Micro-incentives: a Game-changer Strategy to Nudge Sustainable Mobility Behaviour

Micro-incentives: a Game-changer Strategy to Nudge Sustainable Mobility Behaviour

The COVID-19 crisis can have a paradoxical effect on the world’s mobility. The limitations imposed on mobility during lockdowns and increasing concerns about the need to keep some physical distancing thereafter have reduced ridership to historical lows, and this has had a tremendous impact on public transport finances (see here). But that same reduction in traffic, which has translated into cleaner skies, reduced CO2 emissions, fewer crashes, and less noise, has reinforced the case – among public authorities and public opinion alike – for much more sustainable mobility in our cities and hence for public transport.

On the other hand, shared mobility schemes were also impacted by COVID-19. Indeed, during the first months of the pandemic, all the sharing models suffered a strong reduction in operations due to general lockdowns. Interestingly, we can consider some mobility services (like micromobility) as one of the winners, after all.

The desired social distancing and the evolution of electric vehicles’ features (e-scooters and e-bikes) allowed us to see more micromobility users on the streets. These options have emerged as a crucial factor (aligned with the urge to foster sustainable mobility) to drive users to public transport in cities, increasing ridership, and boosting multimodality.

Thus, it is required to integrate them with public transport and understand how micro-incentives – more targeted and flexible incentives – can encourage citizens to use these services as part of the global mobility offer that is, at the same time, aligned with the cities’ policy objectives as regards sustainable mobility.

In urban and suburban areas, the most abundant common trips are those made back and forth from home to the working or studying place. In some European countries, it is already part of the national agenda to implement strategies for institutional (or corporate) mobility. It is also the case at a local level, where SUMPs have an enormous focus on this trip category. Mobility Managers become more popular and sometimes mandatory. Such is the case in Italy since 2021, where companies with more than 100 employees and in municipalities with over 50,000 inhabitants must have a Mobility Manager.

The Global Future Council on Mobility (at the World Economic Forum) in its Corporate Mobility Transport Challenge report has explained how the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will accelerate the typical employee commute and decarbonisation. The report also explains the difficulties of companies in investing in digital platforms that enable more equitable and sustainable opportunities to commute from home to work or school. It is relevant to think that third-party companies and organisations will design and develop innovative business models to tackle the challenge of allowing employees to go to work, and students going to school, in a more sustainable manner.

The rise of e-commerce has been accelerated in recent times. For instance, in Spain, e-commerce exceeded 13,600M€ in the second quarter of 2021, 13,7% growth compared to the previous year.

The new technology era has eased this growing trend, allowing citizens to buy the goods and services they need by using online channels. The way logistics have rapidly evolved, where consumers are now used to buying almost anything and getting it delivered at their doorstep in a few hours, needs a profound reflection from a sustainability perspective. A great percentage of cities’ traffic jams are caused or worsened by last-mile logistics, which generate more traffic and more polluting emissions.

Analysing how micro-incentives can be optimised to boost sustainable logistics (clean energy, multimodal logistics, etc.) stands as a key factor to tackle the associated challenges to improving last-mile logistics.

Plenty of challenges are ahead of us to make mobility more sustainable and accessible for all. This requires focusing on more efficient use of public transport; shared mobility becomes part of the integrated offer of public transport; corporate mobility (commuting) is better understood and better planned, and logistics are optimised through the use of more efficient and holistic strategies.

Are micro-incentives a real game-changer idea to nudge mobility behaviour to leverage the current use of mobility services, such as public transport, and future mobility (and not so future) like shared mobility? The expected efficiency gain behind the multi-criteria, highly targeted micro-incentive strategy is that it could help reduce the cost to achieve similar indicator levels in terms of sustainability and equity, with significantly lower budgets. The introduction of micro-incentives (economic, fiscal, or in-kind) to foster journeys using zero-emission vehicles, encourage intermodality or increase the use of public transport outside peak hours is an innovative formula with increasing numbers of supporters internationally, which may be key in changing habits towards more sustainable mobility.

Factual is proposing a thought leadership study to analyse the prospects for reform to allow for the micro-incentives concept to help nudge user behaviour towards more sustainable mobility, and the required conditions for this to happen in 5 European cities.

The study will be divided into 3 parts:

  • Key indicators based on primary and secondary research.
  • Analysis of the impact of public subsidies and the potential of micro-incentives.
  • Analysis of technical and regulatory constraints.

For more information about this study, dates, and special sponsorship options for IRF members, download this document.

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