In Motion was developed by King County’s public transportation agency, Metro Transit. It applies community-based social marketing techniques to encourage residents to choose alternative modes of transportation instead of drive-alone travel (single occupancy car use).
Research is conducted in each neighbourhood to ensure the programme’s messages are tailored to each community. Each programme lasts 10 to 16 weeks, and interventions include: mail-outs of travel information to all residents; residents pledging to commit to change two trips a week from drive-alone to any other travel mode; rewards for those who pledge; posters and materials in local businesses and community centres; and local leaders recruited to promote the programme.
Results to date:
- Engaged over 10,000 individuals who have reported changed travel behaviour
- Participants have reported saving a total of over 1.7 million vehicle miles travelled
- Over 90 per cent of participants have reported that they expect to be able to continue some or all of the travel changes they began during the programme
- Each neighbourhood has reported an average 20 per cent fewer drive-alone trips
- Each neighbourhood saves an average 35 tonnes of CO2 during the 10- to 16-week programme
Transport plays a fundamental role in the lives of societies and individuals and affects how people interact, work, play, and get access to services, amenities and goods. Many societies are increasingly relying heavily on private motorised transport, resulting in a number of negative consequences, including increased fuel consumption, greater emissions of air pollutants, greater exposure of people to hazardous pollution that cause serious health problems and increased risk of road-traffic injuries. The increased intensity of and reliance on private motorised transport also increases the likelihood of sedentary lifestyles, which has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
Since 1960, the number of passenger vehicles in the US has steadily risen, and since 1972 has exceeded the number of licensed drivers. According to the Federal Highway Administration there were an estimated 199 million licensed drivers and 237 motor vehicles in the US in 2004, which means that vehicles outnumbered licensed drivers by approximately 1.2 to 1.
Against this backdrop, several staff members from King County Metro Transit’s waste and transportation sectors attended workshops in 2002 on community-based social marketing (CBSM). Inspired by the case studies and results presented to them, the staff began thinking how they could develop an initiative using CBSM principles. King County Metro Transit had been implementing Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programmes for employees since 1991, when the state-wide Commute Trip Reduction Act was passed. Despite these initiatives, use of private motorised vehicle travel had increased. Those who attended the CBSM workshops recognised that these initiatives were not addressing the majority of car trips, which were not work-related. Subsequently, in 2003 they produced a proposal for their management team to develop a TDM programme focusing on residents’ non work-related travel.
The proposal focused on the potential for increasing transit ridership (every driver is a potential bus rider) and improving public perceptions of the agency. Examples of other travel behaviour change programmes were presented, notably Individualised Travel Marketing (IndiMark®), which had been successfully applied in Europe and Australia. The successes with King County Metro Transit’s traditional employer market were highlighted, while a focus on residents was highlighted as a market gap.
The proposal was agreed on the basis that a pilot was developed and meticulously evaluated to demonstrate resulting behaviour change. Taylor Consulting Group was commissioned to aid development of a pilot programme aimed at encouraging residents to swap any (work or non-work) drive-alone car journeys for alternative modes of transportation.
A core team was developed, including Taylor Consulting Group and King County Metro Transit’s Market Development and Marketing sections, alongside an Advisory Committee including:
- King County Service Planning
- Community Relations and Public Information
- City of Seattle
- King County’s Regional Planning Body
- Puget Sound Regional Council
Funding was secured from grant funds to develop a pilot programme in four demonstration areas, before seeing whether the programme should be rolled out elsewhere.
Work began with a review of best practice around travel behaviour change, including an assessment of the IndiMark® programme developed by Socialdata, which uses individualised marketing to promote the use of public transport, and case studies from the CBSM database.
