What are incentives?

Incentives are a reward that you may offer to your users for performing a specific, transportation related, act. This could be commuting by bicycle a specific number of days per month, or trying each available mode of transit at least once.  Incentives are completely personal, they do not require competition of any kind, and simply allow a user to try to achieve an objective goal set for them in order to be able to obtain the prize.  Additionally, incentives can be both short term and long term or ongoing.  Long-term or ongoing incentives are a great way to provide those commuter benefits that your organization uses to even the transportation playing field…making all modes of commuting equally easy and affordable.  Short term incentives are a great way to motivate your users to try something new…perhaps a month long program to get your users to give carpooling a try.

Why use incentives?

Incentives are one of the best ways to boost engagement and encourage mode-shift among your users.  With over 70% of American employees driving alone to work, its going to take at least a little nudge to convince them to consider taking a non-sov commute.  That’s where incentives come in.  

Want to convince someone to take transit, for example?  You have to make it at least as easy as driving, and generally probably have to make it slightly more attractive to catalyze a change.  An incentive of a free transit pass makes transit at least as cheap as driving (in the case where parking is free).  Offer an added incentive for the first 10 or 20 transit trips and now you’ve got a commute mode that starts to become more attractive than driving alone.  

How do I decide what incentives to use?

The types of incentives are as varied and different as your users, and therefore there is rarely a one size fits all answer to this question.  This is another instance where conducting a user survey prior to launch can be of use. To get the most out of any incentive offering, you must first understand your audience and what types of incentives they would be most influenced by.  

A great example from one of our clients:  Sonos, a Santa Barbara based electronics company, needed to drive down the demand for parking as they were losing a number of parking spaces in an office move.  They wanted to incentivize their employees not to drive to work and so conducted a survey to determine what types of incentives would be the most effective.  What they found was that over 50% of their employees were interested in biking to work and considered that perhaps an incentive related to biking would be effective. Enter the “Earn a Bike” program, wherein Sonos employees are eligible for a $600 gift card to a local bike shop after having taken 80 non-SOV commutes. This led to a 45% parking reduction at their offices.

Sonos may be a special case.  They are situated in a dense, urban area, where it’s warm for the majority of the year.  But there are good takeaways here.  And coupled with your ability to segment your audience through the Networks tool, you can set up incentive programs that are targeted and more likely to be effective.

Another great way to use the RideAmigos incentive tool is as an employer to administer federal commuter benefits such as the ability of an employer to provide employees with up to $225 in tax free subsidies to take transit.  These federal commuter benefits are a great win-win proposition for both employers and their employees.  For more detail on how incentives can be used in conjunction with federal commuter benefits, see ‘RideAmigos and Transit Subsidies’.

How to get started with Incentives

If you think incentives are for you, check out our how-to for a step-by-step guide to setting up an incentive program.