“Pick a Day, Commute Another Way.” That’s the theme of this week’s Massachusetts Car-Free Week, when the state joins over 1,000 cities in 40 countries around the world to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home and try bicycling, walking, public transit, carpooling, or vanpooling to work. With transportation as the state’s largest and fastest growing sector with respect to climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, it’s imperative that we reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
Here at CLF, in addition to our extensive policy work to improve transportation choices in both urban and rural communities across New England, we’ve long advocated for market-based approaches to encourage people to drive less as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and traffic congestion. That’s why, in conjunction with Massachusetts Car-Free Week, we’re proud to announce a new pilot study that our non-profit affiliate, CLF Ventures, will be conducting in 2014.
Funded by a $2.1 million Federal Highway Administration Value Pricing Program grant administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and with an in-kind contribution from Plymouth Rock Assurance, the three-year study will explore how rewarding people for driving less affects their driving behavior.
Specifically, CLF Ventures will examine how the size and timing of cash rewards, and how those rewards are communicated, can motivate people to adjust how much, when, and where they drive. The study will help us understand the economic and environmental implications of these behavioral changes, and will provide, for the first time, publicly available data about these behavioral impacts so that states, insurers, and motorists can learn more about the effectiveness of various incentives for reducing driving. Using in-vehicle telematics devices, the study will collect data on miles traveled and when a driver enters different geographic zones, such as Metro Boston or Metro North, but it will not track specific locations.
As CLF President John Kassel states:
“CLF strongly believes in market-based approaches to addressing environmental problems. For more than 15 years, we’ve championed innovative methods to reduce driving as a way to achieve real environmental benefits. This study is an important next step in providing the data policymakers and insurance companies need to design effective voluntary programs that encourage reductions in driving on a large scale. We need to pursue every option available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet Massachusetts’s – and the region’s – climate goals.”
Financial incentives to drive less can provide a win all-around for Massachusetts consumers, residents, insurers, policymakers, and the environment:
- Consumers can earn rewards for driving less.
- All Massachusetts residents will benefit from improved road safety and reduced traffic congestion that result when people drive less.
- Insurers can provide an incentive to policyholders that reduces driving, thereby reducing the number and cost of auto accident claims.
- Policymakers will benefit by having real data that reflects how consumers change their driving behavior when incentivized to do so.
- The environment will benefit from the reduction in vehicle miles – less driving means reduced fuel usage, better air quality, and lower climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
Groups of randomly selected, current Plymouth Rock policyholders will be invited to participate in the pilot study, which will begin in 2014. Potential participants can accept or decline the invitation to participate; they cannot “volunteer” to join the study. The study will enroll approximately 3,000 Plymouth Rock policyholders in Massachusetts from a representative mix of vehicle classes, geographic territories, and coverage characteristics. Participants will pay their normal insurance premiums, regardless of how many miles they drive, and can earn per-mile cash rewards for reducing the miles they drive.
Considerable data security measures will be in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the voluntary study participants and protect their personal information. Participants will be told what data will be used and how, and must provide their consent. Data released to the public will be scrubbed of personal/identifying information and only made available in aggregate form.
We know that reducing miles driven can decrease emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases and health-damaging air pollutants, ease traffic congestion, and improve road safety. What we don’t know is to what extent driver behavior can be influenced through financial rewards and incentives. This pilot study is a great way to find out.