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How can we use operant conditioning to encourage more public transit use?

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After covering operant conditioning, ask your students to consider how government agencies could encourage more public transit use by using reinforcement. Give students a couple minutes to think about this on their own, then ask students to share their ideas in small groups. Next, ask each group to develop a plan where operant conditioning could be used to encourage the use of public transit.

What is the operant (the behavior being targeted)?

What will be used as the reinforcement? Will it be positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement?

What schedule of reinforcement would you recommend? Variable ratio, variable interval, fixed ratio, or fixed interval?

Once the group discussion has died down, ask each group to share their plan, ensuring that they have correctly identified the type and schedule of reinforcement.

Wrap up the discussion by sharing that Miami has implemented such a program. Using an app called Velocia, Miami residents can track how they get around: walking, biking, carpooling, riding the bus/train (“Miami launches app that rewards citizens for ditching their cars at home,” 2019). The more you don’t drive solo, the more “Velos” points you earn. Each method is worth a different number of Velos points. For example, walking 5 miles in a week earns you 300 Velos. Those points can be redeemed for public transportation discounts. For example, for 450 Velos you can rent a CitiBike for 30 minutes.

Even if you are not in Miami, you can download the Velocia app from Google Play or the App Store to see how it works.

An article on the Mass Transit Magazine website provides a nice summary of some transit rewards programs that have been implemented around the world (Comfort, 2019).

 

References

Comfort, P. (2019). Loyalty programs and gamification in public transit. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from http://masstransitmag.com/technology/passenger-info/article/13000010/loyalty-programs-and-gamificati...

Miami launches app that rewards citizens for ditching their cars at home. (2019). Retrieved January 8, 2020, from https://www.optimistdaily.com/2019/12/miami-launches-app-that-rewards-citizens-for-ditching-their-ca...

About the Author
At Highline College near Seattle, Sue Frantz is working on her third decade in the psychology college classroom. Throughout her career, she has been an early adopter of new technologies in which she saw pedagogical potential. In 2009, she founded her blog, Technology for Academics. The blog features both new tech tools and tips for using not-so-new tools effectively. She currently serves as Vice President for Resources for APA Division 2: Society for the Teaching of Psychology. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. In 2016, she received the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. As the newest contributor to the Instructor Resource Manual for the David Myers and Nathan DeWall Introduction to Psychology textbooks, she is excited to bring teaching resources to you in this venue.