As noted in The Carbon Efficient City, by Hurd and Hurd, in the Urban Land Institute’s 2009 report the number of vehicle miles traveled is prescribed as a key factor in transportation greenhouses gas emissions. King County Metro’s In Motion program directly addresses this key factor through encouraging participants to switch from drive alone trips to more environmentally friendly forms of transportation such as walking, biking, busing and carpooling. Participants are asked to not only pledge that they will switch two drive alone trips a week to another form of transportation, but also to log and submit these changed trips. If participants log trips they are entered into monthly and a final grand prize drawing.
Recent summer 2014 programs in Renton, Burien, and North Seattle/Shoreline have proved successful in reducing vehicle miles traveled. In these three programs that lasted 12 weeks each a total of 164,430 miles were reduced. While these travel behavior changes have occurred under the influence of incentives, having an individual pledge to change and logging trips begins to create new personnel habits and invokes personnel investment in larger climate change issues.
According to psychologist Robert B. Cialdini commitment invokes consistency within an individual. In this theory if a person makes a commitment to change they are likely to continue this change even after an incentive is removed because it reflects on their self-image. This theory is reflected in reality in the In Motion program when evaluating participants after the program ends. In 2012 two In Motion programs occurred in West Seattle and Ballard. Participants were given a regional transit pass, ORCA card, as an incentive to ride the bus during the program duration. A year and half later in Spring 2014 participants were sent a follow up survey about their current travel habits. 87% of respondents of those who said they reduced their driving during the program said they continue to drive alone less (King County Metro – 2014 West Seattle and Ballard Legacy Survey).
This goes to show that there was retention of changed habits a year and half after making the commitment to change. Another element that could be added to future program follow-up surveys is asking why participants continued to use their ORCA card to understand the reasoning behind the continued behavior change and if it is connected to self-image.