The Peak Avoidance Project in the Region Utrecht: Evaluation and New Developments

The Peak Avoidance Project in the Region Utrecht: Evaluation and New Developments


Henri Palm, Goudappel Coffeng, Jan-Pieter Van Schaik, AT Osborne


In the region Utrecht 5,000 car drivers were stimulating to reduce their peak trips in return for a monetary reward. We describe the travel behaviour changes during and after the rewarding period. The project will be continued a new way: participants earn reward points with a lower monetary value.


Encouraging other travel behaviour is a solution to the growing car traffic especially during peak hours. The project Spitsvrij (literally translated as rush hour free) stimulated car drivers in the area Utrecht-Amersfoort-Hilversum to reduce their peak trips in return for a monetary reward and new information services. The monetary reward depended on the distance in the area, which was registered by an on-board-unit in the car. The rewarding scheme based on distance made the project unique in the Netherlands. The duration of the project was 1.5 years. More than 5,000 participants were involved.

The project achieved the desired effect, a reduction of 3,000 peak trips per day on average. While the peak trips reduced with 45%, the kilometres in the area reduced even more, namely 48%. So participants reduced not only their peak trips but also made less vehicle kilometres during the peak hours. Web-based surveys about their home to work travel routines and socio demographic characteristics provided background information for some clarification for the new travel behaviour.

A social cost-benefit analysis shows a positive benefit-cost ratio of 1.45. Less congestion due to the reduction of peak trips leads to travel savings for car drivers in peak hours and for participants who travelled outside the peak hours. Less vehicle kilometres made by the participants lead to substantial environmental benefits. A major uncertainty is: how long will car drivers sustain their new behaviour. If all participants would keep the same behaviour the benefit ratio rises to 1.8.

In January 2013 the monetary reward stopped. More than 3,000 participants kept their OBU in their cars to register their travel behaviour without a monetary reward. We analysed these data. It turned out that in January 2013 the peak trips reduced with 37%, which is close to the reduction during the rewarding period. This suggests that, at least on the short term, the incentive to change travel behaviour lasts longer than the project period itself. The measurements will go on till April 2013. In the paper we will present the behavioural changes during this period.

The peak avoidance project will start again; it will be continued from April 2013 in a new way. Despite the success high rewards are (politically) not desirable and if applied on a wider scale also not sustainable. The new approach is that participants can earn reward points (like air miles) with a lower monetary value. These points are redeemable towards purchases of products in a web shop. A part of the current group of participants can continue to sustain their new travel behavioural. The other part will continue without monetary rewards. Also new participants will be recruited. In the paper the travel behaviour of these groups will be compared during the period from April to September 2013.


Association for European Transport