The Climate Grants Program will fund major demonstration
projects to test the most innovative strategies to promote changes in driving
and travel behaviors. Given that this is the first time that the region has
focused its energies on a climate protection initiative, this program provides a
great opportunity to learn what kinds of strategies can most effectively reduce
GHG emissions. Potential projects may seek to increase the use of low-GHG
alternative fuels, expand car-sharing programs, or implement low-GHG tire
incentive programs or pricing demonstration projects.
We will not meet CA
Climate Action Team 2020 and 2050 climate protection objectives without
significant innovation in transportation and land use. The goal of the VMT
Reduction Innovation Grant Program is to augment the smart growth and TDM
toolkits, making smart growth smarter (more effective). Also, allow risk-taking
and the development of innovative policies and pilot programs that have
difficulty in getting funded right now.
Proposed is a $1 million
annual grant program, running for five years, with consideration of program
renewal after five years, based on a thorough program evaluation. Minimum
grant amount: $50,000. Maximum: $350,000. Maximum grant funding
period: 36 months. The program will fund innovations that promise large
reductions in CO2 and VMT.
Current Efforts and
Examples of innovation
MTC is skilled at
implementing grant programs such as TLC and HIP: specifying the program,
clarifying the specification through an open and public process, publicizing the
program to generate many proposals, evaluating proposals, awarding grants,
monitoring progress, working collaboratively with grantees on projects, and
evaluating grant programs.
The target audience for these recommendations
are MTC staffers that might be involved in implementing such a program.
Some important details are provided to help direct MTC in formulating a program
that avoids some potential pitfalls. These recommendations do not provide
sufficient detail to implement the program, create the call for proposals, etc.
Rather, these recommendations serve only as initial guidance to MTC for MTC to
further develop the concept.
1. Have MTC administer the
VMT Reduction Innovation Grant Program. Some MTC grants attempt to
distribute money evenly among the 9 counties, but these awards should be based
solely on merit.
Allow applications from
any public agency, nonprofit organization, or private company.
2. Funding Target Areas:
- Pilot projects are encouraged.
Model programs are encouraged.
- Bleeding edge TOD
- Mixed use residential
project planning studies that that are on the leading edge of VMT reduction /
residential TDM / lower residential parking demand / lower annual total
household energy consumption
- Parking policy
innovations and smart parking
- Ridesharing, dynamic
ridematching, hitchhiking, increased utilization of empty seats
- Line haul transit
- Shuttle buses /
- Bicycle / pedestrian
(thanks to Michelle D for this addition)
- Behavior change
programs (such as community based social marketing programs, TravelSmart, etc)
- Programs that reduce
the distance between an individual’s job location and residence.
- Data collection & GIS
for better planning, marketing, and policy effectiveness analysis.
- Technology to count
cars in parking areas.
collaborative CO2-reducing planning efforts. For example, fund an 8-city
collaborative transportation and land use CO2 reduction best practices /
cost-effectiveness study for their U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement /
Cool Cities effort.
- Policy advocacy and
- Density and
affordability: architectural/ergonomic studies to increase the appeal of
smaller interior spaces (smaller square footage per person)
Exclude areas that are
already well funded:
- Technologies to
increase automobile miles-per-gallon for solo drivers or to reduce CO2 emitted
per VMT for solo drivers
- Traveler information
systems for solo drivers
- Congestion charging
technology (this isn’t well-funded, but represents its own separate policy
- Projects that fall
outside of transportation and land use, like “energy projects” such as solar
3. Grant Proposal Scoring
- Score low for “me too”
projects that replicate existing work without adding new features
- Score high for novel
new features (or completely new solutions) that promise to reduce VMT and CO2.
Proposal should include an “innovation business case” that describes state of
the art, competition, exposes flaws in previous efforts, and proposes
solutions to these flaws. The greater the differentiation from
past efforts that can be shown, the higher the score. Score high for
- Example: Don’t
propose: I want to start up a carsharing experiment in South San Francisco
that is similar to 400 other pilot projects going on simultaneously in the
world. Rather, describe the current carsharing market, expose that a)
all U.S. carsharing efforts are losing money and that b) the high cost of
vehicles combined with extremely low utilization is a major contributor to
financial losses. Propose a European style “shared lease” model where
cars are partially owned for individual use some of the time, and are put
into service for carsharing part of the time. Explain the impact on
the carsharing bottom line. Then project out carbon savings from wider
market penetration of carsharing.
