Financial Incentives for Alternative Commuting

People love the convenience and comfort of their solo-driven, single occupant vehicles. Convincing them that ridesharing, bicycling, public transit, or biking could be smarter choices is an uphill challenge.

Educational initiatives and awareness-raising campaigns are helpful, but often aren’t enough to convince commuters to try something different.

Often it’s necessary to use tangible incentives to get people to step outside of their comfort zones.

The EPA acknowledges the effectiveness of economic incentives when trying to change commuter behavior. Transit pass subsidies, vanpool provisions, alternative commute subsidies, and transportation allowances all have a proven track record. Therefore, organizations that want to establish smarter commuting patterns but aren’t using any sort of incentives program can stand to see a huge boost in participation and effectiveness by doing so.

As one way of giving back to the transportation demand management (TDM) industry and supporting our clients, RideAmigos is creating easy-to-follow TDM recipes for success. While these are best implemented using the powerful RideAmigos platform, the basic steps can easily be adapted to fit most any organization.

The following recipe is adapted from the “Smarter Commuting Financial Incentive Soufflé” recipe found on the RideAmigos Academy:

How to Create Financial Incentives for Alternative Commuting

1) Educate commuters about available options

What options are easily accessible to people in your company or area? Options like ridesharing, vanpools, public transit, bicycling and even walking are often available, but are sometimes not ideal options depending on context. Learn which options your audience is most likely to use, then begin with an educational campaign to make sure these options are widely known.

2a) Decide the parameters of your incentive

Typically incentives are given to users who complete a certain number or percentage of non-single-occupant-vehicle (non-SOV) commutes over a particular time period. Sometimes particular methods of transportation are highlighted, such as carpooling or biking. Financial incentives for meeting the designated criteria can take numerous forms. Some ideas include gift certificate for use at local shops or online, free transit passes, or even cash bonuses.

2b) Determine how you will  will track & distribute

Once you’ve selected the qualification criteria and reward for your incentive, you need to determine how to track user participation and incentive redemption. You could use an online spreadsheet or database, but the easiest solution is using specialized TDM software like RideAmigos. Using our built-in incentive management tools makes tracking participation and redemption simple.

3) Encourage people to sign up for the incentive, log their trips, and claim their prize

Now that your commuters know their options and you’ve set up your system, it’s time to get users to sign up. Ideally you can use the same marketing and communication methods you used in step 1 to spread the word about your program. Have users sign up and begin tracking their non-SOV commutes. Again, this is made easier by RideAmigos using our commuter dashboard and features like automatic commute logging. Once they’ve reached the goal they can request to redeem their reward.

4) Review the progress of the users who have claimed their incentive

Just because a user claims to have completed the necessary steps to receive your incentive doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve done so. Be sure you’ve included a method to double-check that they have complied with your program’s criteria! With RideAmigos it’s easy to confirm whether a user’s trips match your parameters.

5) After verifying the trips of users who have claimed their incentive, approve or deny their requests

You’ll need to have a plan for communicating whether incentive claims have been approved or denied. This is especially important if you need to explain why a request was denied. Clear communications of expectations is a key step to success.

6) Distribute your financial incentives to those who have been approved

Incentive distribution may involve electronic rewards, physical delivery, or even collaborating with your payroll department. Once participant’s claims are approved, set your system into motion to make sure they receive their rewards.

7) Evaluate, adapt, and repeat

Once you reach the end of your incentive period, evaluate your users’ levels of participation and completion. You might want to survey participants to get their feedback to improve future programs. Once you know what worked well and what didn’t you can make alternations to your program and prepare to run it again. Some organizations even choose to provide such smart-commuting incentives year-round!

Additional Resources:

Did you know? Employers can receive tax benefits for offering employees financial benefits that encourage commuting using alternative modes of transportation (PDF)

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute has an excellent and detailed write-up on commuter financial incentives.

Schoolpool Tech for Safe Routes to School

Technological tools open up new ways to think about safe routes to school

Providing safe, reliable ways for kids to get to and from school is a top priority for parents and school administrators. Initiatives like the Safe Routes to School program can be paired with next-generation technological tools to help school communities build smart carpool programs that help participants save money, reduce traffic and strengthen social bonds.

