Expanding Traveler Choices through the Use of Incentives: A Compendium of Examples
4. Applying Incentives to Shift Mode of Travel
Incentivizing Mode Shift Options Through Smartphone Applications
STARTED IN: 2017
Several initiatives in the United States have employed smartphone applications to encourage different transportation demand management activities. Users, employers, or transit groups use these applications to help match them with carpool rides, find parking, document shifting travel times, or find alternate options such as public transit, bicycling, or walking routes.
Tools for Commuters
One such app-based Mobility-as-a-Service tool is the Mobility Options Discovery and Engagement (MODE) solution, which is offered by the private company Metropia. MODE is intended to facilitate the use of public transportation and to eliminate the need for users to spend time researching mobility options. It does this by incentivizing users to select transportation modes other than single-occupancy vehicles during congested conditions.
Launched in 2017, the Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency (AMORE) project— conducted through a partnership of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of Pima County, Metropia, and RubyRide3—is the field deployment of the Metropia MODE framework and approach in Tucson, AZ. Funded through the Federal Transit Administration's Mobility on Demand Sandbox grant program, the project is currently exploring and enhancing public access to mobility options for individuals needing or wishing to reduce their use of single-occupancy vehicles. It does this by integrating multiple emerging mobility services and technologies. Users can request multiple types of mobility services via the Metropia app, from transit-hailing to carpooling, facilitating service delivery to users. The project goals include supplementing the existing fixed-route transit system; demonstrating a more on-demand, efficient, transit-hailing service; improving overall multimodal system reliability and efficiency; and increasing ridership. In addition, the project is expected to:
RTA and Metropia anticipate that data sharing with RTA and other transportation agencies will help provide insight into transit ridership, demand for transit and transportation services, regional travel patterns, and more. The project has several anticipated outcomes, including:
Tools for Employers
Metropia's platform is one of several platforms that are in use in the United States to incentivize mode shifts through smartphone applications. Similarly, Luum offers an enterprise-grade commute management platform that employers can use to provide benefits and incentives to employees to promote behavior change. This can benefit employers through better utilization of real estate and facilities, streamlined administrative workflows, attraction and retention of talent, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Through Luum's online platform, employers can engage with employees to optimize their daily commute and offer targeted incentives based on specific company commuter program goal behaviors, such as maximizing the use of shuttle, transit, or carpool/vanpool services, and allowing employees to compete against coworkers in leaderboards and rewards pools.
Luum's software aggregates data for the employer through integration with human resources, payroll, parking, shuttles, and third-party mobility providers. Through Luum, employers can make a range of alternative commute modes available, deliver customizable and personalized commute benefits to employees, better understand employee commute activities and preferences, and motivate behavioral change. Luum is designed to enable a commuter benefits program manager to administer transit subsidies and transit cards, form and manage carpools and vanpools, administer daily parking charges, manage a parking waitlist and parking applications, and offer a guaranteed ride home via transportation network companies. Using Luum, an administrator can send targeted communications via email to different groups of commuters (e.g., everyone who is registered in a vanpool or assigned to park in a specific garage). This helps the employer target information and incentives to the right people. Luum partners with third-party mobility service providers in order to offer its clients linked accounts and to synchronize commute data, which is used to track trip mode and distance.
In 2016, Luum worked with Delta Dental of Washington (DDWA) to implement an enhanced commute program that would mitigate the impacts of the company's relocation from a suburban location north of Seattle to the city center. To give employees the ability to decide how best to commute to work on a daily basis and to meet the parking constraints of their new office, DDWA opted to implement a series of solutions (Luum, 2017):
Since starting its MyCommute program, DDWA has achieved the following (Luum, 2017):
Using these application-based systems encourages behavior change from the users, while allowing streamlined incentive processes and easier data tracking.
