CommuteCon 2020

Incentivizing Commuter Behavior: Using focused incentives to reduce transit overcrowding

Doug Palmer
Vice President
Ideas 42

Session Description

As more of our lives are spent working, personal happiness is increasingly associated with how easy it is for people to commute to and from work. Yet, hassle-free commutes are becoming rarer and harder to come by. Public transit riders are increasingly facing a ride home with extensive delays and overcrowded trains, which is often exacerbated when a local event increases demand during the evening commute. Governments tend to tackle overcrowding through investment in infrastructure— more trains, more buses, more rail lines, and more bus routes. ideas42 and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) partnered to pilot a solution that would be responsive to overcrowding during weekday evening Chicago Cubs home games in 2017. After working with riders to link their CTA accounts with cell phone numbers, we tested four different SMS text messages and incentives to shift peak-hour commuting to non-peak hours. The results suggest a $2.25 fare rebate was correlated with a 17.5% decrease in peak-hour (5-6p) ridership, with a crowding-in effect between 4-5p and 6-7p. While the results of this pilot study are encouraging, more study is needed to ascertain if this pilot can have a substantive impact at scale or in other situations where increased congestion is expected.

About the speaker:

Doug Palmer is a Vice President at ideas42 leading our state and local government projects, including transportation projects. Doug has over 10 years of experience working with state and local governments focusing on criminal justice, municipal finance, and transportation issues. Doug also served as an Americorps*VISTA helping low- and moderate-income people file their taxes and build assets. Doug has a BA from the College of Wooster, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.