Safe Routes to School provides parents with detailed information (pdf) on how to launch and manage a student carpool. Here’s what they suggest:

  • Access a school directory to find nearby families interested in starting a schoolpool.
  • Register your schoolpool and decide whether to pick up students at a designated spot in the neighborhood or use a door-to-door approach.
  • Arrange to meet the participating families in person before starting the schoolpool.
  • Exchange contact information and decide on a day to launch your new schoolpool.
  • Make sure all participants have access to important safety equipment, such as child car seats and restraint systems for young students.
  • Do a test run to make sure everything works smoothly.

Following these steps can seem daunting when you’re starting from scratch. Is it really worth the effort?

Reap the benefits of smart management tools and help build a safer, stronger school community

As evidenced by their support from Safe Routes to School, schoolpools are a great student transportation solution. Their key benefits include:

  • Improved safety. Students enjoy reliable transportation to and from school, and carpooling reduces the amount of traffic in pick-up and drop-off zones, reducing hazards to pedestrians.
  • A stronger school community. Students and parents alike can make new friends and help build stronger community bonds. Shared transportation is a great way to socialize!
  • Cost savings. Carpools reduce financial burdens on school budgets, and help parents save gas money by sharing driving duties.
  • A cleaner environment. Schoolpools help cut traffic emissions while educating children on the importance of the environment and instilling them with a sense of ecological responsibility at a young age.

Modern technology provides a wealth of online tools that could be used to manage schoolpools. For example, by creating shared online driving schedules. Or, by alerting other participating families if a student is sick or the designated parent is unable to drive on a certain day. However, there are few ready-made solutions that parents and administrators can rely on to implement school- or district- or city-wide programs. That’s where we come in.

The RideAmigos transportation demand management platform delivers advanced schoolpool creation and management tools. Our software has already helped thousands of parents create student carpool programs. Learn more about our work with K-12 schools and explore the many useful features of our schoolpool module.

Photo Credit: Lucélia Ribeiro, “Children at School”


Plan Now for Fall Semester University Parking Needs

Use summer downtime to plan ahead for the upcoming fall semester’s parking requirements

With graduation having come and gone for another year, college and university administrators can start thinking ahead to the upcoming fall semester. Though campus parking lots may be empty now, in a couple of months they’ll be brimming with vehicles as students, faculty, and staff compete for spots.

Advance planning is the key to managing parking and vehicle overflow issues. Strategies can be broadly grouped into three main categories: creating sound parking policies, making the most of mass transit options, and introducing new ways to manage traffic flow.

Colleges and universities have generated beneficial results by adjusting their parking policies, using techniques like:

  • Assigning parking passes based on seniority and the individual’s role in the campus community, giving first dibs to the longest-tenured community members and those with a demonstrated need for on-campus parking
  • Introducing mobile parking meters, which improve traffic flow by preventing the need for drivers to find stationary meters
  • Increasing parking rates so more people choose alternative modes of transportation

To that end, university administrators can encourage community members to take better advantage of mass transit options:

  • Offer subsidized transit passes, or work transit pass costs into existing student fee schedules
  • Use campus shuttles to help staff and students get around large campuses quickly and without driving

Finally, keep traffic flow rates under control by:

  • Spreading out class schedules over the course of the day to reduce traffic congestion
  • Making central campus areas inaccessible to drivers, forcing them to park on the periphery of the campus and walk, bike, or use shuttles
  • Eliminating daytime traffic altogether; a growing number of universities have completely shut down campuses to vehicles during daytime hours to great effect

Technological tools can support campus transportation initiatives

Transportation demand management software like the RideAmigos platform offers major benefits to colleges and universities looking to reduce parking demand. Our platform’s commute trip planner tool is invaluable for staff and students who live off campus, helping them build efficient and green-friendly transportation plans that help them save money while reducing traffic burdens. Administrators can set up incentive programs and challenges to encourage the use of transportation alternatives. Event travel planning and event ridesharing programs help ease congestion during extra-busy times, like homecoming, football games, and parents’ weekends. 

Ready to learn more? Please contact us or view a free, comprehensive video demonstration of our revolutionary software.

Photo credit: mehmet canli

Using Surveys for Carpool Permit Management, Event Registration & Ride Matching, Surveying, and Data Collection


Derek Davies is the Program Coordinator for Smart Commute, an online tool of Metrolinx that helps commuters and employers explore their best transportation options. He shares the innovations that he has discovered using the RideAmigos transportation survey tool. “Survey functionality is really good when it comes to integrating the things that aren’t offered by other platforms individually.”