It was decided that to be as effective as possible and obtain achievable results within budget restraints, the neighbourhoods that would be targeted as part of a pilot would meet the following criteria:
- Underutilised but adequate transportation and land use infrastructure (e.g. availability of transit services with 30-minute midday frequency or better, excess capacity on most transit routes, access to local services within quarter of a mile from the centre of the residential area)
- A residential density of over six dwelling units per acre
- An area of approximately 3,000 households
- An established sense of neighbourhood identity
An attempt was also made to choose areas that encompassed a broad spectrum of the population (housing type, household characteristics, ethnic diversity, income levels, auto ownership and single occupancy vehicle mode share to work), in order to avoid skewing the results. Topography and existing sidewalk networks were also reviewed to determine the relative ease of biking and walking.
Subsequently the following communities were chosen:
- Madison-Miller (a high density, urban environment)
- Columbia City (a multilingual community with a single family urban profile)
- Lake Forest Park (a suburban city, characterised by lower residential density)
- Crossroads (a mixed-density suburban neighbourhood in a rapidly urbanising city)
Madison-Miller was selected for the first demonstration programme, and the others would be implemented following lessons learnt from this neighbourhood. Having identified these communities, King County Metro Transit conducted a series of interviews with community and business leaders, and discussion groups with residents and community leaders in each neighbourhood (except in Crossroads, where no discussion groups were held).
The purposes of the interviews were to learn how best to reach the community, understand their concerns and suggestions for the programme, and solicit partners for the programme.
The key goals of the neighbourhood discussion groups were to:
- Confirm the community identity
- Understand interests and values that might affect perceptions in the specific community
- Identify specific motivations, barriers and benefits to using alternative modes of transportation
- Identify the best communication channels to reach members of the community
In regards to barriers to using alternative transport modes, commonalities were found among the communities, though order of importance varied between neighbourhoods. However, the project team was somewhat surprised to find that traffic congestion and cost savings were not high on the list of motivations.
- Personal safety – Fear of homeless people in and around bus stops; reluctance to walk alone at night or in the dark, or on select streets perceived as dangerous; concerns about biking on busy streets
- Lack of and shortcomings of alternative transport services – Limited weekend service; slow buses; buses being delayed; surly bus drivers; too many transfers; crowds at peak travel time
- Inconvenience – Travel with kids and bags is cumbersome; bad weather deters people from biking, cycling and waiting for buses; scheduling children’s activities around travel services can be difficult
- Hills and the topography can be a particular barrier to walking and cycling
- Personal health benefits – This was the single biggest motivator across the discussion groups, combined with the enjoyment of being outside when walking and cycling
- Community connection – It is more fun to travel with friends and can be a good way to meet neighbours
- Avoiding parking hassle – Do not need to find parking spaces and are not encumbered with a car
- Environmental concerns – Particularly reduces parking on the street
- Ease and speed of driving
It was clear from the research that the programme would need to effectively compete with the ease, speed and familiarity of driving. The programme would thus need to offer an exchange that would increase the benefits of alternative modes of transportation (emphasising personal health, community connectedness, etc.), while decreasing the costs and barriers to using these modes of transportation (combating the lack of knowledge of alternative transport modes and encouraging residents to trial these transport modes so they become familiar with them).
Working with internal and external stakeholders, King County Metro Transit and Taylor Consulting Group developed a framework for the programme, which could be tailored according to the research findings in each neighbourhood.
Messaging would be adapted according to the local input received during the scoping phase in each neighbourhood, but would be based on a call to action of swapping two drive-alone car journeys per week with alternative modes of travel. A brand was created which could be flexible enough to be an umbrella for a variety of locally specific messages. The logo was developed so that it could be used with or without a neighbourhood name – this would allow for printing of generic programme materials, which could be used in multiple neighbourhoods, alongside locally branded materials. Taglines were produced based on the key motivators and barriers identified by the research, such as:
- If you’re not going far, forget your car
- I can do more...by driving less
- Improving our community through healthier travel choices
- It’s a community thing (depicting local sponsors)
Prompts were also developed which reflected all alternative transport modes, as well as gender and ethnic diversity, so they could be tailored to the specific demographics of each community. Examples include:
- Ride your bike, Mike!
