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Using Point Programs to Sustain Behavior Change

Challenges and special events are great ways to get commuters to try out alternative modes of transportation. However, research demonstrates that many challenge participants simply return to their old habits once the event comes to an end. Thus, while events like National Bike Month are very successful at delivering the initial spark that jolts commuters into trying something new, the problem is that the spark too-often fizzles out once there’s no longer an immediate impetus for continuing. Longer-term incentive programs offer a great compliment to shorter challenges, and point programs are among the most effective ongoing incentive options.

What Are Point Programs?

Point programs are incentives that are put in place on a long-term or permanent basis. They allow commuters to earn points every time they log a commute using an alternative to solo driving. Depending on how the program is designed, all modes may receive the same amount of points, or certain modes may be prioritized, such as carpooling or biking. These points accumulate over time, and can then be redeemed for prizes, benefits, and other perks.

Transportation managers and administrators can use specialized commuter management software to track points, manage prize inventory and benefit distribution, and enable employees to log their commutes quickly and easily in a variety of ways.

Applying Point Programs in Your Company

Point programs build on the principles of year-round incentive programs like “emergency ride home” initiatives. Emergency ride home options provide vouchers for motorized transportation, like taxis or ride-hailing services, which are offered to commuters who are unexpectedly faced with the need to get home quickly. They are designed to solve one of the most pressing problems associated with active commuting: what does someone who walks or bike to work do if the weather turns bad, or if unexpected circumstances require them to get home or go somewhere in a hurry?

However, emerging insights show that while emergency ride home programs are a key component of a smart commuting program, they are not usually enough to encourage sustained behavior change on their own. That’s why pairing them with point programs is so much more effective; commuters have a built-in, long-term incentive for using alternative modes of transportation, and they also have the assurance of a guaranteed ride home if they ever need one.

One increasingly popular way for employees to redeem their points is through a commuter store. In commuter stores, enticing prizes are offered at various point levels, with more points “buying” bigger and better prizes. They give employees something to strive for, and greatly enhance their senses of accomplishment and reward. Common prizes include logo gear from the sponsoring organization (sunglasses, t-shirts, notebooks, etc.), gift cards of various value levels, or raffle tickets towards a chance to win even higher-value items. Our recent support article on choosing commuter store rewards provides a more in-depth look at effective strategies for setting up a commuter store.

Point Program Examples

The City of Austin has made use of an effective point program that uses a slightly different strategy. Austin’s initiative allows city employees to exchange points for the ultimate reward – paid time off. It has proven to be a win-win in one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

The University of Arizona also recently launched a commuter store targeted at both students and university employees, to great success. You can hear first-hand from both the City of Austin and the University of Arizona in the video from last month’s RideAmigos Academy webinar about point programs. On the regional level, Commute.org in San Mateo, CA runs an excellent point program called the STAR store, which they shared about during a presentation at CommuteCon earlier this year.

Do you have an idea for a point program, but you’re not sure how to implement it? Are you having a hard time figuring out what kinds of incentives or rewards to offer for maximum behavior shift? We’re here to help! Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help you work through your ideas and find dynamic new ways of engaging your commuters.

 

 

How to Be a More Bike Friendly Employer

With National Bike Month well underway, businesses across the country are seeing a surge in the number of employees who are interested in riding to work instead of driving. In years past, National Bike Month has prompted many employee transportation coordinators to consider how they can turn their organization into a more bike friendly employer. If you’re in that situation, there are many ways you get started in supporting active commuting in your workplace.

Here are four popular ideas:

Secure bike storage

Well-placed bike racks offer a low-cost way to encourage more people to ride to work rather than drive. To make the most of your investment, it’s best to place the bike storage area somewhere accessible only to employees, or at least somewhere that isn’t highly visible to passersby and the general public.

Make sure your racks allow for the easy and secure placement of bike locks, and that your racks are placed to shield bikes from rain and snow. Bike racks generally come in two varieties: freestanding racks that can be bolted down to durable surfaces and in-ground racks that are mounted in poured concrete.

If you’re looking to really impress your bicycle commuters, consider providing covered bike storage that is also protected from sun and rain, or even indoor bike storage for the highest level of convenience and security.

On-site showers and lockers

Biking delivers a healthy workout, especially for commuters who ride a long way. Nobody wants to spend their work day in sweaty clothes, and the prospect of doing so discourages a lot of would-be cyclists from ditching their cars.

The solution? Provide on-site showers and lockers for employees who want to embrace active commuting. That way, they can bring a change of clothes, shower when they arrive, and be fresh as a daisy when the work day begins.

Guaranteed ride home programs

A bike friendly employer also recognizes that emergencies and unexpected situations happen. If a commuter bikes to work, what do they do if the weather turns nasty or they suddenly have to get somewhere faster than their bike can carry them? Such anxieties are often cited as reasons commuters choose to drive instead of biking.

