TDM101: Vancouver, a city ahead of its time

Posted by Rachel Karitis on 4/30/18 1:41 PM

Let's talk about Vancouver.

No, not the one in Washington state. (Although they do have a transportation demand management program called Destination Downtown that looks great too, if you're interested.) We're talking British Columbia. 

Complete streets with bike lanes in Vancouver

So far, all the cities we've featured in our TDM101 series have been in the United States. Now we're diving into the good stuff, taking a look at metropolitan areas that have been on this grind for decades now.

This Seattle Times article about Vancouver's public transportation system really got us thinking about our friends up north. As the article quotes Jarrett Walker, “Vancouver is the only North American city built around transit in the second half of the 20th century.” In fact, it's so built up around transit that there is no downtown highway.

So sure, part of its success in TDM does stem from the fact that their public transit is more frequent and dependable than what we have here. But that's not the whole story — Vancouver still makes a deliberate effort to encourage people to use active, sustainable transportation, most recently through its Transportation 2040 plan.

The goal? Have two-thirds of all trips taken by walking, cycling, or transit by 2040. How do they plan to get there?

The Active Transportation Promotion and Enabling Plan

The ATPEP is part of Transportation 2040, and it hopes to encourage its citizens to switch to more active forms of mobility: walking and cycling. Its first steps were to make sure there was a thorough understanding of what keeps people from trying this and what would enable them to lower those risk factors.

Its focus is on marketing, first to people who already bike or walk for short trips and then to the general public. Another segment of the plan, which we think is so essential, is partnering with local community groups for programs. 

UBC Vancouver light rail

Introducing mobility pricing

Mobility pricing can include anything from bridge tolls and road usage charges to transit fares and street parking meters. The plan in Vancouver is to explore decongestion charging, something already in practice in major cities such as London.

Also known as congestion pricing, it is meant to reduce overall traffic by charging a fee to drive on busier roads or during busier times of day. This was recently attempted locally in Virginia, which was of course met with outrage from car-centric commuters but reduced travel times by between 5 and 20 minutes.

Partnering with schools

For community groups, Vancouver has partnered with elementary and middle schools — a brilliant strategy, given that mobility habits learned at a young age are far more likely to stick with someone as they grow up. Not only that, but it increases physical activity among students, which will help them be healthier and better learners.


The bottom line that underscores Vancouver's success is its commitment to having a land-use strategy. It is not enough to simply build transit; you must also make it easy to access by building near it. On top of that, the refusal to build a downtown highway has helped avoid a car-centric attitude overall. From where we're standing, everything is going swimmingly.

Have a city you'd like us to feature in our TDM101 series? Send us an email and let us know!


Topics: TDM, Mobility