In an effort to lessen traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worsening of those conditions as more density is added, the city of Menlo Park is trying to reduce the rate at which people drive cars solo in town.
One way the city may do this is to give commuters other options by forming what's called a transportation management association. Such associations usually are run as nonprofits that operate independently from cities, but may receive funding from them. They typically work with an area of a city or a set of businesses to provide employers and their employees with commute options other than driving solo.
The City Council held a study session on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to talk about different approaches it could take to develop such an association, using $100,000 it has received from Facebook as part of a development agreement to fund a study.
The study would explore options for a potential association, and determine what might make most sense, according to Menlo Park's transportation demand management coordinator, Nicholas Yee.
For instance, a future association could focus on large businesses, or large and small businesses; focus on a particular area or the entire city; or explore forming an alliance with other transportation management associations in the area. Palo Alto and Mountain View already have transportation management associations, and one is being developed in Redwood City, according to Mr. Yee.
The city's next step is to create a request for proposals to hire a consultant to do a study surveying business owners and local employees and gathering information about commute patterns throughout the city, he said.
Since a big source of traffic is school pick-up and drop-off, Mayor Peter Ohtaki suggested the study should also look into transit options to help kids get to school without a car. He also suggested that the city look into coordinating services with existing SamTrans and Caltrain schedules to improve convenience for riders.
Councilwoman Kirsten Keith suggested that the city could coordinate with Peninsula Volunteers to help seniors get around. That organization has a program that offers seniors subsidized Lyft rides to and from Little House, the doctor or the dentist, funded by the Sequoia Healthcare District.
Diane Bailey of local environmental nonprofit Menlo Spark and Adina Levin, who sits on the city's Complete Streets Commission, both spoke favorably of Palo Alto's transportation management association.
Ms. Bailey said it could be one of the most effective ways for the city to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
"We know larger employers like Stanford and Facebook get people out of cars," said Ms. Levin. People in smaller companies or service workers, on the other hand, don't get the same kind of benefits, she added. Transportation Management Associations, she argued, can help "democratize" those benefits.
She also suggested that the city offer a range of flexible transit options tailored to certain locations in town. In some places, shuttles might make more sense, while in others, it might be more effective to offer transit passes.
The plan, Mr. Yee said, is to conduct the study over the next 18 months and present information to the council along the way.