Downtown Rewards Commuters Who Don’t Drive

Like many cities, Durham, NC, wants commuters to take the bus, ride their bikes, and generally find ways to get downtown other than the standard solo drive.

Unlike most cities, Durham is tapping into the discipline of behavioral economics to change drivers’ behavior.

The first strategy, a planning tool algorithm, creates a personalized route that lays out options for walking and taking the bus, along with time comparisons. The tool stresses the health benefits and financial savings brought by alternate forms of commuting.

The city tested the tool by sending it to 1,000 workers during 2018. Commuters who received the personalized route reported using travel alternatives, instead of driving alone, 12 percent more than employees that did not receive it, the city says.

To enhance the pitch, the mapping tool uses breezy language. “Driving downtown Durham is so 2017,” reads one example.

The second strategy adds a competitive element and enters commuters in a weekly bus lottery.

More on Durham’s program to encourage alternative forms of transportation appears in the February issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. Click below to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.

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