Austin Don’t Rush—Using Incentives to Encourage Drivers to Flex their Commutes
In an effort to meet the rapidly growing demand on its roads, the City of Austin is exploring new approaches to relieving congestion and maximizing use of its existing resources. On May 11, 2016, City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler challenged commuters to rethink their daily commutes and consider the simplicity of avoiding peak traffic times and carpooling when their schedule permitted. His appeal to commuters—named “Austin Don’t Rush”-- was simply to find a way to work which avoided morning and evening rush hour as well as driving alone.
As a participant in this “Mobility Challenge”, Metropia’s primary call to action for commuters with a flexible schedule was to avoid the peak traffic hours of 7-9:30am and 4-7pm. Widely promoted as a tool for drivers to flex their commutes and/or carpool, the Metropia app augmented its traditional incentives for traveling outside of peak traffic and carpooling to support the Austin Don’t Rush initiative.
- To incentivize more users to shift their departure times outside of peak traffic, Metropia greatly lowered the number of points earned for travel during AM/PM rush hours. Conversely, the points earned on the shoulders of rush hour doubled in an effort to lure drivers away from gridlock and in favor of freer flowing roads. Points for using Metropia’s DUO social carpooling feature were also doubled throughout the day.
- Special rewards and raffles were offered to Metropia users who signed up using an event code associated with Austin Don’t Rush and used the app on May 11.
- Personalized e-mails and in-app messages were sent to all users prior to the event to promote the Austin Don’t Rush mission.
- Metropia observed an improvement in the Austin system-wide overall travel time index (e.g., current Travel Time divided by free flow travel time). There was a 4% drop (from 1.40 to 1.36) in the travel time index for AM Peak period and a 3% drop (from 1.49 to 1.46) in the PM Peak period.
- Metropia users shifted their commute departure times outside of rush hour on 5/11 with the double point profile playing a significant role in achieving these departure time shifts.
- Overall, we observed a higher percentage of users shifting their departures in the afternoon compared to the morning; this is likely because they have greater flexibility to shift at the end of the work day.
- Those who shifted their morning commute experienced a higher reduction in their travel times compared to the afternoon (10% and 6% reduction in travel time, respectively).
- Those who shifted their afternoon commute experienced a 6% reducing in travel time delay.