Forum Virium’s EMPOWER project studied how to encourage people to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles in cities.
The objective was to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles with the help of positive incentives, especially ones delivered via smartphones. Reducing the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles in cities is crucial for reducing climate and small particle emissions.
The project was carried out in several European cities, with different solutions piloted in each. Of these, the following five ways were found to be particularly effective for reducing the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles.
1. Employers encouraging employees
In Helsinki, the project involved studying a model in which an employer encouraged their employees to shift from the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles to other modes of transport. This encouragement can be anything from supporting bicycle maintenance to cash incentives. The results recorded in Helsinki corresponded with experiences gained in other European cities: enthusiasm for these types of programmes is high at management level, but their implementation is hindered by practical difficulties in taxation, administration and at HR department level. However, these difficulties can be addressed with relevant information and guidelines, as well as by reducing companies’ workload with a pre-packaged service, in which an external actors produces an internal campaign for a company from start to finish. Employer-driven programmes can also often adopt a more long-term approach than public, relatively short campaigns. Such programmes benefit companies directly by improving employees’ health and providing direct savings, so it is in the interest of companies to keep trials going or even make them permanent. As such, the employer model is considered important going forward, since the shifts in transport habits achieved by short campaigns are rarely permanent. The fact is that people tend to fall back into their old habits once the carrots run out.
2. Collect points with monetary value by not driving
Among the most effective ways of reducing the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles were major, city-driven campaigns, in which the incentives were one part of a larger whole. The best examples include the city of Bologna’s multi-award-winning Bella Mossa campaign and the city of Antwerp’s Slim Naar Antwerp campaign. Both of these campaigns were based on participants collecting points, which could be exchanged for goods prizes or discounts at various shops. The common denominators of these campaigns were the cities’ strong will and investment in the campaigns and collaboration with the private sector.
3. Promote a charity by cycling
Gothenburg successfully trialled a model in which participants chose their preferred charity to support. This ‘cycling for a good cause’ model proved highly effective, demonstrating that when a person considers a cause to be close to their heart, they are more willing to inconvenience themselves than for a small material reward.
4. Get people to compete in teams
The participants in the above-mentioned Gothenburg model were also asked to join virtual teams and dress in their teams’ colours. This type of competitive model can increase enthusiasm for participation if the cause is seen as worthwhile or the competition feels particularly meaningful. Traditionally, these types of models involve competitions between cities or city districts based around the accumulation of kilometres. Adding incentives to such models can significantly increase the attractiveness of the competition.
5. Automate mobility monitoring
One of the factors contributing to the success of a campaign is ease of participation. If participation requires additional effort every time, the campaign cannot become very successful. As such, participation and the collection of mobility data should be automated as far as possible while also avoiding application bloat. With this in mind, a trial in Helsinki focused on integrating incentives and gamification into a mobility solution that people already use. When it comes to the collection of cycling or jogging kilometres, collaboration with dedicated special applications can be fruitful, but when the aim is to comprehensively monitor and steer mobility choices, integration with MaaS applications will be crucial going forward.
Lessons learned about gamification being utilised in Jätkäsaari
The EMPOWER project’s best tips for reducing the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles have been collected into a toolkit made freely available to cities and other interested parties at https://empowertoolkit.eu/
The toolkit is also being utilised in Forum Virium’s new EU-funded MUV project, which aims for city district-level impacts via gamification. As part of the project, Forum Virium will be carrying out pilots in Jätkäsaari in 2018–19, in which residents will be challenged to try out new mobility choices and change their existing ones. These pilots are all based on lessons learned in the EMPOWER project. In addition to this, the EMPOWER project has also lead to collaboration with various actors in the Helsinki region for the purpose of utilising incentive and gamification models, which will be reflected in upcoming projects in the coming years.
The EMPOWER project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project had a total budget of EUR 4.89 million. In Finland, the project was coordinated by the City of Helsinki’s innovation unit Forum Virium Helsinki, which aims to turn Helsinki into the most functional smart city in the world in collaboration with companies, the scientific community and city residents.