Taxistop is the Belgian partner in the CHUMS project. Under the motto ‘doing more with less’, Taxistop keeps developing new services which allow for the optimisation of use of personal goods. The promotion of carpool (via the matching software carpool.be) has been their core business for over 40 years.
In Belgium, car usage accounts for 65 per cent of all trips made and over 48 per cent of these trips are estimated to be made by cars with a single occupant. Belgian roads are among the most congested in Europe. In the most recent study on modal split in Flanders (2012), only 4 per cent of respondents answered that carpooling is their main mode for commuting.
Research by TML estimated that there would be 25 per cent reduction in congestion if every commuter would carpool at least once a week. There are some good practices in Belgium, although in a feedback questionnaire on the Flemish Mobility Policy 2020, 75 per cent of respondents answered that they were enthusiastic about more carpool actions. This suggests significant potential still exists without requiring major infrastructural investments and the CHUMS measures can have a significant impact on this potential. The goal of the CHUMS project is to increase the amount of carpoolers at companies.
To achieve this, Taxistop has tested the CHUMS approach for carpooling:
- The organisation of a real promotional campaign through the rollout of a ‘Carpool Week’
- A mobility lottery for carpooling employees
- Personalised travel advice
The first businesses targeted in the area were mostly organisations that were relatively new to the idea of formal carpooling and as such, they needed convincing of the benefits. Eventually Taxistop found three suitable candidates. The college UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) participated with around 2 000 students and 120 staff alongside two private companies, Imec with 1 500 staff and KBC (bank) with 3 500 employees.
Due to the nature and variety of the targeted businesses the timings of the implementation was varied. New term time seemed most appropriate for the college while when working with the bank, the new fiscal year was a better fit with business schedules.
Taxistop created individual detailed implementation plans for each of the organisations involved. The actual implementation of the CHUMS approach was split into two phases, one in 2015 and another in 2016.
The three sites that were targeted were largely engaged in a similar manner. An important first step was to set up a plan of action with a supportive mobility co-ordinator in place. This is a key figure to push measures out on the ground and ensure everything runs smoothly. Taxistop assisted the sites in brainstorming for communication campaign methods (flyers, posters, intranet pages, digital screens, articles in business magazine, mail-outs). UCLL focused on carpool heroes and carpool buddies. Imec preferred a ‘green stamp’ on their campaign and KBC put forward the financial advantages and their VIP parking as great incentives to carpool.
Mobility Jackpot lottery
Registered members who were actively searching for a trip or were actually carpooling were eligible for the draw. Information about the lottery was on the posters at the information booth and was on the brochures handed out to employees. Dates were set with the companies for the draws. Taxistop drew a name from the matching system and mailed the winner.
The prizes consisted of a road assistance package and Breakdown assistance from VAB; blue-bike subscription; bus passes from De Lijn; vouchers for cultural events; and gift baskets from the province Flemish-Brabant.
Personalised Travel Plans (PTPs)
Initial sign up for the PTPs was slightly different within each organisation, but the common theme is self-selection of participants. In one case the employees were e-mailed about the possibility to get a PTP and in other cases information about this available service was given to them at the Carpool Week info stands or from flyers that were be distributed on the premises of the organisations.
Hosting a 2 hour information booth to gain more carpool potential, usually leads to 20 to 40 new subscriptions. It might not sound that impressive, but it does take a lot of proactive recruiting, a lot of passage of employees (beware of dead moments) and a lot of reasoning power to get there. To have a more successful info booth, Taxistop often provided some nice extras: sweets or apéro, gadgets, a good conversation starter (e.g. roadmap for pinning carpool potential) or an action (e.g. Race game at UCLL).
For UCLL Taxistop could clearly see the peak of almost 20 new subscriptions during the first carpool week in October 2015. In March 2016 Taxistop hosted a second carpool week, but this was more focused on collecting mini-surveys for PTP delivery. Taxistop believed that the PTP option would be more easily requested by employees or students already interested in carpool. It quickly became clear that the option needed proactive promoting and then choices had to be made: recruit carpool potential or deliver PTPs. General information on carpool was handed out, but this was clearly less sufficient for a second great wave of new subscriptions.
For KBC Taxistop could clearly see the number of requested trips go up after the delivery of a carpool week. Here, Taxistop hosted a carpool day in September 2015, which led to a peak of more than 40 requested trips. The carpool week in January 2016 even led up to a peak of nearly 70 requested trips.
A first barrier is the accessibility of certain cities and regions by public transport. Some regions (or parts of regions) are very well serviced by public transport (train, tram, metro, shared bikes). For example, big city centres have an elaborate and cheap public transport system. Other regions (e.g. on the outskirts of Limburgh province) are very hard to reach by train and sometimes require a follow-up trip by bus to reach the destination.
In Belgium, if public transport is provided and it is effective, it’s cheaper than going by car. However, there may be reasons why employees prefer to come by car (hobby, weather, children etc). In this scenario – though carpooling is a part of the solution - employers also like to promote sustainable transport.
In Belgium, companies prefer an integrated story. Some companies in Belgium are looking for a general mobility solution. Carpooling can offer a good alternative, but it’s not the solution for every single employee.
Organisations can move slowly. Expect them to take a while to commit to a project. Often there are many levels of authority that will need to be consulted for approval.
- Have one clear message at the information booth: subscribe to carpool!
- Have an interactive activity at the info booth for employees. It draws people to the booth and it is good fun!
- Host a special event when you’re sure you can handle the logistic approach yourself and there will be interested people showing up (tip: pre-subscriptions)
- If you find a company that shows interest in the project, it’s important to have good communication between the two parties. The mobility coordinator plays a major role in this: it’s difficult to convince someone with lack of time, lack of enthusiasm, or lack in belief of the success.