- Take a stroll, Nicole!
- Cycle on, Juan!
- Hop on the bus, Russ!
- Pedal to the gym, Kim!
Local business sponsorship and non-profit support
Developing a community-based approach requires building partnerships with local organisations and businesses. This allows the programme message to be delivered by sources the recipients know, such as a community organisation, or demonstrate that local businesses value the programme. Importantly, building these partnerships ensures that In Motion becomes part of the local community, rather than a more abstract, countywide initiative that is easier to ignore. Sponsorship signs were developed to generate positive publicity for local businesses that donate prizes. Additionally, forming strong ties with local non-profit organisations allows the team to use the networks of these organisations to promote the programme and recruit community volunteers. Recently, partnerships with organisations that serve diverse communities have proved invaluable in reaching populations that do not speak English as a primary language.
Local leaders: Transportation Action Teams
In the initial pilot, neighbourhood residents were invited to become part of a Transportation Action Team to perform local tasks, such as providing requested information to participants, sending out incentives, delivering and putting up advertising, and staffing events. This proved intensive to manage and typically these functions are now performed by non-profit partners or paid staff.
Direct mail to all households in the programme area
During the scoping phase, participants indicated that their preferred method of contact was via direct mail. Based on the IndiMark® model, direct mail-outs to all residents would contain a:
- Programme brochure with a tear-off strip, so residents can request customised information about various travel modes, which they would receive within one week. The first 50 respondents would also receive a free In Motion T-shirt
- Other items including a local access map (for bus routes, cycling and walking) and a notepad (to serve as an ongoing prompt within the home)
As part of the direct mail-out, or at a separate date, residents would be able to pledge to change their travel behaviour. Specifically, they could pledge to change two trips a week from drive-alone to any other travel mode during the course of the programme. This would require them to report their travel behaviour over the course of the 10- to 16-week programme.
Rewards would be provided to those who pledge and participate in the programme. Those who request travel information following the direct mail-out would receive a packet of 10 Metro Free Ride Tickets. Further incentives, donated by local businesses, would also be given to those who pledge to change two drive-alone journeys a week with another mode of transport during the programme. Participants would be able to earn these extra rewards weekly, as they report successfully changing their travel behaviour each week of the programme.
Prompting and norm development through ‘action’ posters
Posters with the call to action were developed for display in local hubs, such as libraries and community centres, as well as on utility poles throughout the neighbourhood. In addition, participants would be eligible to become a Club Motion member and put a ‘Count Me In’ sign in their front garden.
Website and telephone support
A website was developed to provide travel information and tips. In addition, a telephone hotline was developed for those without internet access.
Transport Action Team volunteers would run In Motion stalls at local events to promote the programme and encourage others to pledge.
Vanpooling, car sharing and cycling programmes
King County Metro Transit runs and partners with a number of separate programmes, which could support the In Motion programme. These include:
- VanPool and VanShare – Commuter van programmes that provide vans, rider support services, maintenance, insurance, fuel, tires and training, so that up to 15 commuters can share rides
- Zipcar – A car-sharing programme, whereby members can reserve and use one of many cars located across the region, without the hassle of owning a car
- Localised bike clubs and community bike programmes
The first In Motion programme was conducted in the neighbourhood of Madison-Miller and lessons from this demonstration programme were used to inform the development of later pilot programmes.
Lessons were soon learnt about the tracking and logging of participants’ trips. Originally this was done manually from postcards to a spreadsheet. It soon became apparent that this was time consuming and prone to error. Subsequently the website was adapted to allow for registering, pledging and submitting travel logs online, alongside developing a calendar application. In addition, newer features include a Facebook page and outreach via various King County email lists.
Lessons were also learnt about how best to run the Transport Action Teams. In Madison-Miller the members of the Transport Action Team were not paid, but due to problems with volunteer availability and continuity, it was decided that to make recruitment easier for future programmes, a small stipend would be paid to a local organisation (usually non-profit) to carry out tasks such as mailing out individualised travel information.
