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.

Go deeper

Oct 18, 2020 - Health

Jake Tapper says White House refused invitations to have COVID-19 experts appear on his show

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said on Sunday the White House declined invitations to have anyone from its coronavirus task force on his show, "State of the Union," including Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx and CDC director Robert Redfield.

Why it matters: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% in a week, and the number of new cases increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., as of Thursday. On Friday, the U.S. reported 70,000 new cases in one day for the first time since July.

Trump says if Biden's elected, "he'll listen to the scientists"

Combination images of President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Biden campaign slammed President Trump after he said at a Nevada rally Sunday if his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden were elected there'd be more coronavirus pandemic lockdowns because "he'll listen to the scientists."

What he's saying: "If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression," Trump said.

Coronavirus hospitalizations are on the rise

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus hospitalizations are increasing in 39 states, and are at or near their all-time peak in 16.

The big picture: No state is anywhere near the worst-case situation of not having enough capacity to handle its COVID-19 outbreak. But rising hospitalization rates are a sign that things are getting worse, at a dangerous time, and a reminder that this virus can do serious harm.

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