Incentive Services to Reduce Environmental Impacts of Trips
STARTED IN: 2013
An example of an incentive service that works with State and local agencies to encourage travelers to select modal options that have a lower environmental impact is NuRide (soon to be renamed Agile Mile, Inc.). NuRide is a rewards program for commuters who take "greener trips;" e.g., walk, bike, telecommute, carpool, or take the train, subway, bus, or work a compressed schedule. The NuRide programs in the United States are offered through State and local governments and metropolitan planning organizations, and are free of cost to those who sign up. One of NuRide's principle activities is persuading businesses to sponsor the incentive program and provide the incentives so that the programs are sustainable, ongoing, and donated at no cost to the local or State governments.
The primary focus of the service is on removing vehicles from the roadway as a means of reducing emissions and improving the environment. It does this by encouraging non-motorized modes and car/vanpooling. Users who sign up receive points for each green trip they record via an online portal. Points can be redeemed for coupons for restaurants and retail shops, services, movie tickets, etc.
Established in 2003, NuRide has built a presence in nine States. The participant portal provides a dashboard of activity results in each area where the system is deployed. For example, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, NuRide exceeded 25,000 participating commuters in 2014, after only 4 years in the State, and nearly doubled that number by 2018. Since its launch in 2010, NuRide indicates that participants in the State have saved more than 175 million miles of driving, more than 8 million gallons of gasoline, nearly $97 million in travel-related costs, and nearly 79,000 tons of emissions. (NuRide, 2018) In San Antonio, TX, where the service launched in 2008, $1.1 million in rewards have been redeemed, nearly half a million walking trips have been taken rather than driven, 1.6 million transit trips have been made, and 4.5 million rides have been shared as of June 2018. (NuRide, 2018)
In addition, during the 2008 to 2010 period, NuRide sponsored the Houston Commuter Challenge, in which 13,000 commuters reduced the number of vehicles on roadways by carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking, telecommuting, and riding transit. Participants saved close to $5 million in commuting costs by not driving while earning more than $340,000 in rewards from private industry and product sponsors. Employers throughout the region supported the event by encouraging their employees to participate. In addition to reducing 15 million miles of driving, the Commuter Challenge also produced the following results: 927,498 car trips saved, one million gallons of gas saved, and 10,701 tons of emissions prevented. (Houston Style Magazine, 2010)
For more information on NuRide, see: https://nuride.com/.
European Empower Project to Reduce Use of Conventionally Fueled Vehicles
STARTED IN: 2016
Funded by the European Commission's Horizon2020 program, the purpose of the EMPOWER Project is to reduce use of conventionally fueled vehicles in European cities as a means of achieving a combination of more efficient urban traffic flows reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and improved air quality—a byproduct of reduced CO2 emissions and oil consumption from fewer vehicles idling in congested traffic conditions.
The project is exploring the use of personalized positive incentives such as information, points, discounts, rewards, community support, challenges, small giveaways, larger competition prizes, travel discounts, individual and group competitions, and games as a means of encouraging people to engage in positive behavioral change, including shifting travel to off-peak hours, using car sharing, and exploring ways to avoid traveling altogether (e.g., telecommuting).
The project, which kicked off in 2016, combines empirical research with practical implementation in four "Living Lab Cities" (Gothenburg, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Enschede, Netherlands; and Manchester, UK) and seven Take-Up Cities and Communities. Following the roll out to the Living Lab Cities, it will then be expanded to the seven additional locations.
Each Living Lab city has established a Living Lab Plan, which is designed to provide an overview of the implementation process. Each plan begins with an analysis of the characteristics of the local transportation system and its usage patterns followed by the establishment of a structure for the local experimentation activities and the characteristics of the work to be carried out. The experiments are testing a wide range of potential services; for example, working with transit operators to encourage infrequent users to take more journeys via bus or rail, encouraging the use of electric vehicles by offering parking discounts, and making public transportation more accessible to less mobile people.
The results of the EMPOWER project will answer questions such as, "What are the best designs for positive incentives to encourage people to consider other travel options?" and "How can we establish lasting travel behavior changes, not through external rewards, but though addressing intrinsic needs, such as the need to belong to a group or the need to do good?" The project is also examining new business models that help maintain the incentives after the project concludes.
