How transportation associations can help commuters ditch their cars

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MBTA service disruptions, limited service coverage, long travel times, inconsistency in safe biking corridors, or simply being tied to a fellow carpooler’s schedule make it difficult for commuters to relinquish the freedom that their cars can provide. But giving people active commuting options — what we sometimes call “dynamic multi-mobility” — is critical to addressing traffic congestion, achieving aggressive climate goals, unlocking economic opportunity, and building a region where public health is paramount.
Persuading commuters to switch from single-occupancy vehicles to walking, biking, mass transit, or carpooling isn’t the easiest sell — especially as the MBTA is experiencing significant delays as it updates service.
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One powerful tool for offering commuters better options are Transportation Management Associations. My organization, the Longwood Collective TMA, is one of 15 statewide associations that collectively offer a wide range of services to more than 400,000 residents in 48 communities.
The work TMAs do includes promoting carpooling, cycling, and walking, and TMAs serve as a clearinghouse for information about the MBTA and other transit options. In our case, we run fleets of shuttle buses to provide last-mile solutions to and from major transit hubs, and identify congestion hot spots and work with the city and state to fix them. Additionally, TMAs like ours push for policies that support better commuter benefits, including a tax-relief law that provides better parity between commuters driving single-occupancy vehicles and those who opt for alternatives like regional bus service, ferries, the MBTA, and bicycling.
To help give a clearer picture of how TMAs can partner with government and businesses, here’s what we offer the 22 medical, academic, and cultural member institutions in the Longwood Medical Area.
We pay for our member institutions’ commuters to make the switch to public transit by subsidizing the first three months cost (up to $130 per month) through our CommuteSwap program. We also offer personalized commuting suggestions and itineraries across all modes of transportation, tailored to each person’s schedule and needs.
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Our Bike Longwood series, beginning again in April, includes personalized commuting assistance, free bike tune-ups (the Longwood Collective, together with Landry’s Bicycles, repaired 500 bikes in 2023), free demonstration sessions to test out various e-bike models, and advancement of bike-friendly infrastructure with our city and state partners.
When our commuters successfully make the commitment to leave their cars behind but unexpectedly need to return home in the event of illness or an emergency, we provide them a free, door-to-door “emergency ride home” via Lyft.
The number of employees utilizing mass transit, carpooling, biking, and walking instead of driving to Longwood has soared from 53 percent to 70 percent over the past two decades. This is significant for a dense medical and academic district such as Longwood that employs 68,000 people, educates 27,000 students, and cares for 2.8 million patients annually — many of whom must travel by car due to their medical conditions.
TMAs can be “the deal-sealers” that encourage people to leave their cars at home and find alternative means of commuting that help to lessen traffic and CO2 emissions. We are and will continue to be strong champions for the MBTA and our bike and pedestrian partner organizations. And as we work to offer and publicize attractive, reliable, and safe alternatives to driving, we look forward to the day we can promise everyone now using a car a better, more convenient climate- and traffic-friendly way to get all of us where we need to be.
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Dorothy Fennell is transportation planner for the Longwood Collective.

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