- Example: Don’t
propose a TravelSmart driving behavior change pilot project that replicates
the efforts of 10 other pilot projects occurring simultaneously in the
world. Rather, describe the current TravelSmart market, expose that a)
the cost per VMT reduced is far too high ($18 in Seattle). b)
TravelSmart behavior change wears off at a rate of 33% per year. C)
TravelSmart self-reported VMT reductions are overstated based on the social
desirability effect. Then, describe your projects new features that
address these flaws. Then project out carbon savings from wider market
penetration and reduced subsidy.
- Score higher for each
“partner” letter of support where the partner shows a) that they understand
the innovation, and b) they support the claim that the innovation will have a
large positive impact. Hence a proposal for a shuttle bus innovation in
South San Francisco would score higher when it comes with support letters from
the city, from SamTrans, from the chamber of commerce, from Bay BioTech center
(HQ in SSF), from PCTRA, and from the top three employers in the area.
Planning studies where prominent developers partner should receive higher
- Score for high
projected CO2 reduction and VMT reduction. Note that staff will have to
use best judgment to determine how much of a large CO2 reduction claim to
approve. IE there will be lots of B.S. in incoming proposals, so we’ll need
critical thinking staff to cut through this B.S. Letters of Analysis
from independent industry experts examining CO2 claims will be helpful to
proposals. Please note that a) private sector venture capitalists make
similar value judgments on proposals on a regular basis, and b) the example
innovative funding programs listed above make similar value judgments.
- Score higher for
matching funds, user revenue and large “in-kind” contributions
- Score higher for
implementation versus research
- Score projects higher
that have lower cost per VMT reduced. Grant evaluation should include an
open-minded yet skeptical eye towards forecasted reductions.
- Score higher for
9-county Bay Area proposals and for proposals addressing extreme commutes into
the Bay Area. Score lower for proposals completely outside of the Bay
- Score higher for
replicability – i.e. projects that have wide applicability to a range of Bay
4. Grant implementation
- Allow sections of grant
proposals to be marked confidential, and publish the non-confidential portions
of winning proposals.
- Grant winners should
submit status reports twice per year.
Comments from reviewers:
"There are many great
ideas out there, but it's hard to get pilot projects funded."
"Grant programs are often
so prescriptive that they prohibit innovative ideas that the grant
administrators have not conceived. This open-ended program allows for
"Bureaucrats may not be
skilled at scoring innovation proposals. Care should be taken in
allocating staff to this program."
"Why do we need this
program? There are no secrets out there. We know what to do, it's
just a matter of political will." This is a false interpretation of recent
history. The state of the art has been anything but static over the last
40 years. Smart Growth came out in the 1970's, so much of Smart Growth and
TDM is new and evolving. Carsharing, TravelSmart, BRT, HOT lanes, 511,
transportation GIS/GPS, and traffic reducing housing preference are innovations
in the last 15 years that continue to improve every year. Nuride's dynamic
ridematching is an innovation in the last 4 years. Parking automation
technology (Parking Carma, etc) is advancing each year. Personal Rapid Transit
is the first new form of surface transportation in 90 years and is expected to
begin commercial operation at Heathrow in October, 2008. If we fund
innovation, then we can expect to see the same rapid pace of change. The
hope for this grant program is to stumble on to a few innovations that make
large VMT reduction much easier.
"Why did you include the requirement for
the innovation business case?" This innovation business case serves to
ensure that proposals are realistic and relevant. Former Caltrans Director
Jeff Morales demanded that Caltrans-funded research be both realistic and
relevant. He analyzed research efforts and found that a substantial
portion of research did not meet these criteria. In response, he took
"Why are you criticizing carsharing and
TravelSmart?" These examples are given as "tough love," in hopes that
innovations will lead to these two concepts breaking down barriers to their
widespread adoption. A realistic evaluation of the strengths and
weaknesses of concepts is important to devise strategies to make improvements.
It is hoped that the Innovation Grant scoring system will give low scores to "me
Strategies and Actions