Apr 29, 2021

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines S1E2: TDM-CP

with Jessica Alba


Why will the TDM-Certification Program (TDM-CP) save the planet?

Join us for this week's episode of Between the Lines, as we speak with Jessica Alba, Transportation Policy Manager at Stanford and Chair of the ACT Certification Board of Trustees, about this new and exciting professional development opportunity.

And check out Jessica's favorite commuting song on our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

  • Destiny - Zero 7


Episode Transcript

-(Voiceover) Commutifi presents Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Each week, we explore the challenging issues transportation demand management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone to more sustainable, shared, and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify. This is between the Lines with Andy Keeton.

-(Andy Keeton) Hello, and thanks for joining us today. Thanks for being on board. Today, we're talking with a really special guest, Jessica Alba. She's a transportation policy manager at Stanford University and she's the chair of the ACT Certification Board of Trustees overseeing the TDM-CP program, which we're talking about today. Jessica joined Stanford University as an internal and external liaison on Transportation Policy Manager in 2017. Prior to Stanford, she was a planner and principal at Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates and tried vector traffic to thought leaders on transportation solutions that put people first. Jessica studied Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lund University in Sweden in the 90s and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004. With a strong foundation centered on sustainability, she merged academic knowledge with a love for vibrant communities. Over the past two decades, she has consulted and advised on hundreds of projects and policy efforts in a sustainable and emerging mobility realm. We're really excited to have you on today, Jessica. Thanks for being here.

-(Jessica Alba) Thanks for having me.

-(Andy Keeton) All right, today we're going to be talking about something that's really near and dear to my heart, the TDM-CP program. Jessica is going to tell us why the TDM-CP program is going to save the planet. And I really find this to be fascinating. And it's a really important new program here in the field of TDM. For a lot of reasons, but, you know, to me, it has really brought me into the TDM space, become a better professional here in space. And I feel like I've really gained a lot of information and knowledge from this. So, let's just dive right in. We've been talking, we were talking before we got on to this reporting about some of the different reasons why TDM-CP program is so bad. So I want to kind of start off with just broadly. You know TDM-CP program, it recognizes, it provides a kind of disincentive for professionals in the TDM field to actually kind of continue to improve their knowledge, to understand more about the space and the policies and everything that's the intricate pieces to the TDM space. So, you said a quote, I'm just going to like, I want to make sure I get the quote right. OK, so you said TDM is to some extent the glue that holds many transportation services and programs together. I think this is great. So let's start off broadly. Why is TDM so important? And then and then we'll kind of dive more into TDM-CP program. Let's start, how is TDM so forth?

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah, it's funny. I've been in the space for 20 years now and, um. To many people, it's hard to explain what TDM is. It's not clear right away what it stands for and what's included in it. And I love all of the things that ACT is doing now in regards to solidifying and codifying the concept of TDM at the federal level through a legislative proposal, the more through TDM ACT, for instance. But what I'm realizing is that TDM is like the glue in that. We have these infrastructure projects and we have the infrastructure around us, right. Roads, transit systems, rail systems, bike and pedestrian facilities, freight, we can go on, right. And all of these could function separately. But probably not well, and when it comes to ride-sharing and getting someone to take that step of getting out of the car and getting on to transit or taking transit to work, for instance, or starting to ride a bike. TDM is really that glue that makes it happen. It's the outreach. It's the marketing. It's the incentives. It's the disincentives, parking fees that help people make smarter choices and provide better options. So I'm really starting to feel like, yeah, maybe it is the glue. Of course, the outreach in itself is part of the glue, but the programs and all of the things that we're talking about, it's yeah. It's the glue right.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah, I mean and this is one of the reasons I really like, I'm very excited that we're talking with you here early on in Between the Lines Podcast because there's so much that goes into TDM and all these other things. And yeah, TDM is the glue, but that's great. Now, how do we incentivize people? How do we get people to be thinking about TDM? And how also do we get people to be proud of being in the TDM field? So let's dive into this topic that we're talking about today. So the TDM-CP program, Transportation Department and Certified Professional’s Program, I think I got that right. It's a nice little acronym, we love acronyms here in the TDM field. Can you talk to me a little bit more about how kind of, what is the structure behind this? How does someone become a TDM's certified professional?

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah.

-(Andy Keeton) And why is it important that you kind of set it up the way you set it up?