The EMPOWER dissemination strategy (Meeuwissen et al., 2015) consists of two pillars:
The content of the project and its results will be incorporated into the EMPOWER toolkit.4 The first iteration of the toolkit was released in May 2018 and includes:
The tool includes details on how to use the information and communication technology (ICT) tools developed through the EMPOWER Project to stimulate shifts to "greener" modes of travel for citizens. The ICT tools, developed by EMPOWER, are free to download.
This toolkit will support the launch of the Living Labs during phase 1, serving both to validate the theories behind this project as well as to collect information on the impacts of the tools in the real-world deployment environment.
The results of the phase 1 implementations will be used to refine the toolkit during phase 2. Phase 3 will see the final evolution of the toolkit as it will once again be enhanced via implementation by the Follower and Take-up Cities and Organizations.
The project partners are the second pillar of the initiative. Each partner has a different knowledge base, role, and network. The partner organizations will disseminate the toolkit throughout communities within Europe, but also outside Europe, mainly via project partner WSI-EMBARQ (a non-governmental civil society organization that focuses on practical applications for sustainable urban transportation and development based on a combination of global research and on-the- ground experience) and UN-Habitat (the United Nations program whose mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all).
As of June 2018, the 60 Follower Cities and Organizations are also using the toolkit to support local and regional sustainable transportation activities across the globe.
For more information on the EMPOWER project, see: http://empowerproject.eu/.
"One-Less-Car" Demonstration Study, Seattle Department of Transportation
TYPE: STUDY/MAINSTREAMED PROGRAM
STARTED IN: 2000
The City of Seattle, Washington's Transportation Operations Program promotes driving less and incorporating transit, biking, and walking into residents' daily lives. Starting in 2000, and continuing through 2002, the program, referred to as the "Way to Go" program, sponsored a new challenge: "One Less Car." The goal of this program was for families to park one of the family cars—or sell it—and use other environmentally friendly ways to get around.
In order to be eligible for the study, participants could not have more cars than drivers in their household. Households had to live inside city limits. In total, 86 households participated in the study for a period of 6 to 9 weeks, ranging from households with children, to singles, to empty-nesters. This helped ensure that the study could fit a variety of travel patterns. Participants also had to be willing to keep a detailed journal to track their transportation habits and to submit those journals every week.
Each year of the study, participants started the first few weeks with all of the cars in the household, keeping track of how often and how far the vehicles were driven. This information provided a baseline. For the rest of the study period, the extra car was parked. Odometer readings were recorded on all parked cars and verified throughout the study period.
Participants received an average stipend of $80 each week, which served as both compensation for recording their data as well as an economic incentive simulating the savings they would have if they did not own the car given up during the study. In the third year of the study, the stipend was adjusted to more closely match each family's actual operating costs for their second vehicles. An average of $80 each week was still reported, although some families received more or less depending on their driving habits. This proved to be an especially powerful incentive.
At the end of the study, participants reduced their drive-alone car miles by 27 percent, and the use of alternate modes of transportation increased: bicycle mileage increased by 38 percent, transit use mileage increased by 25 percent, carpooling increased by 23 percent, and walking mileage increased by 30 percent. (Lee et al., 2013) Vehicle miles traveled decreased during the study period, but the actual number of miles traveled remained essentially the same, meaning that people were still taking trips and getting where they were going, but they were not using personal vehicles for these trips. Families had found alternative ways to meet mobility needs without the use of an extra car.
With these changes in transportation, participants were able to decrease their actual car costs and educate themselves about the full variety of travel options available to them. At the time of the study, it was estimated that it cost an average of $4200 annually to operate a second car, while only $1300 to use alternative transportation modes, such as buses and biking. (Moore, 2004) In this particular study, it was estimated that families saved an average of $70 per week; the participants spent $10 each week on alternative travel modes but received an $80 stipend.