Smart Commute Program Innovations

  1. RideAmigos Survey functionality
  2. Program Marketing/ communications
    • marketing materials/ promo
    • tutorial videos
    • workplace champion guides
  3. Standardized excel templates
    • carpool permit management
    • telework program statistics
    • modal split statistics


  1. collect data, survey, report, track programs
  2. send out blasts of micro-surveys
  3. event outreach and registration


Examples of Transportation Survey Tools

  1. Microsurvey: request information regarding workplace and primary/secondary modes of transportation to accurately pair up carpoolers.
  2. Registration: send out an invitation for employees to register for carpool parking passes. Set registration requirements i.e. being a company employee, having carpooled in the past, and establishing one existing member of your carpool. Then give the option to join that network.
  3. Carpool MixnMingle: create carpooling events to help connect carpoolers!
  4. Event Registration: Spread the word about an event and get the waiver requirements fulfilled and signed.


Program Management

Derek utilizes excel to collect data on Emissions Saved, Dollars Saved, Parking Spaces Eliminated, Cost of Eliminated Parking, Trips Saved, etc. He then uses this information to manage his carpool and telework programs. Derek describes the process as simple, “All you have to do is download excel spreadsheets from RideAmigos…and it gives you data based off of the equations that you use.”

For teleworking you can find how many trips the user has, as well as the frequency of their telework program; then through this data, you can then attach a Productive Price and Real Estate Price.

Smart Commute and Derek have employed the unique features offered by RideAmigos to survey and collect data, giving them the ability to tailor the program to their needs. Using our advanced TDM platform, they can integrate information by embedding iFrames and using HTML codes like challenges, registration, logging, and network joins.

Check out our demo video to see more.


Rideshare Month Tools

Using the right Rideshare Month tools are essential to successful commuter challenge programs.

A growing number of businesses and organizations are embracing Rideshare Month initiatives. Rideshare Month is similar in concept to the more well-known National Bike Month, which is typically held during the late spring or early summer and encourages commuters to try cycling to work instead of solo driving.

Rideshare Month is typically observed during the fall or winter, complementing the momentum generated by National Bike Month earlier in the year. Many existing Rideshare Month programs happen in October in the US and in February in Canada. All such programs revolve around the goal of helping commuters engage with smart alternatives to solo driving. Some groups choose to hold shorter Rideshare Week programs instead, but in either case the objectives are the same.

Commuter management professionals can draw on a wide range of tools during Rideshare Month to raise awareness and get people excited about taking part. Having access to advanced program management tools are key to the success of any Rideshare Month program, since without them you’ll be forced to manually manage the complex promotional and administrative tasks that come with participation.

RideAmigos delivers a comprehensive suite of Rideshare Month tools that will propel your programs to greater impact

RideAmigos’ dynamic, state-of-the-art transportation demand management platform delivers a complete suite of tools tools that make creating, promoting, and managing your Rideshare Month initiatives easy. Here’s an overview of how these tools can help make your next Rideshare Month a success:

  • Survey tools. Information is power, and collecting details about commuter habits, needs, and preferences before you launch your Rideshare Month program will help you create targeted initiatives that generate higher levels of success. Post-event surveys are also very helpful, as they inform your analysis of the program’s impact.
  • Ridematching software. Rideshare matching makes it quick and easy for participants to connect with one another, match schedules, share rides, and split costs. Incredibly important making ridesharing less daunting for first-timers!
  • Commuter challenge management platform. Gamification is a popular way to increase engagement and reward those who put in the greatest effort. Our software integrates a wide range of challenge options that make it easy to target program goals, create teams, track standings, and distribute rewards.
  • Commuter incentive tools. Adding individual prizes and incentives alongside competition-oriented challenges provides an extra boost that help encourage longer-term behavior change.
  • Advanced reporting and analytics. Evaluate the success of your program, identify areas for future improvement, and gain valuable insights into commuter behaviors using our software’s complete suite of reporting and analytics features.

Set yourself up for greater success for Rideshare Month or Rideshare Week – get access to these and other fantastic tools in RideAmigos’ convenient, easy-to-use integrated commuter transportation hub. Get started today!