Though most major cities across the US seem unable to solve the conundrum of increasing traffic congestion, a research professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville says, “It’s not rocket science.”
“It’s becoming painfully clear,” says Dr. Craig Philip, who’s also Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Transportation and Operational Resiliency (VECTOR), “that demand has saturated our aging infrastructure and we must look for workable ways to moderate demand, especially for single occupant automobile trips.”
Reducing traffic congestion has proven easier said than done, in part because it requires multi-faceted solutions that involve everything from travel demand management to changing our land use patterns so people don’t need to use automobiles as much.
Dr. Philip believes it’s imperative and also quite doable, “Reducing single occupant vehicle trips is a virtuous cycle that directly offers air quality benefits and reduced energy use.” The key, he believes, lies in changing consumer behavior — that is, getting more commuters to share rides — by incentivizing and rewarding desired behaviors.
Fortunately, those with a vested interest in reducing traffic congestion now have a tool in Hytch, a smartphone app that encourages ride sharing through financial and environmental rewards. For each mile shared (or in other words, for each single occupancy vehicle mile not driven) Hytch pays people by retiring carbon credits on behalf of its users. Through Hytch, sponsors and employers pay Hytch users with points that convert to cash.
“Using incentives—i.e., pricing signals—is the best way to encourage behavioral change, and the Hytch Rewards program is not only a robust way to send pricing signals to drivers and passengers, but these incentives are delivered in an appealing form through an easy-to-use smartphone app,” says Dr. Philip.
This ought to be music to the ears of anyone with a vested interest in seeing that transportation infrastructure is used as effectively as possible—including cities and major employers. “Both are interested in the livability of their communities and attracting workers,” says Dr. Philip. “If the transportation systems that those workers rely on to get to work became frustrating enough, employers and cities won’t be able to retain people.”
Equally compelling for decision makers is that Hytch allows community leaders to establish their own, hyper specific reward rules. These are virtual reward rules that manage incentives which are open to public participation. Using this mechanism, state and local authorities and thought leaders in big or small businesses can show demonstrable results -- including number of rides shared, total miles driven and emissions not made. This Information is also available to each individual Hytch user through the app’s dashboard.