Could community be a solution to transport challenges?

Published: September 29, 2014

“Could emphasising well-being and community be a way to convince people to change how they travel?”

Three transport-related stories caught my eye this month because they share a common, but not immediately obvious theme.

There was the attention grabbing claim from Peter Hendy, the head of Transport for London, that overcrowded services and high fares could spark riots in coming years.

There was a study from KPMG that found scrapping free bus travel for the elderly would cost the economy £1.7 billion.

And there was research from the University of East Anglia which found that walking, cycling or even taking public transport improves well-being compared to commuting by car.

So, what’s the common theme?

Community. And more specifically, the way in which transport ties community together – a role that is often overlooked.

Finding the right levers is a vital part of the process when designing a sustainable transport behaviour change campaign. A month ago I wrote about the experience of Scotland where messages about physical health and the environment weren’t chiming with travellers. Could emphasising well-being and community be a way to convince people to change how they travel?

It’s an approach that seems to be gaining traction, with journey-sharing apps like Faxi tapping into existing groups and communities to help people travel more sustainably. Faxi recognises that many groups meet regularly, in the same place, at the same time, but group members miss opportunities to share a lift with others. Schools, exercise classes, Sunday League football teams – all communities in their own right, with members travelling independently to and from the same destination when a friend or colleague might live just a few streets away.

When better information is available, individuals are in a position to make more informed decisions. So Faxi plots where journeys start and finish for each member of the group and helps plan potential routes, laying out on a map on which trips and travel preferences overlap. By providing information that councils can use to aid their efforts to reduce short car trips, Faxi has a growing user base among local authorities.

Co-ordinating people to share journeys is traditionally a tough nut to crack, but with a growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of inclusion and community, perhaps its time has come.

More details about Faxi and their work with local authorities are available on their website.

Arlen Pettitt
Junior Consultant

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