Nesta Article on Innovation in Transport


Nice little article on the Nesta Blog about the key trends which are beginning to transform the transportation sector.

The integration of new technology and the concepts of ‘mobility’ will push innovation in the sector

It’s an exciting time to be working in this sector are trying to work out how we can get the greatest benefits out of this period of change.



As I mentioned in my last post, one core issue in getting people to maintain healthy behaviours arises from the fact that our biases mean it can be difficult for us to commit to undertake the activities we plan to do. With this in mind, I went to find out more about StickK. Its a great website, created by Yale Uni economists and built on real economics. The concept is that you log in to the website and enter your personal goal or ‘commitment contract’. You can then ‘set the stakes’ whereby you nominate someone to receive a financial amount (i.e. your cash) if you don’t meet your goal.

According to the site, they’ve had 265,200 commitments created and $19,037,674 put on the line. I think it would work for me. What about you?

The effects of commuter benefits


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.

Make someone smile


I’ve just read a great article on Scientific American about how giving to others can make you happier. I personally do not volunteer much, but I certain know the pleasure I get from making and giving gifts. However, this research has gone a step further to find that having a concrete goal when you are giving will lead to you feeling happier.  So, for example, saying you want to make someone smile (concrete and observable) will make you happier than if you wanted to cheer someone up (abstract). The authors explain why this is the case:

We discovered that framing a goal in concrete terms makes a giver more realistic about their prospects of success. When expectations are too high, it can lead to disappointment and less happiness. But when you frame a goal concretely, you become more focused on how to achieve that goal and can better anticipate the obstacles and opportunities you might encounter along the way.

Speeding Fines on the Increase


The power of money is once again being tested as a method to change our behaviour – this time it is through fines to attempt to stop drivers from speeding. Under proposed changes drivers could be fined £10,000 if caught speeding on a motorway. To me that amount sounds huge and would surely act as a deterrent. Having said that, I am left wondering why the current level of £2,500 (still a significant amount in itself) is not high enough.

Paid to Cycle to Work


Would 25 cents (euros) per kilometre be enough to inspire you to start cycling to work? In France there is a six-month experiment underway involving 20 companies and institutions who employ a total of 10,000 people. 25 cents doesn’t sound much but I just did a quick calculation for my journey to my previous place of work (i.e. not to my desk in my study) and it would certainly add up to an appealing figure after a year of cycling. I look forward to seeing the results.

Reducing problem gambling


I just came across this article on tackling problem gambling in a newsletter I receive from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Researchers have been trying to encourage responsible gambling – i.e. an individual setting limits on how much money they will gamble in one session and adhering to it.  They’ve found that giving the gamblers simple information to debunk false beliefs about the likelihood of winning, can have positive impacts.

“We explain why persistence at a slot machine does not pay off,” says Wohl. “The odds are, you will lose your money.”

While providing this information in the format of an animated video does appear to influence gambling behaviours, it is reported that its impact wanes after 30 days.  I’m interested to see how they might extend this influence for longer-term positive effects.