DC METRO // UI-UX INNOVATION
REWARDING DC RESIDENTS FOR GREEN COMMUTES.
Most of us care about the environment, but that doesn't always translate into action. Case in point: the District of Columbia is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the country, but most residents still depend on cars. To encourage DC residents to ride the city's metro, we developed an "Eco-Points" rewards system. It would offer commuters points for the carbon emissions they'd save by leaving their cars at home.
What I Did: Discussed commuting pains with DC residents. Explored trends in driving and mass transit use. Read psychology journals to understand the primary models for changing behavior.
BACKGROUND: DESPITE BEING ECO-CONSCIOUS, DC RESIDENTS LOVE THEIR CARS.
Transportation accounts for 28% of the US's greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of that coming from light-duty vehicles, like private cars. Washington, DC, is a national leader in environmental initiatives, but a majority of residents (62%) depend on private vehicles for their daily commutes.
PROBLEM: CONVENIENCE TRUMPS AWARENESS.
DC is a hybrid city in terms of transportation. While most residents have easy access to a metro or bus stop, private vehicles and ride-sharing apps remain convenient. A 27-year-old DC resident told us that she is concerned about her carbon footprint, but ride-sharing apps are her kryptonite:
"I try to take the Metro or the bus, but Shared Lyft rides are so cheap here. It's just a dollar or so more expensive for me, so I usually wind up taking a Lyft to work and to go out."
TARGET: THE 54% OF DC RESIDENTS THAT DON'T SOLELY DEPEND ON CARS
According to The Washington Post, DC commuters fall into four segments. We aimed to encourage the 54% of DC residents who sometimes take public transportation to opt for the greener choice more regularly. If they can set a better example, perhaps other segments will follow their lead.
Transportation Omnivores (18%): Early adopters of new services, such as e-scooters and ride-hailing apps. Rely on multiple modes of transportation.
Drivers Who Dabble (36%): Frequent drivers who occasionally take the metro or other means of transportation. Still, cars are their go-to.
Completely Cars (26%): Committed to their cars and only drive. They value the privacy and comfort that cars afford and can't seem to let go.
Homebodies (20%): Residents who travel less frequently or rarely beyond the vicinity of their homes and neighborhoods.
REALIZATION: RESTRICTIONS INCITE BACKLASH. REWARDS INSPIRE CHANGE.
Governmental regulations of individual behaviors often provoke a backlash. We wanted people to willingly, not begrudgingly, engage in mass transit use. According to a report from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, there are three primary ways to change behavior: nannying, nudging, and incentives.
Nannying: Restricting individual behaviors (e.g., banning driving on certain days, sin taxes). Effective but often incites anger. Best used as a last resort.
Nudging: Providing Information as encouragement (e.g., tracking CO2 emissions, counting steps). No conclusive evidence of efficacy.
Incentives: Achieving desired behaviors by offering rewards (e.g., loyalty programs for stores and brands). Proven to influence behavior without resulting to punitive measures.
WHEN DC COMMUTERS HELP REDUCE THEIR CITY'S CARBON FOOTPRINT, DC SHOULD PAY BACK THE FAVOR.
A rewards system that would offer commuters points for leaving one's car at home. They could exchange points for added value on their SmarTrip cards as well as an assortment of perks, which are detailed below. DC residents would have tangible motivations to curb their city's carbon footprint.
Points would be weighted by emissions saved per capita.
Tier One: Heavy Rail — 100 points per mile
Tier Two: Light Rail — 50 points per mile
Tier Three: Bus — 10 points, flat rate
Commuters' SmarTrip cards already keep track of miles traveled. But to visualize the points they would earn in real-time, they could visit the DC Metro App, where Eco-Points would exist as a new feature.
Using it would be as intuitive as any other GPS service.
Open the DC Metro app and enter your destination.
Browse suggested routes.
Preview itinerary and instructions.
Begin your trip and earn points.
Redeem points to add money to your SmarTrip card.
SMART KIOSKS + BODEGAS
Commuters would exchange points for added value on their SmarTrip cards via smart kiosks in subway terminals and bus stations. They would also have the option to redeem points for grab-and-go snacks and beverages from smart bodegas, located adjacent to the kiosks. A partnership with Farmer's Fridge could help draw attention to this feature.
MUSEUM + COFFEE DISCOUNTS
Via the smart kiosks, commuters could also redeem their Eco-Points for other discounts throughout the city. Discounts could help draw visitors to DC's many excellent museums not on the National Mall, like the International Spy Museum in L'Enfant Plaza. Discounts could also draw business to regional coffee chains, such as Compass Coffee. What's good for the environment should also be good for the city.
EARN + SHARE BADGES
We're used to boasting about our accomplishments on social media. Rather than bragging about ourselves, why not boast about helping the planet? Like sharing the miles we have run, we should also share the carbon dioxide emissions we save by taking mass transit. The feature would be gamified, and commuters would strive to earn a scale of badges.
When presenting this work, several healthy skeptics asked, "Why would the DC Metro and businesses throughout DC sacrifice money to boost mass transit use?" Our response was simple: we all have a vested interest in combatting climate change. The consequences of avoiding action will be far more disastrous in the long-term, financially and environmentally. Transportation accounts for 28% of the US's greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of that coming from light-duty vehicles, like private cars. That said, the onus cannot entirely lie on civilians. We must collectively build environments, from cities to countries, that incentive greener behavior.
MY PART →
Secondary Behavior Research
Secondary Demographic Research