The Town Council passed regulations that would require new developments to work on reducing the number of people making solo driving trips to and from their business or residential property.
The new Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Ordinance (see details here) applies to new projects, and at their May 9 meeting Councilors said it puts into policy a practice it has had with developments over the past few years. Some residents worried that it would prevent them from using their car freely around town.
Creating a TDM plan is required for developments of 10,000 square feet or more or residential projects with 10 or more units, if the project requires a special permit and site plan review from the town.
It also applies to projects that projects that generate 150 average daily trips (someone driving to and from a complex would count as two trips), or more than 15 at peak hours that current previous conditions.
Plans could include steps like educating employees or residents about public transit options, providing free MBTA passes, organizing carpools and providing facilities for people bicycling to work to cleanup and dress for work. If a plan is not followed, or the goals are not met and no further steps are taken to meet the goals, the development can be fined up to $300 per violation.
There is also a community-wide goal of reducing single-occupancy-vehicle trips by 20 percent. This will be measured off the baseline data for residents and employees from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2006-2010. Details on how this will be accomplished are not set in the ordinance.
There are exceptions for retail businesses, childcare facilities and properties owned or leased by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Resident Deborah Dugan said she does not understand the purpose of the ordinance.
“I can’t wrap my head around it … Are you telling me when I go get groceries I have to get on a bus?” Dugan said. “It feels like you are reaching into my life.”
Resident Burt Greenberg said he would not be getting on his bike to go to the pharmacy.
“I refuse to obey any ordinance that is going to restrict me from going to the pharmacy when I want to,” Greenberg said. “I am going to go whatever day I want.”
The ordinance would not impact residents in that way, said Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon.
“The point is not to tell existing homeowners and businesses that they suddenly can’t drive to and from their places of employment,” Magoon said.
Councilor Angeline Kounelis said that it will not impact residents.
“If this in any way infringed on my ability to drive where I’d like, I would be the first one to vote against this,” Kounelis said.
Councilor Ken Woodland said the Town has entered into TDM agreements with large projects in recent years, including Athenahealth, Arsenal Yards and the new project at 330-350 Pleasant Street.
“This ordinance does not do, in my mind, anything different than what we are doing right now,” Woodland said.
As for the developments required to have a TDM, the ordinance is quite flexible, said Councilor Aaron Dushku.
“It is setting a target and monitoring them,” Dushku said. “It doesn’t tell you you must do something. They come up with a plan and if it doesn’t work out we help you come up with another way to deal with it.”
He added that the ordinance streamlines the process to create a TDM which right now must be negotiated from ground zero for each new project.
The Council voted 9-0 to adopt the Transportation Demand Management Ordinance.