How to Reduce Bay Area SOV Commuting by 25%
One of the Sandbox funding recipients is the Bay Area Fair Value Commuting demonstration, a joint program led by the city of Palo Alto. A key area of the program’s focus is reducing single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting in the San Francisco Bay Area. Statistics show that Silicon Valley is still heavily depending on SOVs, with 76 percent of commuters continuing to use them as their primary mode of transportation.
Two big reasons for the trend relate to parking costs and fuel costs. Silicon Valley offers free hourly parking, and current gasoline prices average around $3.50 per gallon. Compared to transit-centered cities, such as Helsinki, Finland, these aspects of driving are dramatically undercosted. In Helsinki, parking costs an average of $2.25 per hour and gasoline is about $8 per gallon.
Making SOV commuting cost more is an extremely effective strategy to motivate people to seek out alternatives. Helsinki commuters use transit at a rate 12 times that of Silicon Valley, and people bike or walk to work four times as much.
Numerous emissions reductions initiatives in California have identified aggressive targets for reducing SOV reliance and increasing the adoption of alternative modes of transportation. For Steve Raney, executive director of Smart Mobility for Joint Venture Silicon Valley, changing the cost structure of SOV commuting is going to be critical to the success of any program aiming to achieve wide-scale behavior change.
When comparing proven strategies for reducing SOV commuting, only pay-as-you-drive and Stanford University-style “carrot/stick” programs are politically viable in California at present, in terms of how likely legislation is to be passed. Given those constraints, Raney presented a plan to achieve a very aggressive reduction of 25 percent in Bay Area SOV commuting.
Highlights of this plan include:
- Introducing a scalable “carrot/stick” program that introduces daily fees for SOV commuting while offering rebates to those who use bikes, public transportation, car-shares, or other qualified alternatives
- Integrating automated employer commuting programs with mobility aggregation apps that make it easy and convenient for commuters to adopt alternatives
- Removing systemic obstacles to accessing alternative modes of commuting
- Creating a gap-fill program that establishes new and innovative commuting options
Together, these initiatives project to create fair-value commuting that removes the incentives for continuing to prioritize SOV travel.