Event Recap: TDM Points Program: A New Standard in Development Review


Earlier this year, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) unveiled a new approach to development review regarding Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies for new developments over 50,000 sq ft. The updated system brings consistent and transparent targets based on a comprehensive scoring regime that recognizes the unique constraints and opportunities of each parcel. In addition, the interface has been moved from paper forms to an online portal for ease of use for developers and search by the public.  

On April 5th, 2021, we were joined in conversation by key players in the design and future implementation of this innovative new system: BTD Director of Planning, Vineet Gupta; BTD Planner, New Mobility Team, Alaa Mukahhal; Ease Consult Principal, Allison Simmons. 

The impetus behind this update, as presented by Director Gupta, is to increase consistency, reduce negotiation, bring transparency to the process, and to ensure each development fits within larger citywide goals. Those include: 

  • Reducing the drive alone rate 50% by 2030 
  • Eliminating traffic fatalities per the VisionZero policy 
  • Increasing access to, and use of, sustainable modes of transport 
  • Achieving net carbon neutrality by 2050, of which transportation is a huge part 

To guide this initiative based on a comprehensive framework, BTD created a map displaying Mobility Scores for parcels across the city. This score is based on proximity to transit, access to jobs, current conditions for walking and biking, available grocery stores, and other factors. Not surprisingly, the densest and best served parts of downtown have the highest Mobility Scores while farther afield neighborhoods, which are more auto-dependent, have lower scores. 

Once a parcel’s Mobility Score is determined, an associated Points Target is assigned and from there a developer is presented with a menu of TDM strategies to achieve that target. These options are divided into three buckets: 

  • Baseline, which are required of all developments bound by the Article 80 process 
  • Impact, or a list of proven TDM strategies from which a developer must choose one, but can choose more if desired 
  • Elective, which are smaller initiatives that earn points and can serve to supplement the other buckets 

After a comprehensive explanation of the calculus behind the framework by Mukahhal, Simmons walked through five diverse examples of how current developments scored, noting that most of those measured achieved the point targets required based on their original proposals. This point is worth expanding since the goal is to streamline the proposal process. If developers know upfront what they must achieve, and are given a broad menu of options, the hope is that original proposals will hit the mark and move more quickly to subsequent stages in the process. 

The robust Q&A included questions about parking pricing, how the mitigating effects of telework might be integrated, the role safe cycling infrastructure can play, and much more.  

On the Mobility Score regime, our President and CEO, Rick Dimino, flagged that all proximity to transit is not equal, citing the crush capacity service on some transit lines that make proximity irrelevant at peak times. Director Gupta acknowledged that concern and described how the Silver Line and street level Green Line services were weighted to account for that and Rick offered to help with more fine-tuning on this. 

Dimino also asked for clarity on the feedback process and offered to be a sounding board and source of feedback from the broader business community on this effort. The associated parking ratios that feed into this system warrant broader input, said Dimino. Director Gupta described a series of focus groups that have happened from which they have incorporated feedback but that BTD is always happy to have further conversation.  

In terms of what ABC might learn from this effort, the TDM team is excited to use this new framework as a way to score our existing members to identify opportunities to become more sustainable with facilities already built. We have a lot of work to do if we are to achieve our broader climate and safety goals, and this scoring and points system is a welcome development that we look forward to helping tweak and refine moving forward.  

More information can be found on the City of Boston’s website at https://www.boston.gov/departments/transportation/transportation-development-review 

If you would like to discuss any part of this updated system and process, please reach out to Scott Mullen at mully@abettercity.org. He will be happy to collect and aggregate your feedback to share with BTD in future conversations.


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