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Individual incentives for public transportation

Health Factors: Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Employers & Businesses
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Description

Incentives such as free or discounted bus, rail, or transit passes reimbursements, partial payments (Bueno 2017), or pre-tax payroll deductions (NCTR-Commuter benefits) decrease consumers’ cost to use public transportation. Incentives are typically offered by employers as a commuter benefit and can be part of transportation subsidy programs, deep discounting, or transit pass incentive programs (Bueno 2017).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased use of public transit
Increased physical activity
Increased active transportation
Reduced obesity rates
Increased mobility
Reduced vehicle miles traveled
Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that offering individual incentives for public transit increases public transit use (VTPI-Litman 2017a, Graham-Rowe 2011, Zhou 2014a, Bueno 2017, Dong 2016a, Yang 2015b). Such incentives can also increase physical activity for individuals who use non-motorized travel to and from transit stops (Saelens 2014, MacDonald 2010, Martin 2012, Webb 2012, Hipp 2017, Freeland 2013). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Combining incentives such as discounted passes with improved transit service and higher private vehicle user fees (e.g., increased parking costs) can increase public transit use and reduce automobile use (Petrunoff 2015, VTPI-Litman 2017a). Individual incentive programs that combine discounted transit passes with parking reimbursement (Lari 2014) and efforts to market incentives to employees can also increase transit use (VTPI-Litman 2017a). Transit pass incentive programs have been particularly successful in increasing use among college students (Zhou 2014a, Myers 2006). High gas prices (Iseki 2015, Iseki 2014, Zhou 2011), not having children, and having a flexible schedule or one that matches transit availability also increase the likelihood of using a transit pass (Zhou 2011).

Model-based research suggests that reducing fares may generate small increases in transit use, while increasing fares may significantly reduce use (Chen 2011). Overall, price sensitivity to fares depends on whether a traveler is transit dependent (Miller 2017, VTPI-Litman 2017a), the type of trip, time of day, and geographic conditions such as population density and the character of the built environment (VTPI-Litman 2017a). Distance-based fare reductions may increase ridership among low income households and elderly and minority individuals, who often use public transit to travel shorter distances than wealthier, younger, or white riders (Farber 2014).

Transit users have higher levels of physical activity than non-transit users (Saelens 2014, Lachapelle 2009, Wener 2007). Incentives for public transit use have been shown to increase active travel options such as walking and cycling (Martin 2012, Coronini-Cronberg 2012), which may reduce the likelihood of becoming obese (MacDonald 2010, Webb 2012).

Individual incentives are a suggested strategy to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and emissions (CDC-Transportation recommendation, RAND-Sorenson 2008, Herzog 2007, Su 2012, Graham-Rowe 2011), and may be a cost effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Gallivan 2011). Public transportation systems produce significantly fewer emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles, especially when operating with full passenger loads (US DOT-FTA Transit and climate).

Incentive programs may increase transportation revenue (RAND-Sorenson 2008), reduce transportation costs for employers and individuals (RAND-Sorenson 2008, Myers 2006), and cost less than providing parking spaces for commuters (Lari 2014, Shoup 2004).

Public transportation (bus, rail, and general transit) accounted for 0.4% of transportation fatalities in 2015 (US DOT-BTS Fatalities).

Implementation

United States

The federal government has a transportation subsidy program in place for any federal employee in the National Capital Region that uses public transportation to commute to work (US DOT-TRANServe). Some states (e.g., Oregon) award energy tax credits to businesses or organizations that offer financial incentives to encourage employees to use public transportation or alternatives to single occupancy vehicles for their commutes (ODOE-Transportation). Municipalities can adopt transportation management plans that include incentives to encourage public transportation use, walking, or bicycling, and reduce single occupancy vehicle use, as in the City of Alexandria, Virginia (Alexandria-TMPs) or use a Transportation Management Association (TMA), as in Sacramento, California (Yolo-TMA).

Other individual incentives, such as transit pass incentive programs for employers, students, and state or city employees are available in many municipalities, including Austin, Texas; Seattle and Olympia, Washington; Monroe County, Pennsylvania; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon (TRB-Boyle 2010).

