Behavioral science is broadening TDM professionals’ understanding of why certain strategies work. One of the most interesting presentations from CommuteCon 2020 examined new commuter programs through the lens of behavioral science, yielding interesting findings you’ll want to know about as you ramp up to launch yours. If you missed Jessica Roberts of Alta Planning at CommuteCon, check out the recording.
Here are a few behavioral concepts you should consider applying to your programs:
The “fresh start effect”
People tend to take strong action in pursuit of a new goal in response to an outside prompt or time-based landmark. Researchers call this the “fresh start effect,” and examples include:
- New Year’s resolutions
- Anniversaries of events
- “I’ll start next month”
- “I’ll start on Monday”
- “I’ll start after my birthday”
These temporal markers can also include significant changes in a person’s life: moving to a new city, changing homes, or changing jobs mark excellent examples.
Researchers note that people often commit to new behaviors with more energy and focus when a “fresh start” event prompts them to do so.
Timing matters when it comes to new commuter programs
This fascinating behavioral phenomenon highlights strategic benefits for new commuter programs. If you can launch yours to take advantage of a “fresh start effect,” you can significantly boost its likelihood of success. Position your programs to take effect after the Christmas holidays, when the month turns over, or when the season changes. Emphasize the change and appeal to personal reasons commuters might have for wanting to make a coincidental change themselves.
As an important side note: the “fresh start” doesn’t have to be organic. You can create it yourself. One way TDM professionals do this is through targeted, individualized outreach programs.
For example, say you’ve launched a bike challenge and scores of your team members are cycling to work for the first time. If one of your commuters had a positive first experience, you can make that experience the “fresh start.” Reach out with an incentive-based offer that invites the commuter to commit to a long-term change. The likelihood that your invitation gets accepted will be much higher.
You can implement programs based on principles of behavioral science like these with the RideAmigos commuter management platform. For more ideas on how to do this at scale, check out this short talk from our Director of Innovation, Corey Tucker. The RideAmigos team is happy to offer further insights, tips, and strategies for making your new commuter programs successful. Get started today!