The effects of commuter benefits

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I read this article with much interest yesterday. It examines the results of a study by Virginia Tech transport scholars Andrea Hamre and Ralph Buehler who were investigating the effects of commuter benefits – free parking, free bus/transit pass etc. It took me a moment to understand the graphs which you can see on the CityLab article, but in summary they show:

  • if you give a group of employees just free parking, they will drive alone more often (as you would expect)
  • if you give a group of people just free transit, they will take transit more often (again, as you would expect)
  • however, if you give employees free transit and free parking, transit use is actually lower than if there were no benefits given.

So, free parking and free transit do not counter-balance one another. The article rightly points out the problems this causes for cities who are attempting to promote increase use of alternative modes. It also highlights the complexity of incentives and our human responses to them.

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