Shorts: Planning Institute Australia Young Planners nudge

The Submission by the ACT Young Planners Committee of the Planning Institute of Australia to the Moving Canberra: Integrated Transport Strategy 2019-2045 provide a number of case studies, one of which, is the power of nudge and behavioural economics (behavioural insights).

The quote from the document is below and the submission at the end of the article.

Case study: Behavioural economics and the power of the ‘nudge’

Behavioural economics is a field of study that tries to understand and work with the sometimes ‘irrational’ choices made by people and how these interact with public policies. For example, there may be instances where people would be better off taking public transport rather than a car, but still take their car. This can be because of a ‘stat us quo bias’ people tend to stick with the current situation, even if they would gain by changing ¹. By understanding that people don’t always make the most rational choices, public policy interventions can be used to ‘nudge’4 or influence people toward making decisions that can have better outcomes (for both the individual but also for society more broadly).

There are opportunities to employ behavioural economics in transport planning and service provision, to shift behaviour toward more sustainable and efficient modes of transport. In Canberra, encouraging mode shift is challenging because driving private vehicles does not always seem to have obvious or severe impacts on individuals. However at a collective scale, over time, Canberra will likely start to face the same severe congestion as other cities.

Nudges can be used to shift user behaviour away from the status quo. For example, by actively engaging with people’s social networks, the power of peer pressure can help shift the behaviour. School travel programs are a good way to initiate this change. Encouraging and actively supporting walking to school and carpooling, in a targeted way to key demographics, can shift the dial in behaviour change. We note the success of existing school transport programs, and recommend these continue to be supported through the Strategy.

Communications and data can also be used to change behaviour. For example, actively communicating emissions data, combined with setting targets at community and neighbourhood scales, can create healthy competition to encourage behaviour change. At the same time, providing incentives to use active transport in the form of social or community credits has been shown to have substantial positive impact on active transport use. The Bella Mossa3 scheme in Bologna brings these ideas all together through a league table for active transport use within the municipality. Winners are awarded credits to use at local businesses.

3 MIND Sets project. 2017. Nudges in Transport. 2017/07/28/nudges in transport/
4 Thaler, R. and C. Sunstein (2008), Nudge, Yale University Press.
5 Bella Mossa. 2019.

P McRae, M Mariott & A Mengei, ‘Submission by the Act Young Planners Committee of the Planning Institute Of Australia, Moving Canberra: Integrated Transport Strategy’, Planning Institute Australia Young Planners, 2018, <> [accessed 8 September 2021].

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