20,000+ people incentivised to travel more sustainably in Bologna
787,000 journeys on foot
590,000 cycle journeys
508,000 public transport journeys
5,450 car-sharing journeys
1.4 million kg CO2 emissions saved
167 million calories burned
Like many major cities, Bologna struggles to manage traffic congestion and its side-effects. In 2017 and 2018, the BetterPoints platform powered the six-month Bella Mossa programmes that encouraged fewer single-occupancy car journeys in the Italian city.
In 2017, SRM, Bologna’s the public transport authority, wanted to try a new approach to tackling CO2 emissions. They had tried banning the use of polluting vehicles during the day, which had been unpopular with citizens, and wanted to see if incentives would be more effective than penalties. With funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 EMPOWER programme, they partnered with BetterPoints to build Bella Mossa, a six-month incentives scheme that would encourage large numbers of people to reduce their day-to-day reliance on single-occupancy car journeys.
‘There are almost 60 cars for 100 inhabitants here in Bologna. We want to decrease this kind of ownership of cars but also we want to decrease the use of private motorised vehicles.’Giuseppe Liguori, European Project Manager, SRM
Giuseppe and the team used BetterPoints’ Behaviour Change Management System to reward people with points for walking, cycling and using public transport. Thousands signed up to their six-month Bella Mossa programme to reduce single-occupancy car journey as soon as it launched in April 2017.
By the end of its six months, 15,000 people had taken part and made 895,000 sustainable transport journeys totalling 3.7 million kilometres – almost 100 times around the globe. It’s calculated that those journeys may have saved as much as 750 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Surveys suggested a genuine decrease in solo car use, with 80 percent of journeys reportedly replacing a car trip.
We had built a bespoke, locally branded version of the BetterPoints app and web portal (www.bellamossa.it), with a matrix of messaging and rewards and a range of incentives. Citizens signed up, downloaded the free app and tracked their journeys by foot, bicycle, train, bus and car-sharing to earn their BetterPoints and in-app medals. They could earn points in several ways, such as by tracking their activity, meeting certain goals (such as walking for 150 minutes a week or more), or traveling to special events.
Marco and Giuseppe knew the rewards had to be worth the effort, so they partnered with a wide range of retailers, from the major Italian supermarket chain, Conad and the international sports retailer, Decathlon, to local budget chains, bike stores, opticians, bookshops and bars.
They also knew it had to be easy for people to redeem points, so they worked with us to implement the major barcode standard EAN13 into their app for people to scan their phones directly into a retailer’s barcode scanner.
Journeys were tracked using GPS in participants’ mobile phones, verified by sophisticated algorithms and OpenStreetMap data. A validation system calibrated on each mode of transport and waypoint checking mitigated cheating.
Surveys were also used to gather feedback: a baseline survey at the start and end of the programme and random in-app questions asking if their recent trip replaced a car journey.
The programme in 2017 generated a huge amount of interest and earned SRM the CIVITAS Bold Measure Award that year. It was so successful that SRM commissioned a second, six-month Bella Mossa programme from BetterPoints in 2018.
Over the six months between March and October 2018, 10,000 people (62 percent of whom had not taken part the year before) recorded 995,000 sustainable transport journeys – 100,000 more than the previous year, despite the 33% drop in participant numbers. The amount of CO2 mitigated went down only slightly by around 2% in 2018. It seems clear that a programme’s social and environmental impact does not simply depend on the number of participants.
Based on the feedback from 2017, SRM wanted to apply more gamification and, by doing so, target the age group identified as ‘gamers’ (35–54). They also wanted to add a social dimension, which was missing the previous year. They created a monthly challenge, each with a different theme and its own goals.
For the social element, they set up team challenges for informal, self-selecting groups, in which each team member had to reach the goals in order for the team to earn its rewards. Both of these initiatives achieved the goal of extending user engagement over a longer period compared to 2017.
The BBC sent two journalists to report on Bella Mossa 2018. This short film shows them gathering rewards for travelling more sustainably around the city and finding out about how how the programme worked.
Award-winning behaviour change initiative
In 2017, Bella Mossa won the European CIVITAS ‘bold measure’ award for its innovative approach to tackling air pollution. Accepting the award, Bologna’s Deputy Mayor said Bella Mossa was:
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One of the most effective tools to promote sustainable mobility in our city in an innovative, fun, and incentivizing way. The city has been able to establish a very effective public-private partnership, involving public bodies, businesses and thousands of citizens in a great mobility game.Irene Priolo, Deputy Mayor, Bologna