Public Transportation Systems Eyeing Reward Programs for Riders

Jul 7, 2019

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A new article by Wired says your next loyalty program might just be for public transportation. Over the past few years, most public transportations systems have seen a decline in ridership and are looking for new ways to gain those customers back. Now, a number of public transportation systems in the United States are looking at how reward programs might play into gaining back ridership.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, also known as BART, implemented two pilot programs between 2016 and 2019 to test if riders would be willing to accept cash rewards for changing the time of their commute to off-peak hours. During the first test, BART said they got around 10% of the targeted ridership to make the change. BART is currently reviewing the success of the second program, which ended on June 30, 2019.

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority started a program by which people are rewarded based on the mode of transportation they use, which is tracked by their smartphone. For example, walking a single mile gains a bigger reward than driving the same distance. Users are able to redeem rewards for things like gift cards to Starbuck or other local retailers.

For now, most of these programs are still in the early stages. The biggest stumbling block for many of the public transit systems won’t be to design a rewards program that riders like and want to engage with, but rather to have a service that is worth using in order to take advantage of the rewards benefits. No matter how good the rewards program might be, if the service provided isn’t worth it, the rewards program won’t matter much.

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