Shifting Transportation Behavior
- Air pollution is a serious health and environmental problem in many cities, including Pristina, where poor air quality is a frequent issue.
- Working with UNDP Kosovo, we helped individuals reduce their car usage with the ultimate goal of reducing air pollution in the city.
- The results suggest that behavioral science interventions can effectively encourage sustainable commuting behavior in cities like Pristina.
Air pollution is a serious health and environmental problem in many cities, including Pristina, where poor air quality is a persistent challenge. Road transport and traffic congestion during peak hours plays a significant role, with increasing car usage over the past several years. In addition, a majority of vehicles do not meet current European emission standards.
To tackle this issue, we identified behavioral barriers to the use of sustainable modes of transportation and used those insights to design a behavioral intervention with the unifying slogan, “Give your car (and wallet) a break.” The intervention sought to help individuals reduce their car usage and ultimately improve air pollution in the city.
The intervention consisted of several components, including:
- An email campaign, which came from the Mayor’s office and included behaviorally informed messaging.
- A physical desk calendar with the schedule for the free municipal bus.
- A physical map of the public bus lines.
- A short commute planning form, which was delivered weekly and could be completed online for a chance to win a small prize.
- A free 30-day public bus pass, designed with the campaign branding and the employee’s name printed on it, and delivered to the employee’s office.
Taken together, the intervention components leveraged behavioral insights such as highlighting the private costs of driving and the environmental benefits of a car-free commute, prompting plan-making and soft commitments to car-free commutes, and promoting positive social norms by highlighting the prevalence of car-free commutes among peers. The 30-day free bus pass also aimed to increase the opportunity cost of driving relative to alternative modes of travel and to remove hassles from the process of acquiring a bus pass.
We conducted a small-scale pilot with all employees of the Municipality of Pristina to test the intervention using a randomized controlled trial.
The intervention decreased the average frequency of car commutes to work by one day a week and increased the average frequency of walking to work by 0.9 days/week. Furthermore, the intervention increased the proportion of employees who reported that they experienced satisfying and relaxing commutes by 85% and 102%, respectively, compared to the control group.
These results suggest that behavioral science interventions can effectively encourage sustainable commuting behavior in cities like Pristina, especially if implemented alongside necessary structural improvements.
Interested in learning more about this work applying behavioral science to a crucial social problem? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @ideas42 to join the conversation.