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah. So one of the things, I think the TDM field is expanding and we're becoming more full-time TDM professionals. In the past, we might have been a planner or an engineer or a marketing manager, but now we're realizing that we need to be a TDM professional from first thing in the morning to the end of the day, right. And that's very exciting. And when that happens and when the industry is gelling the way it is now and we're having new tech coming in. We have a strong movement even at the federal level and national level, where more and more people in our adjacent professions are saying, "Wait a minute, we can't build our way out of congestion anymore." That's where the TDM comes in. We need to really make our transportation systems much more efficient. And we need to take advantage of what we have rather than expand. And, of course, transit needs to be expanded. Bike and pedestrian facilities need to be expanded. Other first and last-mile options need to be expanded. So we're coming to the point where the TDM profession is. It's real. It's been there for how many decades? But now we have so many people that it makes sense to set up a certification program. So if you have a couple of years or a number of years in the industry and you feel like, this is what I'm passionate about. This is where I belong when I have these conversations about TDM and everything that it is. That's when I think it makes sense to consider becoming a certified professional. And those steps that go into you, you start off by checking out Act's Web portal with all the documentation and the handbook and the long list of existing certified professionals from the past year. And then there's, of course, studying to understand the different domains, the topic domains. And then you register and you actually end up taking the exam. And then once you're done with the exam, then there's a recertification process. So every two years after you are certified or recertified, there's a new cycle that comes on. And these, that the way we've set up the program is really to encourage you to both grow as an individual and then also to become a stronger leader and to advance the concepts of TDM in everything that you do.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah, that's good. There's so much that you've talked about and unpacked. Yeah, I mean, so I went through this program as well. And I think I really like what you said that about, if this is really what you feel like it is your passion, this is where you belong. You feel excited to be talking about. I always find myself, you know, I'll be talking with someone about this. And I'm just like, yeah, I'm a big nerd about this. I think it's, you know, this is the field. This is just like this is really interesting to be talking about it, which is so funny because I hear people talking about the things they care a lot about. And I'm like, that seems boring, but this is so exciting to me. So, I'm excited that I can go out and get the certification. So I think that's great. And I know that a lot of our listeners here, this is probably where you are too. You wouldn't be listening to this if you weren't a nerd about TDM. So this is great. One of the things that is interesting to me is this idea of kind of enhancing individual professional development and kind of learning the TDM feel even better from mastering your crap. And you talked about how there are so many different things to go to TDM, it's all interwoven. And I'd like to kind of, I know that before the TDM-CP program was put in place before certification put in place, there was a job analysis that was done. I'd like to hear a little bit more. You know, what is that? First of all, explain that and then, why does that come to this? Why did that tell us oh, let's do this application?

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah. Yeah. So back in 2017 and years prior to that, but back in 2017, there was a formal job analysis done. And it's a big effort to really figure out and hone in on what is this profession? What does it entail being a TDM professional? What are the topics that you need to cover and master in this profession? So any accredited certification program goes through this and these job analyses are done roughly every five years in order to keep the program relevant and up to date, right. So you can capture new focus areas or remove something that no longer applies or something that has changed tremendously between, say, 2017 and 2022 or 2023. So as part of that job’s analysis, the biggest portion was or the biggest part of the study was a survey of the TDM professions where it was discovered, the different components and what you need to know, and what functions you fill. Did I mention so 500 individuals were surveyed in that effort? So it's a big enough sample to get really a lot of value out of that survey. And so that base is the foundation for the questions, the exam questions, really, and the domains and the subdomains that are created, and the four main domains.

-(Andy Keeton) Let's dive into those a bit of that. I bet our listeners are pretty interested in this particular thing you're about to say.

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah. So you have, of course, as a TDM professional, you need to know the foundations of TDM. How do funds and policy trickle down from the federal level all the way down to the regional and local level? What can you do with funds? How does TDM fit into the planning, the urban planning versus rural planning versus the tech sphere? How does it fit in with transit and parking management? And then also so really understanding the foundations and what TDM is and is not. And then you have the program planning when you set up a new TDM program, that's one component, the program management, how you manage it and how you manage staff and being a good, effective leader and manager and supervisor and communicator, all of those aspects. And then you have how to measure the outcomes of the program and the success of the program. Where should we invest funds? Where should we not invest funds? What didn't make sense for our program and how, where do we see change? What are ways to improve our program? And how do we report back either to the state or the region or the district or other stakeholders that you are that you need to respond to? So those are the four key areas of the exam. And then in those that it's broken down into very, very detailed levels, that's all included in the handbook. So quite straightforward.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah. And this one I mean, the TDM-CP exam, I think it's a little unique in that this is such a weird broad, mason, kind of profession. Certainly, people might be familiar with some of the other exams that you might get out there that are pretty, you know, it might be straightforward. I need to understand how wide a street needs to be or something like that. But this gets into sure I mean, maybe there's something like that they do need to know as a TDM certified professional. But they also need to know, how do I apply for a grant or how do I report how well my program has gone? How do I account for the money I'm spending? I mean this is so broad. I remember when I was studying, I was going man, I'm essentially studying for 3 or 4 different exams at the same time. Obviously, all of them, kind of this. So if you go to an accounting exam, you're going super deep in accounting. This needs to go just enough in all of these different places.

