Alameda County’s Community Commutes Day
Community Commutes Day used game-based competition, community based social marketing techniques, crowd-sourced graphic design to save costs, and peer-to-peer information sharing via trained “Clean Commute Champions” to get employees to adopt cleaner commute options.
Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing as is the case with this particular program.
To encourage its employees to utilize a clean commute such as carpooling, transit, biking, or walking, Alameda County’s General Services Agency (GSA) organized a Countywide marketing campaign, called “Community Commutes Day,”
Reducing drive-alone commuting is a complex challenge. How employees commute to work is a voluntary choice that needs to be addressed through behavior change and by decreasing the local barriers across the dozens of different office locations throughout the County’s decentralized workforce while also promoting individual benefits. To address this issue, GSA developed a county-wide competition that draws upon local employee volunteers to help identify and overcome local office barriers to clean commuting while providing peer-to-peer messaging. (“Local office barriers” may include lack of overall awareness of commute options (local to work and home), inability to connect with others who have a similar commute, challenges around not being able to connect easily to public transit, lack of adequate bike parking, etc.)
The competition was designed to show how many clean commuters already exist, making the behavior less invisible so that it can contribute to norming, and created local teams that competed by overcoming barriers to clean commuting (e.g. enrolling in the Guaranteed Ride Home program or the County’s carpool matching service).
GSA’s Clean Commute Program conducts regular commuter surveys to track progress on reducing drive-along commuting. In these surveys, it asks questions such as “What tool or resource would most encourage you to try a clean commute?” and others to ascertain macro-level perceptions of commute modes and barriers/benefits. It also conducts focus groups with targeted audiences (e.g. parents with young children) to learn about tools that would help reduce their barriers to clean commuting or provide them benefits to a more simple commute. It also relies heavily on its Clean Commute Champion volunteers (more below) to get a sense of localized barriers and benefits to an office location.
Delivering the Program
The competition was based on an online game developed by GSA. The intent of the game was to encourage competition between building-based teams that are earning points by pledging to try a new clean commute on Community Commutes Day and learning about their commuter benefits and resources.
Financing the Program
GSA spent $500 on website development about roughly $1,000 in promotional items and signage. The use of employee Champions magnified the outreach of a small sustainability team to a large organization, reducing cost and achieving more localized and effective messaging.
The first step in the online game was to pledge to join your colleagues in a clean commute on Community Commutes Day. This pledge involved filling in an online survey, which enabled organizers to separate out current drive-alone commuters from other employees who were already clean commuting.
To test how “sticky” the behavior changes were, the program surveyed the 136 people who indicated that they had been driving alone, but had committed to a clean commute on Community Commutes Day. The one minute survey took place two months after the Community Commutes Day. To minimize response bias, the survey was disguised as a workplace facilities survey and someone on a completely separate team sent out the survey so there was no connection to Community Commutes Day. The survey was titled “Alameda County Workplace Locations Survey – Employees” and included three irrelevant questions as well as the one critical one about mode choice.
The text of the covering letter was as follows:
Be entered into a raffle to win a Peet’s Coffee Gift Card! The General Services Agency (GSA) is polling employees from different departments about how they access their work locations. Would you mind taking this brief, 5-question survey? The survey should only take about a minute to complete and will help GSA to better understand the facilities at your work location.
Survey link - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SLLHCDP
A full-scale commuter survey, with all 10,000 employees was held in October 2016. This will be reported on during the webinar and we will update this case study accordingly.
Alameda also tracked increased enrollment in its benefits programs such as pre-tax commuter benefits and Guaranteed Ride Home.
Alameda County had roughly 10,000 employees at the time, of which about 750 employees were active players in the online game and 136 employees switched their commute modes (18% of the players). Of these, 26% stuck with their new commute mode two months after the event.
- Transportation Demand Management (TDM) in the San Francisco Bay Area often means expensive benefits programs and commuter shuttles and other amenities. For a government employer, these aren’t feasible options. However, by engaging employees and addressing local barriers, this commuter programs achieved significant results with little cost.
- The online game approach complemented by employee Champions is easily replicable to other workplaces and adaptable to other behaviors.