Guaranteed ride home programs are a great way to solve this problem, as they provide emergency rides for employees who use alternative modes of commuting. Typically commuters are offered a free ride home a specified number of times per year if an emergency situation arises. Rides are provided via vouchers, Uber or Lyft codes, or through a reimbursement system.

Ongoing Incentive Programs

Bike to Work Challenges are a great way to get commuters to try out a new way of commuting. However, ongoing bike-related incentives are important to keep them going. Options for incentive programs are as diverse as your imagination and resources, so check out these suggestions for bike-related incentives like point programs, raffles, and even earn-a-bike programs.

Running such bike friendly commuter programs can be complex and tedious unless you’re using commuter management software like RideAmigos. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization become a bike friendly employer!

9 Ways to Reduce Parking Demand and Traffic on Campus

Cars pose numerous challenges for colleges and universities. High volumes of vehicular traffic create congestion and negatively impact pedestrian safety. Demand for parking can be a costly headache for administrators, as increasing parking capacity is very costly and usually takes many years to recoup those expenses.

Given these issues, many educational institutions are looking for ways to cut traffic and reduce parking demand on campus. These nine strategies are known to have a positive impact, and are all well worth considering if you’re looking to encourage students, faculty, and staff to try alternative modes of commuting:

Switch to daily parking

One of the most effective, but also difficult, ways to influence parking demand is to allow commuters to only pay for parking on days they really need it. With monthly or annual parking passes, once commuters pay they may feel motivated to park more often because the cost has already been paid. When commuters switch over to a pay-per-use system, they often think twice before driving to campus.

Reserve the best parking spots for carpool vehicles

Many private sector employers use a related strategy to reduce parking demand: reserving conveniently located and priority parking places for carpool vehicles. This strategy is effective for two main reasons:

First, it acts as a free way of promoting your university ridesharing and commuter services program. Priority parking spots have high visibility, and giving exclusive use of them to carpool vehicles raises awareness among campus community members.

Second, it works to reduce campus parking demand by encouraging more people to participate in rideshare programs. Fewer vehicles on campus means more parking will remain available, easing congestion and parking woes while boosting safety and reducing  emissions.

Offer subsidized transit passes

Make buses, subways, and other local options more affordable and accessible to cash-strapped student populations by subsidizing monthly transit passes. You can drive high adoption and participation rates by bundling the cost of the subsidized pass in with each semester or academic year’s billing cycle. Students enjoy ongoing access to local transit networks for a low cost that’s covered up front, making public transportation access seem “free.”

Of course, to avoid hassles and headaches, it’s also good to work in an opt-out avenue for students who don’t want to participate.

Create staggered class schedules

Avoid having everyone piling onto campus at the same time by staggering class schedules based on traffic flow patterns. It may help to analyze if there are certain types of classes that tend to have a higher proportion of off-campus students and prioritize scheduling those during different times of the day.

In larger metro areas, it’s also a good idea to schedule classes during off-peak hours to the greatest possible extent. Citywide traffic congestion is usually much lower during the late morning and early afternoon, making these ideal times for students to be traveling to campus.

Offer creative alternatives

At the University of New England, freshmen who pledge not to drive to campus receive 35 free hours of Zipcar service. Administrators report the strategy has been very effective. The University of Louisville offers a similar program where students can opt to forego parking permits to participate in an earn-a-bike program and access to a $400 bicycle voucher.

Add secure bike parking

Place bike racks around campus in high-visibility places, and protect them with features such as weatherproofing and security cameras. If people know secure bike parking is always available, they’re more likely to use it.

As an alternative: consider installing a bikeshare station on campus, if bikeshares are available in your community and your campus doesn’t already participate. This lets students who don’t already own a bike become active commuters without requiring an expensive financial commitment.

Create a campus-wide ridesharing community

Interactive digital ridesharing boards make it fast and easy for campus members to find a ride to or from campus anytime of day or night. These can also be expanded to include intercity rides on weekends and during school breaks, helping students break free of expensive and inefficient solo driving habits.

Remember: making ridesharing a convenient, easily accessible alternative to solo driving is one of the best ways to reduce parking demand on campus.

Establish vanpool connections

Connect the campus to local public transportation hubs with a vanpool program. Such programs provide efficient, reliable, quick solutions to the so-called “last mile” problem. University vanpools are actually pretty easy to start, and they offer a far more favorable cost profile than building new parking facilities.

Try a rewards program

At the University of Arizona, campus community members who choose smart commuting modes can earn points they can then redeem for a variety of rewards like FitBits, Beats headphones, and university gear. In addition, just for signing up for the program users are eligible for 5 free Emergency Ride Home vouchers.

RideAmigos is already helping many universities reduce parking demand on campus, cut traffic, and help fight congestion and pollution in their local communities. We’d love for our cutting-edge commuter management apps to help you author an inspiring success story. Contact us today to get started.

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