Upon conclusion of the study, 26 percent of the participant households sold their extra car, and in some cases, sold all of their cars. A follow-up survey conducted 6 months later in the 2001 and 2002 studies indicated that more than 80 percent of households reduced the extra car's usage. (Moore, 2004)
After the study ended, the One-Less-Car Challenge evolved into an annual challenge for Seattle residents. While the weekly stipends disappeared, the challenge offered incentive and discounts for participants. For cutting down drive-alone time for two months, participants could earn up to $60 in commuter cash and be given the opportunity to join the Zipcar car-sharing service for a first year rate of $25. If participants sold their car, they could receive $200 worth of bus passes or outdoor gear from a national merchant, a free Cascade Bike Club membership, a free bike organization membership, $100 off a subscription to a local organic community supported agriculture (CSA) provider, and the opportunity to join a car sharing service with the first year free and with a $100 credit. (Seattle Department of Transportation, 2009).
The One-Less-Car Challenge was discontinued in 2013, but the City of Seattle has several ongoing programs to encourage the use of transportation options and discourage unnecessary single- occupancy trips.
For more information, see the City of Seattle, Department of Transportation's Transportation Options website at: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transportation-options-program.
Shifting to Transit: Boulder, Colorado Neighborhood Eco-Pass Program
TYPE: MAINSTREAMED PROGRAM
STARTED IN: 1997
In Denver, Colorado, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) offers Eco-Pass, a transit pass program for the greater Denver area that aims to increase transit use and reduce single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) travel. One spin-off of this program is the Neighborhood Eco (NECO) Pass initiative. The NECO Pass is a yearly transit pass option that is available to all neighborhoods in the RTD service area, although it is primarily used by neighborhoods in the City of Boulder because of the subsidies provided by the city. The lower price and convenience of a NECO Pass compared to traditional bus tickets is intended to incentivize residents to shift their mode of travel to transit.
The NECO Pass Program started in 1997 and has grown to include 45 neighborhoods and more than 6,500 households. Residents who participate and receive a NECO Pass see considerable savings. The cost of monthly transit passes can range from $1,100 to nearly $1,900 per year per person, whereas the NECO Pass typically costs around $100-200 annually per household. (City of Boulder, 2018) In addition, the cost of the NECO Pass is for the entire household, regardless of how many people are living in the house. One caveat for the program is that every household in the designated neighborhood must purchase the NECO Pass, so it is in the best interest of users to garner the participation of all households in order to lower the cost per household. First-time participating neighborhoods are also eligible for a 50 percent subsidy from the City of Boulder as well as follow-on reduced subsidies towards the annual NECO Pass costs. The subsidies from the City of Boulder are funded through a transportation sales tax.5
The partnership between RTD and the City of Boulder to offer residents the opportunity to obtain a NECO Pass has been successful and supports the city's transportation demand management (TDM) goals. Neighborhoods that participate in the program have reported a dramatic increase in transit use. Those that have a NECO Pass drive less, which then contributes to less congestion and pollution in the community.
The City of Boulder periodically evaluates the overall effectiveness of its programs to reduce SOV travel. According to the report Modal Shift in the Boulder Valley: 1990 to 2015, SOV trips have declined by 7.7 percent since 1990. (National Research Center, Inc., 2016) The report also states that while the proportion of trips made on transit remained virtually unchanged nationally (1.8 percent in 1990; 1.9 percent in 2009), Boulder experienced a 2.1 percent increase in public transit use (1.6 percent in 1990; 3.7 percent in 2012).
NECO Pass supports the City of Boulder's TDM goals, including:
In addition to the NECO Pass, similar transit pass incentives are available for businesses and colleges. The city has learned that if transit access is made more accessible and affordable, usage will increase. To be eligible to become a participating neighborhood within the NECO Pass program, the neighborhood must be located within the RTD service area, which includes all of Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Jefferson Counties, parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and a small portion of Weld County.
For more information on NECO Pass, see: https://bouldercolorado.gov/goboulder/neighborhood-eco-pass.
