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.