Marge Gasnick, with the Mid-America Regional Council (MPO in Kansas City),
posted a request to the TRANSP-TDM listserv today. She was seeking feedback on providing incentives and rewards to retain carpoolers. She was considering "reimbursing them for some of the upkeep on their vehicle, the types of things that help reduce the emissions produced by the vehicle - e.g., oil changes, tuneups, tires, etc."
This has stimulated a variety of responses from other listserv subscribers about what is an effective incentive AND what is appropriate use of taxpayers' dollars.
For example, does "Advertising TDM by giving away gasoline as the reward for energy conservation sends a confused message," as Dennis Eirikis, President of ClearLight Communications, suggests? (Dennis' full post here)
Brenda Williams with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada replied "Some may say that using taxpayer dollars for a spa treatment and a massage [to build on the stress reduction of commute options] is improper and unnecessary no matter what our TDM program message is or no matter how our regions are impacted by certain marketing messages. Sometimes what works in one region will not work in another, but the only way to determine the effectiveness of any marketing strategy is to try it after careful investigation of your regional culture." (Brenda's full post here)
These listserv postings come after a similar discussion I had recently on the acceptable use of purchasing movie tickets (from a private company) as part of a Refer a Friend program to enroll more members into the Emergency Ride Home program. Drawing the line as to what is acceptable may also be a "cultural" issue (as well as a legal one). For example, while movie tickets were deemed acceptable, purchasing scratch off tickets for the State's lottery were not deemed acceptable.(Even though the promo opportunities are endless. :) “Carpooling will save you some serious scratch” or “Scratch off one reason for not being able to carpool – E..R..H..” or “Carpooling is no gamble; you are guaranteed a ride home” :) )
I'm not arguing about the decision, simply raising the flag that what may seem acceptable to some, might not be to all.
Finally, testing what works is always a good idea. Offer a variety of incentives, for example, and let the individual select. Or try "gas cards" in one market but "movie tickets" in another and see what happens. Look for effectiveness in achieving your objectives (not just measuring demand for a particular incentive). See which incentive did the best job in what you set out to achieve with the program such as reduce turnover rates in vanpools, etc.
And, by all means, share your results with the rest of us.