Agencies relate to successes and challenges of VMT reduction

May 16, 2022

Alon Bassok


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transportation and land use
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In 2021, the Washington State Legislature (Legislature) directed the Washington State Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT):

  • Develop policies to help cities and counties integrate climate change and resilience goals into local comprehensive plans.
  • Development of a process for setting reduction targets for local vehicle miles driven (VMT).
  • Recommend a range of local jurisdiction options to achieve the objectives.
  • Identify funding needs for state and local jurisdictions to achieve goals.

The requirements can be found in SSB5092 and Section 218(3) of Transport Budget 2021-23 SSB 5165

That first report to the Legislature was published in December 2021. The interim report for this project will be available in 2022. Updated VMT reduction resources that can be included in comprehensive plans are provided later in this post.

Earlier this year, we asked for your help when we conducted a partner survey on achievements and challenges in implementing VMT reduction strategies. Thank you to all of you who were kind enough to use your time to complete the survey, meet with us for an interview, or attend a workshop. We have received extensive information about the successes, challenges and needs of our local partners in implementing VMT reduction strategies. The following narrative summarizes your answers. We also invite you to attend the June 28 event, Increasing Transportation Options and Access: Local Success, in Washington cities to hear directly from four jurisdictions about their efforts and successes in reducing VMT.


The most commonly reported successes in VMT reduction were achieved through transit, followed by active transport, teleworking, and land use interventions. Specific tools to achieve higher public transport usage include eliminating fares, integrating corridor and land use plans into public transport, concentrating growth near public transport hubs, and improving service and operations.

For active transport, the construction of new and the completion of existing parts of the bicycle and pedestrian network brought positive results. Successful land-use strategies have included locating housing and work opportunities close to each other, concentrating growth in areas that can be served by transit, focusing on compact communities, and confining growth to urban growth limits. In addition, telework has benefited from supportive, pre-established policies.


amount 1: Successful strategies from the partner survey.


Some of the major challenges related to VMT reductions include a lack of transit, political will, funding and land use. In some locations there is a complete lack of services due to the rural or extra-urban nature of the location, lack of funding, or both. Other locations suffer from inadequate service in terms of the frequency or time of day that service is provided, making transit service less attractive compared to driving, especially when parking is plentiful and the overall cost of driving is considered low.

The public and elected officials often respond well to the potential for additional transportation options (e.g., mass transit services, bike lanes, and sidewalks) but not to the removal of lanes or vehicle facilities. Speech about advanced options is received positively, while discussion of VMT reduction can be difficult to understand and gain public support. Jargon-free language is also more productive than planning terms — for example, people don’t understand the nuance and difference between reducing commutes and managing transportation demand.

Finally, there is a lack of affordable housing in all parts of the state, causing workers to move farther from employment offices and increasing commute times. Affordable housing is needed everywhere so all commutes can be minimized and people live in 20 minute neighborhoods where they can walk to most if not all of their needs.

VMT reduction resources

Please visit the following links, including the MRSC website, to find helpful resources.

Upcoming webinar

Join us on June 28 to learn more about successful approaches Washington cities have used to reduce VMT. A wide range of strategies are covered including beautification, communication, active transportation facilities, transit and more. You’ll hear from Redmond, Olympia, Spokane and Stanwood. For more information and to register, please visit Increasing Transportation Options and Access: Local Success in Washington’s Cities.

MRSC is a private non-profit organization serving local government in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Alon Bassok

Alon Bassok, PhD, is a planner in the WSDOT Multimodal Planning and Data Division. Alon’s focus is on vehicle mileage reduction and goal setting. Previously, Alon worked at WSDOT on the commute reduction program.


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