Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  •  City of Austin
  • Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO)
  • Participation rate of 5-10% of households contacted
  • 5-10% reduction in drive-alone trips among participants (about 41,000 vehicle trips per year)
  • 5-10% increase in active and shared trips

Case Study PDF

Landmark Case Study

Smart Trips Austin

Smart Trips Austin encourages residents of Austin Texas, USA to take multi-modal transportation options (walk, bike, ride transit, and share rides) more often, rather than drive alone. The program focuses on personal interactions — educating individuals on their options and overcoming barriers to multi-modal travel. Smart Trips reinforces this new information using community-based programs such as learn-to-ride classes, transit instruction, and group walking activities. Initially, the program targeted residential neighbourhoods of Austin Texas; each year a different area was targeted. In 2020 the program expanded to city-wide and began to segment using a Stages of Change approach. In 2021, it started targeting residents who had recently moved to or around Austin. Smart Trips Austin averaged a participation rate of 5-10% of households contacted, a 5-10% reduction in drive-alone trips among participants (about 41,000 vehicle trips per year), and a corresponding 5-10% increase in active and shared trips. This account of the program was designated a Landmark case study in 2023, making the City of Austin one of the few governments with more than one program designation. 


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 program.

Well before Smart Trips, Austin had introduced other innovative approaches to encourage the use of sustainable transportation options. For example, in 2013 it launched MetroBike, which became one of the most successful bike sharing programs in the USA. More recently, a case study of Austin's Leave Time Travel Incentive for its employees received a Tools of Change Landmark designation.

Setting Objectives

Smart Trips Austin had three program goals:

  1. Manage congestion by encouraging residents to explore the city in new ways
  2. Reduce single-occupant vehicle trips by five percent
  3. Increase active transportation trips by five percent

Getting Informed

The Smart Trips Program was first piloted in 2015 with a grant from the American Planning Association (APA).

Delivering the Program

Based on success of the pilot, in 2017 the City of Austin and Capital Metro entered a financial and planning partnership to run the program. The City approved a contract for a two-year period, with an option to extend for an additional 3 years with Council authorization. In addition, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) contributed $216,000.

The Program focused on personal interactions to communicate transportation options and overcome key barriers to multi-modal travel. For example, its multi-modal transportation incentive toolkits were delivered in person.(Home Visits; Overcoming Specific Barriers; Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering, Communications)

These were supplemented with community-based events such as group bike rides, transit adventures, and Mayor and Council Members group walking activities.

In 2018, Austin became one of 25 cities across the USA supported by the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge to accelerate climate action, using a holistic approach that focuses on clean buildings and transportation. Money from this award was used in 2020 to hold Transportation in Equity workshops with local community organizations. This led to the formation of the Bike Equity Alliance, which provided free bikes, safety gear, and training to residents earning below 50% of Austin's Median Family Income.(Financial Incentives; Norm Appeals; Overcoming Specific Barriers; Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering, Communications)

In 2019, Austin City Council unanimously adopted a Strategic Mobility Plan that included a commitment that within 20 years, half of Austinites would get to work without driving alone in a car. At that point, 74% of car trips were drive-alone and the goal was 50%. In keeping with this commitment, Austin also engaged its own staff to use alternative modes of travel more often. Its Smart Commute Rewards program for city staff began offering employees time off for logging sustainable commutes, and the drive alone rate of participants soon fell from 53% to 41%. In 2019, the City also piloted an electric bike fleet for staff, which has since expanded.(Work Programs that Influence the Home)

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought a sharp rise in interest and use of telework and a corresponding decrease in the use of other transportation modes. At that time, the program moved to a city-wide neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood approach. Promotions and incentives enticed participants to request a custom guide, then connect virtually with an expert for one-on-one support. When requesting the guide, participants answered a question that helped sort them by stage of change. Resources were focused on those at the Contemplation, Preparation and Action stages. The stage of change also informed what information was provided and how. Participants could also join live Facebook sessions for tips on staying active and connected, and to access virtual resources like maps and videos.(Mass Media; Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering, Communications)

Development review moved towards a "TDM-first" approach. During the analysis and review of development applications, applicants were asked to incorporate TDM strategies to reduce the anticipated increase in drive-alone trips. Trip reduction targets depended on the area of town (city center, urban, and suburban.) The more TDM strategies implemented in a project, the greater the credit received towards required transportation mitigations.

Recognizing cycling as an important choice for the first and last portion of trips, Austin has also invested in providing and promoting access to bicycles. The city’s “Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority” (CapMetro) rebranded the City’s B-Cycle bicycle rental service as MetroBike and began integrating it into transit hubs and their upgrades. Payments were integrated into its CapMetro App that was already being used for trip planning and trips by bus. (Overcoming Specific Barriers

Smart Trips Social Cycling

In 2021, the Program began utilizing a CAMPO grant to reach residents who had recently moved to or around Austin. It also piloted a community ambassador program to increase the depth and breadth of community outreach while also fostering deeper, locally-focused relationships with neighborhoods and communities.

In 2022, Smart Trips Austin became part of Get There ATX, which also targeted the Austin’s employees, employers and visitors, as well as residents. 


How it was addressed


Lack of awareness of transportation options and infrastructure improvements

·         Hand-delivered customized resource toolkits

·         Personalized support and transportation information through e-newsletters and social media

·         Increased the capacity of community partners to communicate the benefits of transportation options

Inertia to change habits

·         Supportive bike rides, group walks, and transit adventures

·         Increased the capacity of community partners to host transportation events

Measuring Achievements

Mode share, mode shift, and mode frequency were all measured before and after implementation to evaluate program effectiveness. In addition to reported changes in transportation behavior, changes in confidence and awareness are also collected.

Mode share was based on data from the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.


Smart Trips Austin averaged a participation rate of 5-10% of households contacted, a 5-10% reduction in drive-alone trips among participants (about 41,000 vehicle trips per year), and a corresponding 5-10% increase in active and shared trips.

Assuming sustained behavior change, the program spent $1.50 per vehicle trip taken off the road over a five year period, with a one-time cost of approximately $22 per target area household.


Author and Landmark Designation

This case study was compiled in 2022 and 2023 by Jay Kassirer. The program described in this case study was designated in 2023. Designation as a Landmark (best practice) case study through our peer selection process recognizes programs and social marketing approaches considered to be among the most successful in the world. They are nominated both by our peer-selection panels and by Tools of Change staff, and are then scored by the selection panels based on impact, innovation, replicability and adaptability.

The panel that designated this program consisted of:

  • Aaron Gaul, UrbanTrans
  • Nathalie Lapointe, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • David Levinger, Mobility Education Foundation
  • Nicole Roach and Charlotte Estey, Green Communities Canada
  • Jessica Roberts, Alta Planning + Design
  • Lisa Kay Schweyer, Foursquare ITP
  • Phil Winters, CUTR and the University of South Florida

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