Wisconsin

Madison Metro has a service agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to provide bus passes to students, faculty, and staff; this opportunity is also available to other organizations and companies (Madison Metro). Milwaukee Transit also offers discount Commuter Value Passes for employers with more than 20 employees (Milwaukee Transit).

Implementation Resources

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design. Accessed on June 29, 2017
APHA-Transportation toolkit - American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA online toolkit: Transportation and health toolkit. Accessed on June 29, 2017
CCAP-Transportation emissions - Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). CCAP Transportation emissions guidebook. Accessed on July 12, 2017
NCTR-Commuter benefits - National Center for Transit Research (NCTR). Commuter tax benefits. Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), University of South Florida (USF). Accessed on June 29, 2017
SC DHEC-Air quality - South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC). Your air. Accessed on June 29, 2017
VTPI-Litman 2017 - Litman T. Evaluating public transit benefits and costs: Best practices guidebook. Victoria, BC: Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI); 2017. Accessed on June 29, 2017
WisDOT-Public Transit - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Travel by public transit. Accessed on June 29, 2017

Citations - Description

Bueno 2017* - Bueno PC, Gomez J, Peters JR, Vassallo JM. Understanding the effects of transit benefits on employees’ travel behavior: Evidence from the New York-New Jersey region. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2017;99:1-13. Accessed on June 29, 2017
NCTR-Commuter benefits - National Center for Transit Research (NCTR). Commuter tax benefits. Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), University of South Florida (USF). Accessed on June 29, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Bueno 2017* - Bueno PC, Gomez J, Peters JR, Vassallo JM. Understanding the effects of transit benefits on employees’ travel behavior: Evidence from the New York-New Jersey region. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2017;99:1-13. Accessed on June 29, 2017
CDC-Transportation recommendation - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transportation recommendations. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Chen 2011* - Chen C, Varley D, & Chen J. What affects transit ridership? A dynamic analysis involving multiple factors, lags and asymmetric behaviour. Urban Studies. 2011;48(9):1893-1908. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Coronini-Cronberg 2012* - Coronini-Cronberg S, Millett C, Laverty AA, Webb E. The impact of a free older persons’ bus pass on active travel and regular walking in England. American Journal of Public Health. 2012;102(11):2141–8. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Dong 2016a* - Dong H, Ma L, Broach J. Promoting sustainable travel modes for commute tours: A comparison of the effects of home and work locations and employer-provided incentives. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation. 2016;10(6):485-494. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Farber 2014* - Farber S, Bartholomew K, Li X, Páez A, Nurul Habib KM. Assessing social equity in distance based transit fares using a model of travel behavior. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2014;67:291-303. Accessed on June 23, 2017
Freeland 2013* - Freeland AL, Banerjee SN, Dannenberg AL, Wendel AM. Walking associated with public transit: Moving toward increased physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(3):536-542. Accessed on June 23, 2017
Gallivan 2011* - Gallivan F, Ang-Olson J, Liban CB, Kusumoto A. Cost-effective approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through public transportation in Los Angeles, California. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2011;2(2217):19–29. Accessed on July 12, 2017
Graham-Rowe 2011* - Graham-Rowe E, Skippon S, Gardner B, Abraham C. Can we reduce car use and, if so, how? A review of available evidence. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2011;45(5):401–18. Accessed on July 12, 2017
Herzog 2007* - Herzog E, Bricka S, Audette L, Rockwell J. Do employee commuter benefits reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption? Results of Fall 2004 survey of best workplaces for commuters. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2006;1956:34–41. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Hipp 2017 - Hipp JA, Dodson EA, Lee JA, et al. Mixed methods analysis of eighteen worksite policies, programs, and environments for physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2017;14(1):79. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Iseki 2014 - Iseki H, Ali R. Net effects of gasoline price changes on transit ridership in US urban areas. San Jose, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI); 2014. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Iseki 2015* - Iseki H, Ali R. Fixed-effects panel data analysis of gasoline prices, fare, service supply, and service frequency on transit ridership in 10 US urbanized areas. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2015;2537:71-80. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Lachapelle 2009 - Lachapelle U, Frank LD. Transit and health: mode of transport, employer-sponsored public transit pass programs, and physical activity. Journal of Public Health Policy. 2009;30(Suppl 1):S73–94. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Lari 2014 - Lari A, Douma F, Yang KL, Caskey K, Cureton C. Innovative parking pricing demonstration in the Twin Cities: Introducing flexibility and incentives to parking contracts. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota; 2014. Accessed on June 29, 2017
