What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Our daily habits are stubborn to change, particularly when these habits are closely tied to our work schedules and the status quo.When it comes to commuting to and from work, there’s a visible perception of social norms. One such influence of norms, is ,seeing overcrowding during peak times, for example reinforces the idea that rush hour commuting is the most socially acceptable option (or norm). This is especially true for public transportation goers, as there’s a subconscious opting in to “going with the flow/following the crowd.”
However “normal” it appears, peak time travel nevertheless has several negative environmental impacts: Firstly, traffic congestion often forces buses to operate in a stop-and-go manner; leading to increased fuel consumption and emissions per mile. Secondly, overcrowding results in longer dwell times at bus and train stations, increasing energy consumption. Thirdly, peak travel times can accelerate wear and tear on public transportation infrastructure, necessitating more maintenance and repairs;which too can have environmental consequences. Lastly, the inefficiency of public transportation during heavy traffic hours may push more people to choose private cars, worsening congestion and emissions.
The Green Nudge:
A research team led by Professor Balaji Prabhakar (Stanford) and Christopher Pluntke (UCL) conducted a study in Singapore’s public transit system to encourage commuters to travel off-peak hours.
The team used the platform INSINC, a frequent commuter program offering various incentives. Notably, one of the key incentives was essentially a „self-administered raffle.“ One could gain triple credits for off-peak travel – which could then be redeemed at a fixed exchange rate (1000 credits = SG$1) or used for prizes ranging from $1 to $100 in a fun online game.
The result: Approximately 87.6% of INSINC participants preferred the raffle option, and among them, 8.41% shifted from peak to off-peak travel.
The preference for the „self-administered raffle“ incentive can be attributed to the excitement of uncertainty. People are naturally drawn to the possibility of winning a prize, which adds an element of fun and anticipation; while leveraging the general preference of people to go for a $100 prize at 1% odds; over a $1 prize. This ultimately induces a larger shift, and in turn improves cost efficiency. While this is not the sole reason for reduced rush hour commutes, the “self-administered raffle”/gamification of the incentive plays a significant role in motivating individuals to opt into off-peak travelling (by way of playing a raffle).
Are you aware of any other nudges that help reduce traffic congestion and thus CO2 emissions? Feel free to comment or get in touch: email@example.com
From Dr. Melina Moleskis, a behavioural scientist working with private companies and the public sector to help solve problems across a range of issues: from sub-par decision-making to low product uptake and sustainability. She is also a researcher, visiting lecturer, and the founder of “meta-decisions.”