“We believe that prompt response is key and it is worth paying someone to be sure that respondents receive their information and incentives in a timely fashion.” (Carol Cooper, Senior Transportation Planner)
One intervention trialled by the Transport Action Team members in Madison-Miller was distributing ‘random rewards’ to individuals who were using alternatives to driving-alone. This however proved to have limited effect considering the resources used and so was not repeated in later In Motion programmes.
During the first pilot programmes, a number of In Motion transportation events were hosted, but they achieved very low attendance. Instead, the local programmes learnt to piggyback on other community events such as farmers markets, festivals and parades, which were likely to have large footfalls. This allowed the In Motion message to reach many more people, including those who would be unlikely to attend a transportation-focused event.
“People are very busy and not that interested in attending a transportation only event in their community. We have since changed our approach to piggybacking on existing community events – go where the people are rather than asking them to come to you.” (Carol Cooper, Senior Transportation Planner)
Having In Motion stalls at existing events has been a particularly successful aspect of the programme, alongside the direct mail-outs, campaign posters, regular email reminders and mid-programme postcard reminders to sustain interest among those who sign up.
“Lots of folks love the action posters, like ‘Bike to the bay, Kay’. They often want the poster if it has their name on it and we have heard of people collecting a full set. The maps are also incredibly popular and we often add items of local interest, which strengthens community connections.” (Carol Cooper, Senior Transportation Planner)
Like all programmes that try to tailor the programme to local communities through input from local residents, In Motion has found that getting local stakeholders to attend discussion meetings and become involved can be challenging. The ease or difficulty of getting local stakeholders involved is usually related to how active the community is already and whether there are key community figures that can bring people together to share their views with the programme developers.
The first In Motion pilot programme in Madison-Miller has been the most extensively evaluated programme to date. Evaluation methods for this programme included:
- A community-wide random sample telephone survey before and after the programme in Madison-Miller and in a control neighbourhood that did not participate in the programme
- A bus stop count survey before and after the programme in Madison-Miller and in the control neighbourhood (counting the numbers of people who board a bus at representative bus zones)
- Participant rates (individuals and business sponsors)
- Reported modal shifts (trip logs)
- A guided discussion with a group of survey respondents to further assess the strengths and weaknesses of the programme
For all other programmes, evaluation has been completed less extensively. The same methods are usually utilised, with the exception of the bus stop count survey, which has not been repeated, and the community-wide random sample telephone survey, which is replaced by a post programme survey that all participants are requested to complete about their travel behaviour and the usefulness of the programme. This is compared against initial data collected on mode choice – when participants’ sign up they are asked about their mode shares on the previous day, which acts as a benchmark.
Results from Madison-Miller
Participation rates and reported modal shifts
- Madison-Miller has 2,740 households – There were 287 respondents (a response rate of 10 per cent), and 212 respondents pledged to swap 2 drive-alone journeys a week for an alternative travel mode
- Drive-alone trips decreased by 30 per cent
- Cycling increased by 76 per cent
- Walking increased by 38 per cent
- Bus use increased by 22 per cent
- Carpooling increased by 46 per cent
Bus stop counts
- There was a 9 per cent increase in boardings at bus stops in the programme area, compared with a 1 per cent decrease in the control area
- Overall ridership increased by approximately 2.5 per cent
- A similar result was found in the Crossroads neighbourhood, where ridership trends were tracked using Automated Passenger Count (APC) data. Boardings at bus stops in the Crossroads area increased 24 per cent on average, compared to a 14 per cent increase for the East sub-area (the wider area in which Crossroads is located)
Community-wide telephone survey
- 33 per cent of respondents within Madison-Miller were aware of the In Motion programme
- 25 per cent recalled receiving the direct mail packet, and 48 per cent of those reported that they responded to the mailer
- Respondents agreed they could bus, bike or walk for more trips than they currently do (69 per cent compared to 50 per cent before the programme)