MacDonald 2010 - MacDonald JM, Stokes RJ, Cohen DA, Kofner A, Ridgeway GK. The effect of light rail transit on body mass index and physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2010;39(2):105-12. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Martin 2012* - Martin A, Suhrcke M, Ogilvie D. Financial incentives to promote active travel: an evidence review and economic framework. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2012;43(6):e45-57. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Miller 2017* - Miller C, Savage I. Does the demand response to transit fare increases vary by income? Transport Policy. 2017;55:79-86. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Myers 2006* - Myers G, Hagen DA, Russo T, et al. Benefits of campus transit pass: Study of student’s willingness to pay for proposed mandatory transit pass program. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2006;1971:133-9. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Petrunoff 2015* - Petrunoff N, Rissel C, Wen LM, Martin J. Carrots and sticks vs carrots: Comparing approaches to workplace travel plans using disincentives for driving and incentives for active travel. Journal of Transport & Health. 2015;2(4):563-567. Accessed on June 29, 2017
RAND-Sorenson 2008 - Sorenson P, Wachs M, Min EY, et al. Moving Los Angeles: Short-term policy options for improving transportation. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2008: Monograph Report 748. Accessed on July 12, 2017
Saelens 2014* - Saelens BE, Vernez Moudon A, Kang B, Hurvitz PM, Zhou C. Relation between higher physical activity and public transit use. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(5):854-859. Accessed on June 5, 2017
Shoup 2004 - Shoup DC. Eco passes: An evaluation of employer-based transit programs. Los Angeles: University of California Transportation Center (UCTC); 2004. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Su 2012* - Su Q, Zhou L. Parking management, financial subsidies to alternatives to drive alone and commute mode choices in Seattle. Regional Science and Urban Economics. 2012;42(1-2):88–97. Accessed on June 29, 2017
US DOT-BTS Fatalities - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). National Transportation Statistics: Transportation fatalities. Washington, DC. Accessed on June 29, 2017
US DOT-FTA Transit and climate - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Public transportation's role in responding to climate change. 2010. Accessed on June 29, 2017
VTPI-Litman 2017a - Litman T. Transit price elasticities and cross-elasticities. Victoria, BC: Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI); 2017. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Webb 2012* - Webb E, Netuveli G, Millett C. Free bus passes, use of public transport and obesity among older people in England. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2012;66(2):176–80. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Wener 2007* - Wener RE, Evans GW. A morning stroll: Levels of physical activity in car and mass transit commuting. Environment and Behavior. 2007;39(1):62-74. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Yang 2015b* - Yang L, Hipp JA, Adlakha D, et al. Choice of commuting mode among employees: Do home neighborhood environment, worksite neighborhood environment, and worksite policy and supports matter? Journal of Transport & Health. 2015;2(2):212-218. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Zhou 2011* - Zhou J, Schweitzer L. Getting drivers to switch: Transit price and service quality among commuters. Journal of Urban Planning and Development. 2011;137(4):477-83. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Zhou 2014a* - Zhou J. From better understandings to proactive actions: Housing location and commuting mode choices among university students. Transport Policy. 2014;33:166-175. Accessed on June 29, 2017

Citations - Implementation

Alexandria-TMPs - City of Alexandria, VA. Transportation & Environmental Services (T&ES): Transportation management plans (TMPs) - Special use permit. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Madison Metro - City of Madison, WI Metro Transit. Metro pass programs. Accessed on June 29, 2017
Milwaukee Transit - Milwaukee County, WI Transit System. Commuter value. Accessed on June 29, 2017
ODOE-Transportation - Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE). Transportation. Accessed on June 29, 2017
TRB-Boyle 2010 - Boyle DK. TCRP Synthesis 82 - Transit fare arrangements for public employees: A synthesis of transit practice. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board (TRB); 2010. Accessed on June 29, 2017
US DOT-TRANServe - US Department of Transportation (US DOT). TRANServe Accessed on June 29, 2017
Yolo-TMA - Yolo Transportation Management Association (TMA). Current programs. Accessed on June 29, 2017

Page Last Updated

June 30, 2017

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