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Traffic Editor's Picks Smart Cities Mobility Commuting Congestion Public Sector

These 4 novel incentives are trying to change how people travel

Cities and others have dreamed up some novel incentives to get people out of their cars, on bikes or to generally consider changing how they commute. Check out four of the best.

In years to come, mobility services running clean, autonomous vehicles could be the key to easing our growing traffic problems. For now though, congestion and pollution are real problems that require fast solutions.

Big challenges, of course, require fundamental changes – citywide improvements such as those we support with our smart city solutions. But that takes time. So, while the infrastructure catches up, cities, employers and other interested parties have started offering some novel incentives, like these four, to encourage us to change our ways.

1. Bologna, Italy: free beer, anyone?

If you live in Bologna and enjoy a drink on your way home from work, your luck is in. The Italian city is encouraging people to focus on more sustainable modes of travel – cycling, walking and public transport – and is rewarding commuters with treats like free beer, ice cream and tickets to the cinema.

The city runs an anti-pollution rewards scheme called Bella Mossa (in English “Good Job”), which is jointly funded by the EU. Citizens download the Better Points app, log journeys, earn points and then spend them on rewards. More than 100 local businesses have signed up to give away discount vouchers, while GPS ensures people are honest about their trips.

2. Tokyo, Japan: noodles too?

The food rewards theme continues. To ease congestion in the mornings on the subway, Tokyo Metro experimented with a scheme where commuters could get soba noodles and tempura if they staggered their commutes.


During the morning rush hour, the Tozai Line (one of the most crowded in Japan) ran an initiative where commuters earned food coupons for entering their station at a specific time. However, with a string of catches, it’s not always easy to get a free lunch. For example, commuters must take part on ten consecutive weekdays. And if fewer than 2,000 people participate on a given day, they will only get one piece of tempura instead of noodles.

3. Washington and Baltimore, US: what about gift cards?

To encourage simpler and faster commuting in the Washington and Baltimore regions, a team from the University of Maryland developed a new rewards app, IncenTrip. Users earn points for carpooling and riding the Metro, and can spend them on Amazon, Apple and Google gift cards.

The app is part of a $4.5 million research project funded by the US Department of Energy and aims to predict traffic and ease congestion. It uses artificial intelligence to analyze travel habits, identify improved commutes, and incentivize these through redeemable points based on the method of travel, with more points given to greener travel.

4. Chessington, UK: or real money?

Rewards are one thing, but what about simply being paid for finding a greener way to get to work? Urban electric bike firm Gocycle does just that. It pays employees to commute to work by eBike.

Its employees can now claim 40p per mile when they choose to go to the Chessington HQ by eBike rather than by car (but a mere 20p per mile for using a pedal bike).

What would it take for you to go green?

So given the choice, which reward would you go for? Beer, noodles, gift cards, plain old cash… or do you think there are better ways to solve congestion? Let us know in the comments.

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