Montana Department of Transportation

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Research Toolkit

Montana Transportation and Land Use

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Development Exactions and Incentives - Trip Credits

Trip Credits

What are trip credits?

When a developer applies to build a new project, they must provide an estimate of the number of new trips generated. If the new development poses roadway or intersection impacts that cause the facilities to operate below accepted level of service standards, the developer usually must propose mitigation strategies to address the problems and ensure an acceptable level of service.

Some cities offer trip credits for development projects that adhere to certain "smart growth" design principles (such as transit-oriented development) or include transportation demand management strategies (such as rideshare vanpools). The trip credits allow the developer to reduce the total estimated number of trips generated by the project. This can reduce or even eliminate the level of service impacts attributed to the new project, which can present a significant savings to the developer and the community. In some cases, the strategies used to earn trip credits may even reduce existing congestion.

Who can implement a trip credit program?

Trip credits can be implemented at a municipal level, but are best structured as part of a regional planning process to ensure a unified approach across jurisdictions. Trip credits encourage developers to research and apply mitigation techniques to address their own development impacts.

There are no direct costs to the community other than the staff or consultant time to set up the program and administer it. The majority of work required to implement a trip credit program is administrative in nature. Communicating the intent and function of the program to stakeholders and the public may require technical assistance, as does codifying the program into regulations.

What are the keys to success and potential pitfalls?

Proper "pricing" of trip credits: For a developer to desire to take advantage of trip credit programs, it is necessary that there is a clear incentive to do so. Credits need to be provided at a level that is high enough for a developer to receive a benefit for going "above and beyond" minimum standards, while not being so high that the locality fails to receive adequate mitigation in return.

Match trip credits to contextual goals: Credit options and values should be geographically tailored to provide benefits that match the needs of specific areas of a locality. For example, along a transit corridor, credits may be used to encourage the development of transit infrastructure and pedestrian connectivity to transit stops. Away from the transit corridor, it may be more appropriate to encourage greater street connectivity and cycling infrastructure.

Flexibility: Developers highly value flexibility in the development process. Trip credit systems should be flexible enough so that developers have the ability to tailor their own mitigation choices to meet the constraints of the site and the needs of the surrounding area.

Stakeholder Outreach and Public Education: One key to success is to ensure that potential participants in a trip credit program understand how they can earn approval for their development. The cost of a good public education campaign will be well repaid when the tool is codified and applied.

Where has this strategy been applied?

Examples in Montana

  • To date, there are no examples of trip credit programs in Montana.

Examples outside of Montana

  • Rockville, MD Trip Credit Program: In the city of Rockville, Maryland, new development projects that will participate in the City's Transportation Demand Management trip reduction program receive credits for trips generated by the site above and beyond other trip credits or reductions are applied.

Case studies

How can I get started?

A first step in determining whether the local community should use development incentives such as trip credits is to research how the programs work, and then to convene leaders in the development community and obtain input from them on the potential benefits of a local program. Developers, real estate managers, and representatives from the business community would be able to give insight into the appropriate incentives for encouraging their involvement in smart transportation and land use planning through the use of trip credits.

Where can I get more information?

  • Livable Boulevards Toolkit CD Resource Guide. Distributed at the Westside Cities Livable Boulevards Symposium, this toolkit reviews a number of municipal and regional efforts that have sought to incorporate practical approaches to sustainability into their plans and programs. Rockville, Maryland's Trip Credit Program is one of the examples.