The Town Council’s Transportation subcommittee would like to cut down the number of people driving alone to work as a way to reduce congestion on Watertown streets, but now they must figure out how to legislate that effort.
The subcommittee met last week to discuss a town ordinance for Transportation Demand Management Programs.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon suggested a transportation demand management plan be required for any non-residential project 10,000 square feet or more, or a residential project of 10 units or more. Also, any project that generates more than 150 average daily trips (a car coming and going would be two trips), or more than 15 trips during peak hours.
A Transportation Demand Management plan would need to include:
- Goals and targets for trip reduction based on the new trips from a project
- A comprehensive list of measures used to reduce the number of trips
- A description of ways of monitoring how well the measures are controlling trip numbers
- A schedule for monitoring and reporting on the TDM
- Provide a list of corrective measures (including additional trip reduction efforts, incentives or penalties) if the goals are not met
Some uses will be exempted from having TDM plan, including land or structures for religious or non-profit educational purposes, for child care facilities and land owned or leased by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or its subdivisions.
Councilor Aaron Dushku wanted to remove the non-profit educational exemption.
“I want to make sure Harvard doesn’t come in and have it not apply to them,” Dushku said.
One type of business that Magoon recommends not having to make a transportation management plan is retail.
“It is not in retailers interest to alienate customers and say you can’t drive here,” Magoon said.
He added that the biggest bang for your buck in trip reduction comes from major office developments and large residential projects.
The TDM requirement would kick in for major redevelopments, too, but not in the case of a building being used for a similar business and reopening with little renovation.
Just because a business is doing better than its predecessor does not mean it should have the number of allowed trips cut, said Town Council President Mark Sideris.
“Under that scenario, you are discouraging a person with a new concept from trying it,” Sideris said. “You are discouraging economic development.”
Dushku wanted to know if the requirements could apply to Town of Watertown employees and facilities. Magoon said the Council could discuss it with Town Manager Michael Driscoll.
Setting the Goals
How to measure whether a project is meeting the goals was a matter of debate. Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said some options would be tying it to the current census data for traffic, pick a target number or reducing it by a percentage.
In Cambridge, the goal is to reduce traffic to the levels in 1990, said Town Planner Andrea Adams.
Another suggestion was to have an overall town goal for reducing single occupancy vehicle trips.
“We could have a number everyone knows,” Dushku said. “I like the idea of a community scorecard and trying to reach that number.”
If a project does not meet the goal, there could be penalties, including possibly fines. When the penalty would be enforced must be determined.
Dushku said he wants developments to meet their goal, but within reason.
“If they make a reasonable effort but did not make the goal, we can waive the penalties,” Dushku said.
The subcommittee spent some time deciding whether to include reducing the amount of parking as part of the effort to control trips.
Senior Town Planner Gideon Schreiber said this is one of Cambridge’s main strategies for cutting traffic.
The subcommittee agreed they should not include cutting parking as a requirement, but noted that companies could do so on their own.
Magoon said he would try to have a more detailed presentation ready within three weeks to bring back to the subcommittee so it could make a final recommendation to the full Council on the Transportation Demand Management ordinance.