Washington, DC, boasts one of the best public transportation systems in the country, but many residents still depend on cars. To encourage them to choose the greener transportation option, we developed a rewards system that offers riders points for carbon dioxide emissions saved.
WHAT WE DID:
Spoke to DC residents about their commutes.
Researched transportation trends in DC and nationwide.
Explored the primary ways to change behavior.
Private vehicles are driving climate change.
Transportation produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other sector in the United States. In 2017, light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickups, and more) produced 1,098 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, about 1/5 of the country's total emissions footprint. Cutting back just 10% would reduce 110 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the annual output of 28 coal-fired power plants.
Still, car ownership increases each year, even in cities with mass transit. Public transportation use fell in 31 of the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the country from 2016-17. In seven of the US's largest cities, 24% of riders decreased their transit use in 2018, 15% from "all the time" to "occasionally." Another 9% abandoned mass transit altogether. Until zero-emission vehicles are the standard, sustainability means sacrificing the convenience and comfort of private transportation.
Our world encourages car use.
It is difficult to blame people for their behavior, considering their environments. "The motor car dominance means that it actively militates against you making more responsible choices," a climate change expert told the BBC. "What you have to do is change the conditions in which the choices are being made so they are more favorable to more responsible choices."
The 54% of DC residents who take public transit.
Washington, DC, is an attractive test city for a green public transportation initiative. It boasts one of the most extensive and top-rated mass transit systems in the country, with 68% of residents rating it favorably. Still, DC is ultimately a "hybrid city" in terms of transportation. A majority of residents still depend on private vehicles for their daily commutes, suggesting an initiative could persuade them to ride mass transit more frequently.
According to The Washington Post, DC commuters fall into four distinct segments: Transportation Omnivores (18%), Drivers Who Dabble (36%), Completely Cars (26%), and Homebodies (20%). We aimed to encourage the 54% of DC residents who are either Transport Curious or Drivers Who Dabble to more frequently opt for the greener transportation option.
Transportation Omnivores: Early adopters of new services, such as e-scooters and ride-sharing apps. 18%.
Drivers Who Dabble: Frequent drivers who occasionally take the metro or other public transport. 36%.
Completely Cars: Committed to their cars and only drive. They value the privacy and comfort that cars afford. 26%.
Homebodies: 1/5 of the city's residents who travel less frequently or rarely beyond their neighborhoods. 20%.
Awareness is not enough to impact behavior. People need incentives.
According to a report published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, there are three primary ways to change behavior: nannying, nudging, and incentives. The report plainly states that providing incentives, namely financial ones, is most effective.
Nannying: Restricting individual behaviors (e.g., banning driving on certain days, cigarette taxes). Seen as an overstep by policymakers. Often used as a last resort.
Nudging: Providing Information as encouragement (e.g., tracking CO2 emissions, counting steps). Not proven to be effective. Case in point: there is no clear evidence fitness trackers make people more active.
Incentives: Using bribery to achieve desired behaviors (e.g., rewards programs for stores and brands). Proven to encourage behavior change without punitive measures.
When you do right by the environment, it pays back the favor.
THE IDEA: Eco-Points
A point system that rewards commuters for the emissions they save by leaving their cars at home. They can exchange points to add money to their SmarTrip cards.
The DC Metro already has an app that offers directions via GPS navigation, and so Eco-Points would exist as a new feature.
Using it is as intuitive as any other GPS app.
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.
Points are weighted by emissions saved per capita.
Deck Narrative, Design, and Presentation
Secondary Behavioral Research