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Transportation Lottery

insinc website screen shot
Are people motivated more by a small chance at a big prize than by a guaranteed small reward? To ease traffic congestion, which wastes a lot of energy and contributes to pollution, this project shifted travel away from rush hour using novel monetary incentives, gaming and a social network.

A lottery-based system to pay out chunky prizes instead of lower, deterministic payouts can attract more participation in the incentive mechanism. This is especially true when the deterministic payouts are small, such as a kWh of energy saving only about 10 cents. If such an incentive mechanism were developed, it could be applied in a variety of contexts: time shifting of electricity use in the home, recycling, wellness programs for increasing exercise, and many more.

This project, “Insinc,” incentivized Singapore commuters to travel at uncongested times by giving them different numbers of credits (corresponding to cash) for shifting to off-peak travel, mode shifting (from private to public transit), or recommending a friend—as monitored through transportation sensors. Then individuals could choose to participate in a simple game of chance online to win a shot at a larger amount of money. Formative work on the project showed that adding a simple game of chance and social networking greatly improved engagement with the system.

Among the findings:

  • In the initial pilot study, Incinc’s 7.5 percent of Insinc’s 27,000 users’ trips were shifted off peak. Participants who made regular peak-hour trips before joining Insinc shifted their peak trips by more than 11 percent.
  • Entering individuals into a lottery and compensating only a small number of lottery winners achieved significantly shorter commute times and reduced fuel consumption and congestion.

Publications and Presentations

INSINC: A Platform for Managing Peak Demand in Public Transit
JOURNEYS, pp 31-39, Land Transport Authority of Singapore
Pluntke, C., Prabhakar, B. (2013)

Future Work

Insinc was extended for a further 18 months (July 2012 to December 2013) after the initial six months. Researchers expect the wealth of data to yield additional insights. The software developed in part through this project, and general approach, are now being applied in other settings and to address additional societal issues. The investigators anticipate application in motivating consumers to switch electricity use to off-peak hours.