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Car Curfew Challenge

A DOMI program in which residents volunteer to navigate the city without their cars for a week.

Photo of Mitch Turck
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There are many pro-transit initiatives geared towards making alternative transportation options more accessible. But -- there's something to be said for pursuing the same goal by making car transit less accessible, be it through open streets days, parking restrictions, etc.

This proposal employs a more intimate anti-access tactic, in hopes of changing car owners' habits and perspectives to the point that they become transit advocates.

The Car Curfew Challenge would be an ongoing program run by DOMI wherein:

1. Car-driving residents can volunteer to have their car keys taken away and held by DOMI for 7 days (assume a few dozen residents participating concurrently.)

2. The participants then spend the curfew period using alternative transit options, experimenting as a week-in-the-life of a low-access resident.

3. The participant's keys are returned at the end of the week, or as needed if a resident asks to abort the program.

DOMI in return provides a sort of "doctor's note" voucher the residents can use during the program as a minor safety net if they encounter an issue with an employer or law enforcement as a result of transit unfamiliarity.

If in need of supporting revenue, the city could also offer a Welcome Packet to participants as a cheat sheet listing some of the available transit alternatives run by private companies (rideshare/bikeshare/carshare services, etc.), who would in turn pay a fee to be listed in the packet.

Why would any car owner participate in this?

It would be in the city's best interest to offer a bit of "15 minutes" of local fame by running the program like any good content channel would run a program. Interviews, videos, account takeovers, etc. Recognition is enough for a surprising number of people -- although with a larger budget, there could be an incentive provided, such as a free unlimited transit pass at the conclusion of each resident's curfew week. Of course, there also exists an increasing number of people who want to rely less on their car, and this program would spur participation from those individuals.

Why would the city participate in this?

Benefits to the city are numerous:

- Turn a small portion of the tax base into strong advocates and empathizers of transit, the network effect of which is arguably just as valuable as giving 100x the residents a small, anonymous pro-transit experience such as Open Streets PGH.

- Improve the degree of inclusion in resident perspectives and challenges as they relate to public transit use, to better inform improvements to the transit system.

- Use the program and content to build a cultural bridge between city planners and car owners, who are routinely at odds with each other in post-highway America.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

- Car owners who have an interest in understanding, mastering, and improving the transit system. - Car owners or car owners-to-be who would prefer not to rely on a car, but haven't taken the initiative to understand how they might function without one. - Car owners who despise public transit and want a platform to illustrate its limitations.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

I've been covering the future of mobility (specifically, autonomous vehicles) independently for the past four years, writing for and During that time, I've worked with several automotive sector corporations and design firms to prototype user experiences for autonomous vehicles and smart cities. I also co-produced Pittsburgh's recent Mobiliti transportation workshop, attracting 200+ cross-functional participants. I have no financial stake in the success of this proposal.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $25,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

The major costs are personnel-related, so the city would have to assess availability of their resources. Specifically: - Agents to arrive at the participant's home (if necessary) and receive the car keys (e.g. law enforcement) - Agents to maintain program data and mange program operations (e.g. participant info, date ranges, abort requests from participants) - Agents to interface with the participants (and likely major local employers to promote the program) for the purposes of content creation and information capture The hard costs that immediately come to mind are: 1. Release forms, liability waivers and other boilerplate legal docs 2. A secure key containment system for participants' keys, e.g. KeyTrak (units typically run anywhere from $1,000 - $10,000) The hard costs are one-time and would therefore make this idea a long-term beneficiary of the pilot dollars.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

- Increase in usage of alternative transit options, especially any options directly attributable to the program through usage codes - Development of a culture bridge (quantified by social media #s and video views, qualified by city stakeholders) between the city and private vehicle owners - Increase in quality of transit feedback and ideation from residents - Ultimately (although extremely difficult to directly attribute), an increase in votes and dollars going towards transportation and infrastructure initiatives. Surveying the users, while not an indicator of large-scale success, would allow us to quantify their individual perceptions of success (cost/time/happiness/etc.)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Diana Avart

Hi Mitch,

Thanks so much for submitting this idea. If put to action, it could be the push needed for people that automatically use their cars to get around instead of considering other options. I would say that an incentive, at least at the beginning, would be the best way to get more people to try it out. Could the income from the transportation advertising help to cover the incentives?

- Diana, Facilitator

Photo of Mitch Turck

Thanks Diana. It's possible the Welcome Packet ad revenue could directly pay out incentives, though the city would likely see a healthier model operate by taking in the ad revenue and offering a different incentive whose costs they have more control over, e.g. bus passes or bikeshare subscriptions. Also helps that the latter incentives directly promote transit usage.

Photo of Diana Avart

Mitch, I completely agree. A transportation-related incentive, as opposed to money or gift cards, would be ideal for this type of Challenge since it would encourage people to get into the habit of using these alternative forms of transit and seeing their value. I know that free bus passes for university students/employees promotes them to use the bus system a lot more than other people in the city and also makes them more willing to consider public transit even after they leave school since they are knowledgeable/comfortable with this form of transit.

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