Successfully Changing Individual Travel Behavior: Applying Community-Based Social Marketing to Travel Choice


Carol Cooper

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - performance, planning - marketing/promotion, planning - signage/information, ridership - mode choice, organisation - performance, place - urban, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro


Urban transportation policy, Travel behavior, Transit, Ridership, Public transit, Public information programs, Performance measurement, Patronage (Transit ridership), Outreach, Neighborhoods, Mode choice, Modal choice, Mass transit, Marketing, Local transit, King County Metro Transit, Health, Community action programs, Choice of transportation, Behavior modification


This paper demonstrates that community-based social marketing techniques can be successfully used to affect people’s transportation awareness and behavior, as deployed in Washington State’s King County Metro Transit’s In Motion program. The In Motion approach focuses on neighborhood-based outreach instead of a more typical employer-based trip reduction program. In addition, In Motion addresses the potential to change any trip from drive alone to an alternative mode instead of focusing exclusively on commute trips. In Motion provides neighborhood residents with incentives to try driving less, raises individual awareness of alternative travel options, and helps break the automatic reflex to drive for all trips. The program was designed to be easily adapted to other neighborhoods with minor modifications in message and materials. The program has been completed in four neighborhoods. Program participants in each neighborhood report increased transit ridership and use of other non-single-occupant vehicle modes, such as carpooling, biking, and walking. The pre- and postparticipant reported mode shares for each In Motion program indicate a 24% to >50% decrease in driving alone and a 20% to almost 50% increase in transit use. These self-reported numbers are supported by bus stop counts and analysis of overall transit ridership. The In Motion program has had promising results in urban and suburban neighborhoods and has been positively received by residents and businesses. King County Metro Transit continues to expand the program to new geographic areas in King County and to explore innovative approaches to establish partnerships and leverage funding for expanded applications.