Transportation demand management, traffic demand management or travel demand management (all TDM) is the application of strategies and policies to reduce travel demand (specifically that of single-occupancy private vehicles), or to redistribute this demand in space or in time.[1][2]

In transport as in any network, managing demand can be a cost-effective alternative to increasing capacity. A demand management approach to transport also has the potential to deliver better environmental outcomes, improved public health, stronger communities, and more prosperous and livable cities. TDM techniques link with and support community movements for sustainable transport.


Since 2010 transportation professionals have suggested that the TDM is widely misunderstood simply as a collection of vaguely related initiatives, and that this misunderstanding is constraining the true potential of the concept. TDM practitioners have found that TDM is far more effective when framed as a philosophical approach which in over time becomes a cornerstone of sustainable urban transport systems. A new paradigm in transport planning, internationally recognised as TDM, appears to be emerging which embraces concepts such as "mobility management" and "active travel management" under its umbrella.[3]

Crucial to the delivery of a sustainable urban transport system is integrating the TDM philosophy into urban transport planning, as well as the daily management and operation of transport services and infrastructure. It appears that managing travel demand has largely been compartmentalized as a set of “soft measures” to promote sustainable travel options or programs to promote and offer shared ride arrangements. Demand management means different things to different disciplines. For example: to Information Technology (IT) specialists, managing demand is new technology to provide information; to operations managers, managing demand is controlling the flow onto highways; to economists, it is pricing the system to find equilibrium with capacity; to marketers, it is promoting innovative campaigns; and to many policymakers TDM remains a largely unknown entity.

The concept has become confused as each discipline has tried to mold the concept to their set of tools. This “silo” thinking inhibits the kind of policy integration that is needed to develop a sustainable urban transport solution strategy. There remains much confusion as to what a sustainable transport system would comprise. It is helpful therefore to consider different approaches to sustainable transport along a spectrum of viewpoints, ranging from weak to strong sustainability.[4] Generally efforts to address the impact of transport on climate change to date have been largely focused on technology. The impact of this technological-led approach has been very limited in the transport sector. TDM has the potential to move the transport sector from a position of weak to strong sustainability by combining behavior-change with technology improvements.

In this context transport demand management is understood as a much broader concept. Implicit in the use of the term is the assumption that it is accompanied by the implementation of sustainable mobility, introduction of full cost pricing and organizational or structural measures to ensure a broad range of complementary interventions work effectively together to realize the benefits of sustainable transport. It is the unifying philosophy of TDM, not specific measures associated with it, that underpin the policy objective of a more sustainable system of transport. This philosophy of managing demand accepts that meeting unfettered demand for travel is impractical and that therefore the system needs to be managed. That demand for travel needs to be managed by:

  • Expanding the supply and availability of (more sustainable) alternatives;
  • Controlling demand for the use unsustainable modes;
  • Providing incentives and rewards for undertaking sustainable travel habits; and
  • Imposing full-cost pricing on the use of the automobile.

Arguments in favorEdit

The need to manage travel demand has now become urgent for a number of converging reasons.

Oil prices have now passed the previous peak in 1980, and 95% of all energy used in transport is oil. Vehicle travel in the United States, which has been rising steadily since records began, began to level out before the fuel price increases and is now in decline.[5] Part of this decline is likely to be people making fewer trips, with potentially far-reaching economic and social consequences. Countries and cities where the car is one of many travel choices are more likely to prosper, as people can choose to drive less but are still able to travel by transit, cycle safely, walk to local shops and facilities, or choose to work or study from home.

Transport systems are responsible for 23% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and are increasing at a faster rate than any other energy using sector.[6] Demand management is central to the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from urban transportation,[7]

Increases in vehicle travel are linked to a range of health problems including poor urban air quality, road injuries and fatalities, and reduced physical activity. The World Health Organisation stated in 2003:[8]

We are concerned that current patterns of transport, which are dominated by motorised road transport, have substantial adverse impacts on health.

The efficacy of expanded roadways in managing traffic congestion is increasingly under challenge. Much of the traffic on new or expanded roads has been shown to be induced.

A growing sustainable transport movement is mobilising public demand for investment in safer, more livable cities with a greater range of travel choices.

Demand management toolboxEdit

Template:Refimprove section There is a broad range of TDM measures, including:

  • Transportation management associations: leverage public and private funds to increase the use of ridesharing and other commuting options that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality
  • Including or improving pedestrian-oriented design elements, such as short pedestrian crossings, wide sidewalks and street trees.
  • Requiring users of parking to pay the costs directly, as opposed to sharing the costs indirectly with others through increased rents and tax subsidies.
  • Including and improving public transportation infrastructure, such as subway entrances, bus stops and routes.
  • Subsidizing transit costs for employees or residents.
  • Bicycle-friendly facilities and environments, including secure bike storage areas and showers. See Bicycle transportation engineering
  • Providing active transportation (AT) facilities including bike lanes and multi-use trails.
  • Providing traveler information tools, including intelligent transportation system improvements, mobile and social applications, wayfinding tools, and other methods for promoting non-SOV modes
  • Flex-time work schedules with employers to reduce congestion at peak times
  • Road pricing tolls during peak hours.
  • Road space rationing by restricting travel based on license plate number, at certain times and places.
  • Workplace travel plans
  • Roadspace reallocation, aiming to re-balance provision between private cars which often predominate due to high spatial allocations for roadside parking, and for sustainable modes.
  • Time, distance and place (TDP) road pricing, where road users are charged based on when, where and how much they drive. Some transportation experts believe TDP pricing is an integral part of the next generation in transportation demand management.[9]

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