- Those aware of the programme found they could use transportation alternatives most of the time (50 per cent compared to 30 per cent of those not aware)
- Those aware of the programme indicated they used public transit for some trips and could probably use it to get to more places (55 per cent compared to 28 per cent not aware)
- Those aware of the programme who work outside the home walk an average of 13 blocks to work, compared to 5 blocks for those not aware of the programme
- In the programme area, residents’ perception regarding public transit improved, with fewer respondents agreeing that public transit took too long or was not pleasant to ride (18 per cent, compared to 25 per cent before)
General results to date
- The programme has engaged over 10,000 individuals who have reported changed travel behaviour
- Participants have reported saving a total of over 1.7 million vehicle miles travelled (VMT) during their involvement with the programme
- Over 90 per cent of participants have reported that they expect to be able to continue some or all of the travel changes they began during the programme
- Each neighbourhood has reported an average of 20 per cent fewer drive-alone trips
- Each neighbourhood has saved an average of 37 tonnes of CO2 during the 10- to 16-week programme
Since In Motion was piloted in the neighbourhoods of Madison-Miller, Columbia City, Lake Forest Park and Crossroads, the programme has been implemented in over 15 neighbourhoods, including:
- City of Bellevue – Downtown Bellevue
- Seattle neighbourhoods – Rainier Beach, South Lake Union, Uptown, North East Seattle/Seattle Children's Hospital, Magnolia, Othello, Beacon Hill, and Mount Baker
- Renton neighbourhoods – Central Renton, and Renton Highlands
- City of Kent – Kent East Hill neighbourhood
- City of Kirkland – Originally Juanita neighbourhood, then expanded to all Kirkland residents
- Other areas in King County – Tukwila/SeaTac and Highline Community College
Plans are underway in 2011 to begin In Motion programmes in the neighbourhoods of White Center, South Park, West Seattle and Georgetown.
As well as outlining the active programmes, the In Motion website outlines the final results from each neighbourhood once the programme is complete. Findings and lessons learnt have also been shared through the Tools of Change and the Institute for Sustainable Communities websites.
In Motion staff are considering revisiting neighbourhoods that have previously run the programme. While they recognise there could be some disadvantages of doing this, since the In Motion programme may have become ‘background noise’, they are, however, interested in the potential of reaching new participants and revisiting residents who were ‘not ready’ to change their travel behaviour during the initial implementation.
Conduct research in each neighbourhood
Do not assume you know what motivates people. Conduct research in every neighbourhood and tailor the programme appropriately. Motivations do not translate between communities and over time. Each community has been moved by different factors to changing their transport behaviour and messaging has been tailored accordingly to ensure it resonates with that neighbourhood.
“We have repeatedly found that what we think is motivating is not what the local stakeholders think is important.” (Carol Cooper, Senior Transportation Planner)
Community-based social marketing
The strength of using a community-based social marketing model comes through partnerships with local organisations. Through these partnerships local organisations can become the face of the programme within the neighbourhood. These organisations conduct the essential work on the ground, including running stalls at events, asking local businesses to support the programme and leading bike workshops. By using local partners with knowledge of the neighbourhood and community, these interventions are far more effective than if they were run directly by King County Metro Transit. It is important to give these local partners as much visibility and credit as possible to reinforce this connection with the community.
Make reasonable requests of your volunteers
Volunteers play a key role in the programme, so it is important that their hard work is regularly acknowledged. Importantly, volunteers have other commitments, so be sure to not ask too much of them. One-off tasks may be favourable to ongoing and time consuming commitments, especially with turnover of volunteers, as many may only be able to commit for a limited period of time.
Supporting programmes and incentives play a key role
King County Metro Transit is fortunate in being able to provide supporting elements such as vanpools, car sharing and bike programmes. In addition, it is able to offer a variety of incentives such as free bus tickets and vouchers for bike and walking gear, which has played a key part in encouraging residents to try alternative forms of transport.