Portland's Smart Trips Welcome Program
With an average of 15% of the U.S. population moving each year, new residents represent a significant portion of urban dwellers. In response, Portland has refocused its Individualized Marketing efforts and incorporated an innovative and targeted communication strategy to help new residents develop environmentally-friendly and active transportation habits. As a result, the city’s new residents took 10% fewer drive-alone trips and the proportion of their trips taken by green and active methods increased by 14%. This comprehensive approach includes a strong evaluation design and targeted social marketing strategies. SmartTrips Welcome was designated a Landmark (best practice) case study in 2012.
This is one of four Landmark case studies designated in 2012. A webinar on the program is scheduled for March 27, 2013. The full written case study will be publicly available here by October 2013.
Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all Tools of Change case studies are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing.
SmartTrips Welcome took a fresh step on Portland's well-traveled path of encouraging positive transportation behavior in a city that prides itself as a leader in active transportation. Over the last eight years, SmartTrips’ comprehensive approach of individualized marketing activities and education had reached 80% of households in the city encouraging healthy, active transportation options and reducing millions of vehicle miles traveled (VMT). But even successful programs must transform and respond to the changing technological and social landscapes to assess trends in approach and audience that can lubricate the wheels of change. This is evident in the success of SmartTrips Welcome. By redefining the approach and developing innovative strategies to target a new audience, the SmartTrips Welcome behavior change program built upon previous successes to develop an innovative, effective, and replicable transportation behavior change program.
With an average of 15% of the U.S. population having moved within the last year, new residents represent a significant portion of urban dwellers. This program operated under the assumption that new residents (defined as having moved within 6 months prior to the program launch date) needed to learn the transportation options specific to their new location – and that this was a good time to introduce, encourage, and support environmentally friendly and active transportation behavior.
Key program components included individualized marketing of information and materials, an innovative and customized communication strategy, and continued support and encouragement through electronic newsletters, pledge forms, and personal consultations. Analysis confirmed that the program’s success was not locally dependent on facilities, service, or geography and reinforced the probable success of replication and expansion to any area of Portland.
There were two primary reasons for choosing recent movers as the program’s audience. First, staff theorized that by targeting new residents as they become acclimated to their new residence and area transportation resources, and by initially giving information, encouragement, and reinforcement, that they would continue to use environmentally friendly and active transportation options. New circumstances brought about by relocation demand changes to daily routines, making this a receptive time to offer positive travel solutions. Those same circumstances also lent weight to one of the program’s primary barriers - getting people’s attention during what can be a seemingly chaotic time. The second reason for targeting new residents was long term program savings. The incremental costs of long term program operations decrease when targeting a population that continually refreshes itself. To gauge program benefits and additional barriers, staff relied on knowledge from the foundation laid by eight years of previous SmartTrips transportation behavior change efforts by Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. To address additional concerns new movers may have about their new home, staff participated in a series of trainings with other City of Portland and Portland Metro personnel.
Delivering the Program
The operational strategy for SmartTrips Welcome is broken up into three categories: 1) Individualized marketing 2) Customized and personal communication 3) Reinforcement and encouragement. To hear what they did, join us for their webinar (which is currently being scheduled for some time in early 2013.)
Program success was measured by three approaches:
- New resident population: The initial sample population of new residents was separated into two groups: one control and one target, to look at travel behavior and individual attitudes on mode choice. This division of individuals helped control variable factors that may apply to the target new resident community (such as weather, geography, unemployment rates, gas prices, etc…). Three weeks prior to the program launch date, a paper survey was mailed to the target (n=5400) and control groups (n=1352). The survey generated a snapshot of an individual’s daily transportation behavior by asking for a one–day up to four-trip diary, primary and secondary work and neighborhood modes, and awareness of area TDM resources. After completion of the SmartTrips Welcome program, a follow-up survey was issued through the mail to both target and control groups using the same format. All paper surveys were entered by hand into databases specifically built to store and filter the survey results. New residents were encouraged to participate in the surveys by raffle.
- Regional analysis: To isolate trends in regional variances and to reinforce success of replication and expansion, the regional analysis breaks down the data by geographic regions within the target new resident group. The regions selected differ topographically, socially, demographically, and economically, and offer varying transit service and active transportation infrastructure.
- Long term panel analysis: A one-year follow up looked at long term program impacts. A longitudinal panel study was designed to measure and record participants’ progress over the course of the behavior change program. Target residents were encouraged to order materials online where they were asked to fill out a trip diary and survey questionnaire. Their responses established the baseline data for this evaluation. After implementing the individualized marketing component and providing continued encouragement and reinforcement throughout the year, participants were then issued the exact same survey one year later. This survey method allowed for direct participant measurement by asking the same questions to the same population sample under comparable conditions over time.
Through the program, with no capital project expenditures, the following real behavior change and community impact were measured.
Overall impact across all participants (n=5400):
- Vehicle Miles Traveled reduced by 1,076,118. That is equivalent to 200 miles per target new resident per year.
- 10.4% reduction in drive-alone trips among all new resident populations not just those that ordered information and materials.
- Relative increase of 13.6% in environmentally-friendly mode use among new residents
- 10.5% of new residents ordered materials
- All three regions (North, Southwest, and East Portland) showed improvements over their control counterparts regarding mode split for all trips and primary work and neighborhood mode choice. SmartTrips Welcome has had a significant positive effect on the target group’s transportation behavior, regardless of local restrictions (such as topography, facilities, and service.)
- The program’s success at impacting the behavior of a broad and diverse audience strengthens the argument for replication and applicability.
Panel Study (long term analysis):
- The 2010 panel participants reported a 9% increase in environmentally-friendly mode use and a 17% decrease in drive-alone trips one year later.
- Panel survey participants reported a 10% and 5% increase in environmentally-friendly primary commute and neighborhood modes, respectively, and a corresponding decrease in drive-alone trips by 9% and 13%.