Employee incentives

Agencies and employers can provide incentives to employees that encourage them to make travel changes that include choosing another transportation mode, shifting the time that they travel, and selecting alternative routes.

Key characteristics




WSDOT regions

Other names

  • Commuter Choice
  • Traveler Choice
  • Travel demand management

Strategy description

Transportation agencies and other mobility services can address traffic congestion using incentives that incorporate behavioral economic concepts and encourage travelers to shift their route, mode, or time of travel, or eliminate trips altogether.

  • Route alternative: Travelers change their routes naturally to avoid significant congestion (e.g. a collision ahead or a construction work zone). If travelers are aware of a time savings, they may not need a strong external incentive to make this change.
  • Mode change: Encouraging travelers to take transit, bike, or walk, instead of driving a single-occupancy vehicle, can help reduce congestion and get more people where they need to go on existing roadways. New technologies like smartphone applications have helped encourage road users to identify the pros and cons of various travel modes like light rail, bus, and bike share programs.
  • Time of day: Incentivizing travelers to change the time of day that they travel can distribute traffic over a longer period. This reduces the peak of congestion, especially in highly urbanized areas.
  • Trip elimination: Redefining when and where employees work—including telework and compressed work schedules (e.g., 4 10-hour days)— can shorten, redirect or even eliminate vehicle trips.

Incentives are wide-ranging, from providing schedule flexibility to direct compensation for travel choices. The following paragraphs explain some of the most common types of employee incentives.

Information. For some employees, learning about the impact of their transportation options can nudge them toward a behavior change. Employers can provide employees with information on how their choices can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Flexibility. Employers can encourage work-life balance alongside transportation demand management[a][b][c] by allowing flexible start and end times for employees. Current technology allows many employees to telecommute full-time or part-time from their home or at a location that is walkable from their home.

On-site Facilities. Offices with showers and secure bicycle storage encourage active transportation. On-site services like laundry, exercise equipment, dining options, and child care encourage employees to reduce the number of vehicle trips they take.

Compensation. Agencies and employers can partially or fully subsidize employees’ cost to travel using public transportation. They can also compensate for the time that employees are using transit. For drivers choosing to share a ride with others through a carpool or vanpool, agencies can offer free parking.

Points and prizes. Many incentive programs award employees “points” that can be redeemed for prizes like gift cards, cash, or other rewards for taking actions such as:

  • Use transit options to travel to and from work
  • Walk or bike to work
  • “Sell” their unused vehicle parking spot
  • Travel to and from work during off-peak periods

When to use this strategy

Employee incentives that encourage employees not to drive to work alone make sense for communities that experience congestion caused by commuters. Urban areas, in particular, could benefit from fewer vehicles on the road during peak commuting times.

Industrial businesses using shift work provides an example. When a large number of employees start or end their shift at a given location, the site manager may coordinate the timing of those shifts to stagger with other nearby businesses so all workers are not coming and going at the same time.

Strategy benefits:

  • Reduced congestion by reducing demand during commute times
  • Improved travel reliability for road users as a result of reduced congestion
  • Environmental improvements stemming from reduced traffic volume, reduced congestion, and increased active transportation of walking and bicycling
  • Improved worker performance that coincides with less stressful commutes

What you need in order to implement

Policy needs:

  • Agencies should develop policies that encourage employers to provide incentives to their employees that shift their route, travel mode, or time of travel, or eliminate trips altogether.
  • A guaranteed ride home policy that may include an employer-funded ride-for-hire (e.g., Lyft, Uber) option.

Planning needs:

  • Long-range transportation planning for vehicles, transit, bicycles, and pedestrians should include employee incentives that reduce vehicle trips while increasing transit, bicycle and pedestrian trips.

Coordination needs:

  • Agencies should coordinate with individual employers, regional or metropolitan planning organizations, chambers of commerce, and trade organizations to encourage incentives.

Equipment needs:

  • Providing on-site facilities (e.g., showers, bicycle racks) can help encourage employees to walk or bike to work.
  • Guaranteed ride home options may include the use of company vehicles for carpooling.

Agency resources needs:

  • Agencies need staff to work with employers, develop programs and new ideas for incentives, and write, revise, and interpret related policies.

Learn more about this strategy

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Expanding Traveler Choices through the Use of Incentives: A Compendium of Examples.

US Department of Transportation and US Environmental Protection Agency (FHWA), Commuter Choice Primer: An Employer’s Guide to Implementing Effective Commuter Choice Programs.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Integrating Demand Management into the Transportation Planning Process: A Desk Reference.

About key characteristics

Location notes:

Employee incentives are most common in urbanized areas that experience congestion during the morning and evening peaks however they can be applied universally, regardless of home/work location.

Cost notes:

Employee incentives are a low-cost, high benefit method to reduce traffic volumes during peak times.

Technology notes:

Some employee incentives can include basic technology, like tracking programs or smartphone apps, but for the most part, these incentives are low-tech.

Collaboration notes:

Agencies, employers, chambers of commerce, trade organizations, and employees should collaborate to identify the most effective incentives to reduce traffic congestion.

Need or issue this strategy addresses