Bella Mossa in Bologna, Italy
STARTED IN: 2017
In 2017, an innovative approach to promote environmentally sustainable (non-motorized or transit- based) transportation and reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips was launched in Bologna, Italy. Bella Mossa, which means "good move" in English, is run by Bologna's transport agency, SRM, and uses a system of gamification and rewards to encourage people to choose environmentally friendly transportation modes such as walking, bicycling, or transitThe Bella Mossa program, funded in part through the European EMPOWER Project (see related story on page 28), supports urban sustainability and mobility while promoting a better quality of life for the citizens of Bologna. According to Giuseppe Liguori, SRM's Project Manager, "There are almost 60 cars for every 100 inhabitants here in Bologna. We want to decrease this kind of ownership of cars, but we also want to decrease the use of private motorized vehicles."6
SRM collaborated with the BetterPoints Behavior Change Management System in order to offer a global positioning system (GPS)-based smartphone application. BetterPoints is a behavior change technology company in the United Kingdom that builds tools to help motivate people to make positive behavior changes. The application used by SRM can track users' sustainable trips and then provide various rewards and incentives for their choices. The program has been a successful public-private partnership, with 85 businesses, restaurants, stores, and other commercial partners offering discounts and prizes to participants. Participants may also opt to donate their points to charities in lieu of cashing in for themselves.
During the initial 6-month launch of the Bella Mossa program (April 2017 to October 2017), 15,000 people actively participated in the incentive program, which resulted in an estimated 3.7 million kilometers (2.3 million miles) of sustainable travel and 900,000 sustainable trips. (Amadori, Liguori, and Bristow, 2017) Bella Mossa also offered a corporate challenge which involved nearly 40 business teams, comprising 1,800 employees, and found that the corporate challenge participants earned double the amount of points compared to the average person participating in the program. These results have led the program's administrators to consider the "team competition" component to be a strong contributor for influencing people's behavior.
Overall, the participants provided favorable reviews of this initial introduction of Bella Mossa. For example:
"A lot of people are talking about this campaign and we are very satisfied with the level of engagement. It is really a big success."
The City of Bologna was awarded a CIVITAS7 Award in the "Bold Measure" category for its 2017 deployment of Bella Mossa. This European award is given each year to the most innovative and successful initiatives relating to sustainable mobility.
Due to its success and popularity, the city of Bologna and SRM launched the second edition of Bella Mossa, which ran from April through September 2018. Along with maintaining the basic rules and operation of the 2017 initiative, where individuals and company teams can participate, compete, and gain rewards, the 2018 initiative also included a shorter, 2-month School Challenge in which primary schools in the metropolitan city of Bologna were able to participate and compete for educational materials and school equipment. Preliminary results of the School Challenge show that 1,250 parents were involved from 93 different schools, resulting in savings of 3.8 tons of CO2 on 18,000 kilometers traveled by parents and students.8 One out of five trips were made by "Pedibus," which is a group of students walking together to school. SRM is currently planning a new edition of the challenge for next year.
For additional information on the program and the results, contact Giuseppe Liguori, SRM – Reti e Mobilità at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flexpass Program, University of California, Berkeley
STARTED IN: 2015
To help alleviate parking demand on the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) campus, a parking incentive program was created by the University's Parking and Transportation Office. In this program, called FlexPass, participants are offered incentives for parking less and taking other modes of transportation. In 2015, UC Berkeley, in partnership with FHWA, studied this value pricing project before rolling out the FlexPass program to measure the program's effectiveness.
The study targeted current Central Campus C Permit holders and Faculty/Staff F Permit holders who together make up the majority of regular campus parking. To be eligible for the study, participants had to have already purchased an F or C permit for the entire 2015 spring semester, which was $95 and $131 per month, respectively. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group or a control group. Those in the treatment group traded their original permit tags to new ones for the study.