-(Jessica Alba) Exactly, yeah. And if you look at the resource list that it's included in the handbook, the accounting handbook, or like the guide, which is hundreds and hundreds of pages included there. And it's not that we expect anyone to read through it. It's just there to say you need to understand how accounting works, how the management staff works. How to deal with if you're in the field and someone is not showing up, what do you do? Yes, it's a lot of aspects. And I have to say, as a consultant, over many, many years that the vast majority of my career is in consulting. I didn't need to know the details, right. But of implementation, since I was more focused on policy. But at the same time, I need to understand that if I'm in the TDM profession in order to guide clients properly and getting involved in those aspects of programs. So I think everything that is in the exam is incredibly relevant to what we do. And we also need to recognize that there needs to be an opportunity for new kinds of questions to be incorporated when technology is evolving and new funds become available. And so that's what we're doing as well. We're going to maintain and update each exam as we move along year by year in order to make it relevant.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah, I mean, I remember because I think you were going to the four domains, the last domain about measuring success. That's something I do all the time. So I felt very straightforward and I didn't study very much I felt very comfortable. And there was in domain one, something like, you know, you need to understand CMAQ funding going through there. And I don't work. And I certainly work with public agencies, but I don't do it on the ground.

-(Jessica Alba) No.

-(Andy Keeton) We're helpful. I think I've used this information. The next day, I jumped on a call and they said some acronyms, I was like wait, I actually know you're talking about this time.

-(Jessica Alba) Exactly.

-(Andy Keeton) But give my own input and understanding into the conversation. So, it is super helpful. And I can sing the praises to myself just from going through it.

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah, I think you are on to something as well, that I took the exam back in the beta exam group in February of 2020 before the pandemic. And I learned so much about what I didn't know and what I needed to really study upon. And like you said, I never even if I work in policy, I never really had to learn about the House committees that are more responsible for distributing funds related to infrastructure and rail versus urban transit versus this. So, yeah, the exam really highlighted to me what I was lacking and what I can continue growing in. And so that's been a plus to me that I didn't even expect.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah, I think it's very beneficial to me as a TDM professional. So we only have a few minutes left, but I do want to touch on an important aspect of this program, which is the recertification program. And I think that being a really critical benefit to this program is just continuing that education in TDM, you talked about how things change, how the exam changes, but there's another piece in its recertification. You just quickly talk about what that looks like and why it's important.

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah. So back to the handbook. It lists all of the opportunities you have to maintain your certification. So the recertification process is divvied up in two categories. And one is an industry leadership category. So really advancing and growing both as an individual, but also reaching out and getting more people involved in TDM. And the other one is your professional development category. Your certification is valid for two years and during those two years, we expect you to accrue a certain number of points or actually credits, right. So we call them credits in each of these two categories. And there's a long list of actions you can take, participating in webinars, facilitating chapter, meetings or being part of a chapter or council, leadership, and other opportunities going to the conference, the annual conference, or one of the fall or spring opportunities when we actually get to hang out together in person in the future. We're doing the virtual events as well. So just as an example, serving on an ACT chapter board for a full two-year period is equivalent to meeting the criteria for the leadership category. But the handbook has a long list. And I need to just say this since where the program is new. We will be reviewing this and assessing this over the coming two-year period to see if there are categories or opportunities for credits that need to be added or subcategories that need to be removed because they don't serve us right or they don't serve the individual, the candidate. So that's something we're working on right now.

-(Andy Keeton) And these are two things that I really once again, I keep saying that I really like about this program. But two more things, one being that just being involved in the community and going to things, continuing to learn what you should already be doing. And I know, I want to be doing that gives me a recertification. I don't have to go back and take the exam again, which taking exam is super beneficial. But it also takes some time to study and all that you don't have to do that again. You really like that. And you also touched on the fact that is new. And I work for a startup. I love being on this new kind of edge, on the bleeding edge, but this is the case here, too. You want to get in early when it's, you know, I feel like I'm really proud. I'm one of these handfuls. I can see on the website how many people are on, how the TDM-CP badge and I'm one of them, makes me feel really proud of what I've done. But also, yeah, we can actually have a say in the direction this takes moving forward, this isn't some established exam that you just have to follow a prescriptive.

