Sustainable Waterloo Region
In Canada, carpoolers and commuters looking to adopt alternative modes of transportation face a unique set of obstacles. The country has notoriously long and cold winters, a fact that has long been viewed as an impediment to encouraging behavior change.
However, a public-private partnership program managed by Sustainable Waterloo Region in southern Ontario has found success using innovative solutions driven by creativity and the power of social media. Sustainable Waterloo Region is part of the 27-member Travelwise Transportation Management Association, an organization dedicated to reducing the prevalence of single-occupancy vehicle commutes in the region.
Waterloo Region is in the heartland of Southern Ontario, Canada about an hour’s drive from Toronto. The area sees a great deal of commuting activity, particularly between the major metropolitan center of Toronto and the smaller cities located in the Southern Ontario interior.
In February of 2016, Sustainable Waterloo Region sponsored the #CarpoolSelfies campaign, leveraging the power of social media to promote its Carpool Month program, which included weekly challenges and weekly prizes. The initiative grew out of a similar campaign held in February of 2015, where the #CarpoolSelfies hashtag made its initial debut as part of Carpool Week.
The extended, month-long 2016 program was a success, but some tweaks were made in February of 2017 to encourage even greater participation. A points system was created, giving Travelwise members an additional 10 points for registering a group, 10 points for each social media post made using the #CarpoolSelfies hashtag, and 1 point for each carpool trip logged. Anyone based in Waterloo Region was eligible to participate, and commuters can take part at any point during the month. Points counted towards standings, with leaders becoming eligible for prizes.
Registered carpool groups became part of a searchable database, enabling interested parties to find local matches through the Travelwise Carpool Month website. Along with Twitter, Carpool Month events were promoted on YouTube to much success.
The program generated a high level of social media visibility, which helped encourage awareness and draw increased interest. Carpool Month’s #Trending status saw a huge jump in the number of new users and new carpools. Across the entire month of February in 2016, 133 new users joined and 72 new carpools posted. In just the first three days of February of 2017, 99 new users signed up and 113 new carpools posted.