Jul 26, 2020 - Health

Congestion, carpools and COVID-19


Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A cash rewards app that encourages people to use cleaner forms of transportation might also help coax virus-leery commuters back into shared rides, buses and trains.

The big picture: Since the coronavirus pandemic, most people surveyed say they'd feel safer driving their personal car to work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises workers to avoid mass transit if possible. But cities can't return to normal without safe, affordable public transportation.

Hytch, the commuter mobile app, found a second use for its technology during the pandemic: tracking COVID-19 infections.

How it works: Hytch partners with employers, brands and governments to provide cash rewards to commuters who choose low-emission forms of transport such as public transit, carpooling, cycling or walking.

  • After a two-year pilot in Nashville, 10,000 Hytch users logged 11.8 million vehicle miles in the city and earned $250,000 in rewards.
  • More important were the vehicle miles not driven in personal cars (7.58 million) and the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips not taken (more than 420,000).
  • That data, released Thursday, is being shared with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is studying car-sharing incentives, Hytch CEO Mark Cleveland said.
  • Seattle and San Francisco are adopting similar programs while South Bend, Indiana, is using Hytch's carpooling incentives to support workers with limited transportation options.

What's next: Now Hytch is partnering with companies to pay employees for using the app to self-screen before they commute to work and for contract tracing in the event of an outbreak.

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