-(Jessica Alba) You're so right, Andy. I love that you bring that up because and if you are a TDCM-CP, you can also become a part of the certification board of trustees. There's an annual election to become a member of the certification board of trustees so that you can continue giving back. And that gives you credits towards your recertification. And yeah, and you can also be part of subcommittees to expand either the exam questions or the prep materials or other components like marketing. You can if you're TDM-CP today and you're interested in marketing and outreach, let us know because we need support on our marketing subcommittee. So, yeah, yeah.

-(Andy Keeton) This is really exciting. So, yeah, I mean, we've talked about the program. I think that we've given a good understanding, our listeners who haven't taken it yet and having gone through this process should have a good idea. We'll include the links that you talked about, Jessica to the ACT website and to the handbook. In the handbook, we will include those links on our website so people can find them. But, let's just kind of finish this off, let's tie a nice bow on. In a couple of sentences here, why do you think the TDM-CP program is going to help save the world, save the planet?

- (Jessica Alba) Yeah, like I started off in the beginning, we can't build our way out of congestion. We've tried that for decades. We need to manage demand and we need to utilize our existing infrastructure much, much better. Again, as I said in the beginning as well, we can always invest in transit, walk and bike, and other infrastructure as well, but not necessarily sitting stuck in traffic in your own car. So I do think the TDM profession is on the way up. I think we will see a lot more people transition into this field and feel the need to become certified professionals as this is more recognized and included as a criteria in that bidding process, etc. And then yeah, I think I want to stop there, I do. It's more the solidification of the profession that is happening right now it's just a really, really strong sign that so much of the technology advancements that are happening as well. They're so related to making more efficient use of our existing infrastructure. So TDM is not going away. TDM-CP is just going to get stronger, thanks to all of the members who are investing their time and making the program stronger and stronger.

-(Andy Keeton) I like it, yeah. So if you haven't gone through the process yet, I think there's a new exam period coming up this summer that you can do that perfectly. That's just nodding your head to those listening.

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah, and Andy, I want to also give a shout-out to the grassroots initiative with the support group, a TDM-CP support group that exists within ACT there where you have studied buddies. And you get the privilege of watching really fantastic colleagues in the business who are doing webinars on specific topics like CMAQ funding and parking management and how TDM fits into both. And that's just a couple of examples, but lots and lots of resources. So, Andy, I'll send you the link to more information about that one as well.

-(Andy Keeton) Ah, you don't even need to, I'm a part of that myself. You wouldn't have gotten through it. I definitely think anyone who is doing the exam should join that support group. OK, so that's all the time we had to talk about the TDM-CP program. Before you go, as you know and as our listeners know, we've got these music playlist up on Spotify to just kind of enhance your commutes as you're coming back to work. You can only listen to this podcast so many times. So we love to have our guests kind of give their own input and put their own songs into it. So, Jessica, why don't you tell us what is it that you're listening to? What do you want to add to the playlist?

-(Jessica Alba) Yeah, this is a really tricky one. Why do you select, right? But as I was thinking about this, I realized how much I love Zero 7. I think a British duo. They've been around for a long, long time, the melody and everything. The sound is just awesome. So I have to say destiny.

-(Andy Keeton) Great Well. -(Jessica Alba) Not necessarily. Well, I'm starting to listen to the lyrics. I'm more a melody person. But what I love about Destiny in Zero 7 is their collaboration with SIA and other artists and always producing this mellow, travel-friendly sound. When I am back to the melody, it's just beautiful, they touch you. And Destiny is all about that fleeting moment on your business trip, on your commute, in the park holding hands, on the bike, on the subway. And it's just a beautiful song. So it just seemed even more fitting once I actually did watch the video that goes along with the song because it turns out to actually be a song about movement and love and passion. And I thought it was very, very fitting.

-(Andy Keeton) That is a great song. We're glad to add that to the playlists for sure. All right. Well, Jessica, thank you so much for your time and I'm excited to see the new list of TDM certified professionals coming up next summer, and I hope some of you and some of our listeners and viewers will be on that list.

-(Jessica Alba) Yes.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah! Once again, thank you.

-(Voiceover) Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.