Jonathan Hopkins is Executive Director of Commute Seattle. He has been enthusiastic about transportation for a very long time. We asked him for his perspective on TDM and on the future.
I think 5-year-old Jonathan knew he was interested in transportation more than 20-year-old Jonathan did. After spending over a decade in the Army, I returned to Seattle where I did operations as well as some partnership and government affairs with Uber. During the same time, in a volunteer capacity I served as a board member and political director for Seattle Subway, a group that focused on getting the most audacious, high quality transit package possible in Sound Transit 3. The effort was generally successful, helping prepare and pass a $54 billion transit package in 2016. I am engaged in TDM now because the combination of those previous experiences prepared me to be a strong candidate for an open Commute Seattle executive director position. While agencies are busy building infrastructure and expanding service in the Seattle area, state law requires large companies to work with groups like Commute Seattle to ensure we make best use of our significant transportation investments.
2. How did you get involved in ACT?
Under the leadership of Sunny Knott, our local Cascade Chapter of ACT is becoming more engaged in the space. Along with 3 other community organizations we presented at a recent ACT panel discussion on the unique ways the Seattle area is responding to transportation challenges. I’m also excited that one of our team members will be attending the Las Vegas conference while I will be in NOLA for the International Conference.
3. What do you see as the future of TDM? Any specific challenges?
I see a couple evolving areas that interest me most: changing incentives structure and the role of shared services / Mobility as a Service (MaaS) in changing behaviors.
Changing the incentives structure for commuters is exciting. This year we saw Washington DC take steps to require employers to offer a cash out of free parking incentives to people who don’t drive and thus don’t use free parking. In Seattle, some organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Seattle Children’s already do this in order to meet municipal requirements to reduce vehicular impacts in their neighborhood, in both cases leveraging tools by local startup Luum that allow employees to chronicle their commute choices and to receive corresponding benefits and information.
The other space of interest is improvements made possible by MaaS. While it’s distinctly possible that the proliferation of Uber and Lyft in conjunction with automated vehicles could actually worsen traffic if not managed by sound policy, there are some great opportunities here. Carsharing and ridesharing can reduce needs of employees who drive to work simply because they need their car during the day. Ridematching, Lyft Shuttle and Chariot can be used to reduce SOV for people who are not efficiently served by traditional transit. In fact, the City of Seattle is investing heavily in pilots to leverage these opportunities, an effort that Commute Seattle continues to partner with the city on.
The primary challenge is the rapidity with which the transportation market is changing, and keeping up with it in order to both not miss opportunities as well as stave off negative outcomes that sound, thoughtful and forward-thinking policy can prevent.