Sunnyvale Multi-Family Residential TDM


The City of Sunnyvale’s Multi-Family Residential TDM Program, initiated by ordinance in 2016, requires a transportation demand management (TDM) program for multi-family development projects consisting of 10 or more residential units. The program was the first residential TDM program in Santa Clara County. It utilizes a menu of TDM strategies that provides a variety of methods for developers to meet requirements for their site. Each site is assigned a number of “points” to satisfy. The menu options provide ways of scoring sufficient points required for the site. These options include infrastructure and site design as well as ongoing TDM techniques like provision of transit passes.


The program involves a fairly straightforward method of determining TDM requirements and selecting strategies to meet these requirements. The number of points required depends on the quantity of dwelling units included in each project. The points required for developments between 10 and 99 units are calculated from a formula of total units, divided by 10, rounded to the nearest whole or half number. Developments of 100 or more units are required to reach 10 points using the strategies in the menu.

Examples of strategies include enhancing connections to existing pedestrian and bicycle network, implementing a bicycle share or car share program (or being proximate to the nearest location), installing secure bicycle storage facilities, providing transit passes and/or subsidies, and providing residents with informational materials about transportation alternatives. The points allotted for each strategy are roughly based on their estimated percentage of trip reduction.

To assist developers in meeting these requirements, the City developed the graphic-rich, user-friendly TDM Toolkit for Multi-Family Residential Development. In addition to those included in the menu of strategies, the toolkit provides strategies projects can include voluntarily at this time, or that the City may consider requiring in the future. The toolkit includes several case studies of development projects that have successfully integrated TDM strategies. Not only is the toolkit a great guide for local developers, but it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in TDM.


The Multi-Family Residential TDM Program was adopted in October 2016; therefore, it is too early to quantify its impacts on traffic reduction from new housing developments. As a somewhat new practice, residential TDM requirements lack the same level of data as commercial zone TDM program and can be difficult to measure. Also, driveway counts don’t always capture the full picture, especially if residents park on neighbouring streets. This policy was designed with this challenge in mind, and the City will continue to revisit the program and evaluate its effectiveness.

Lessons Learned

When preparing the TDM strategies, it is important to consider both ownership and rental projects. Rental projects that have an on-site manager may have more opportunity to choose from the full menu of TDM options. The on-site manager often provides the capacity necessary to implement some of the ongoing TDM strategies such as private bike share and transit pass programs. Alternatively, establishing ongoing TDM requirements for ownership developments is a more difficult due to a lack of on-site management. Therefore, ownership projects tend to choose TDM items that are site design oriented or based on their surroundings, such as density and proximity to transit. The asymmetry between the approach of ownership and rental properties will likely lead to differing outcomes.

For residential TDM programs, it can be challenging to monitor and enforce the TDM measures and policy itself especially because there is currently no monetary penalties for residential developments not meeting the TDM requirements. However, since Sunnyvale is committed to ensuring efficacy for this policy, driveway counts are a potential method for determining the strength of these policies in limiting congestion.