There were 4,272 C and F permit holders at UC Berkeley that semester who were contacted about this study, and of those, 392 completed the sign-up process. (Tang et al., 2015)
Throughout the study period, participants recorded their daily parking choices on working days (Monday through Friday) via the FlexPass application, available on both iPhone and Android platforms. The application defaulted to "Parked on Campus" each day, but users could change the choice to "not parked" up until noon the day of. At that time, decisions became final and were synchronized with the Parking and Transportation Office's systems. If users had indicated they were not parking by noon, but vehicles were found parked on campus, users were given parking citations.
If users indicated they would not park, they had to also indicate whether they would be coming to campus at all, and if so, what modes of transportation they would be using instead. Participants in the treatment group were eligible for refunds based on their permit types and number of days they parked on campus in a given month. The maximum rebate was $95 for F permit holders and $131 for C permit holders—meaning participants could be fully subsidized their parking costs.
By the end of the 3-month study period, $4,256 was paid out to the 158 valid participants in the treatment group, equating to an average of $26.94 per participant. The highest rebate for an individual was $285, while most others remained under $20. (Tang et al., 2015)
The treatment group members who saw refunds as a result of their decisions had a 4.2 percent demand reduction in parking over the study period, or 2.23 days. Parking demand on the UC Berkeley campus is fairly inelastic, although knowing a reduction is seen in just the treatment group, researchers believe providing these incentives to all users will result in additional demand reductions once the program is rolled out. (Tang et al., 2015) The study showed that the FlexPass would create a potential for freeing parking resources from a portion of campus via these incentives.
For more information, see A Casual Analysis of FlexPass: Incentives for Reducing Parking Demand by Tang, Dounan, Ziheng Lin, and Raja Sengupta. Available at: https://trid.trb.org/view/1394492.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology's Access MIT Program
STARTED IN: 2016
In 2006, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched an institute-wide energy initiative to address challenges relating to energy demand and mitigating environmental impacts. (Moniz and Armstrong, 2007) Since the establishment of the MIT Energy Initiative, students and faculty have become increasingly interested over the years in traveler behavior motivations and various incentives that could potentially influence people to make different modal choices. With the increasing cost of building parking garages and low return on these structural investments, MIT administration officials sought solutions that could potentially convince people to move from driving and parking on campus to other modes, such as transit. MIT secured a grant from FHWA relating to value-pricing, which allowed researchers to put more effort into studying and developing a successful program that could influence traveler behavior and further support environmental sustainability.
In the summer of 2016, MIT launched Access MIT, a significant travel demand management program for their faculty and staff that includes a five-pronged approach to reduce parking demand on campus and change commuter behavior. The program includes:
The Access MIT program set out to reduce parking demand by 10 percent per year, reduce congestion, increase campus sustainability, and reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips to campus. The program has been in place nearly 2 years, and the researchers are evaluating its performance, successes, and any lessons learned. Preliminary findings show that annual registration for permission to park on a daily basis has decreased by 15 percent and overall parking transactions have gone down by 10 percent. By reducing the parking transactions, MIT has been able to defer additional parking garage construction. In fact, a 400-space parking garage was recently demolished to build a dormitory, and 17 percent of the group that used that parking lot ultimately decided not to renew their permit.9
MIT has been pleased with the overall results of the program and has plans to continue. Researchers have found that free transit, daily parking, and free parking at the transit stations had the most influence on traveler behaviors. MIT's next direction for the program will be looking into potential options for the commuters who have no other option than to drive. One solution the university is considering is casual carpooling incentives.
For additional information on MIT's program, go to: https://sustainability.mit.edu/access-mit.
3 RubyRide is a subscription-based personalized driver service. The monthly fee for this service includes unlimited trips inside the subscriber's community zone, but fee trips are also available. The service offers advance scheduling for recurring trips and first mile/last mile services to connect users to transit, making it an option for commuters who do not own a vehicle and who may not live within walking or bicycling distance of transit lines. [ Return to note 3. ]
7 CIVITAS (City VITAlity and Sustainability) is a network of cities for cities dedicated to cleaner, better transport in Europe and beyond. For additional information, see http://civitas.eu/about. [ Return to note 7. ]
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration