What the Heck is a SmartTrip?

With my diploma officially pending…I no longer have to write anything on trip planning programs. I worked on my SmartTrips program document for the past year and have a stack of all the drafts this documents has gone through sitting on my book shelf. It fills an entire 4 inch 3-ring binder. For this post I thought I would look back on the history of SmartTrips and a why a trip planning program would be beneficial to Albuquerque, NM. Don’t worry it is a short history lesson.

Travel Smart Logo

What is TravelSmart?

TravelSmart is an individualized marketing program in Australia and Europe. The Victorian State government in Australia devised TravelSmart to address concerns regarding the rising frequency of SOV trips in an attempt to encourage the use of other modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, transit, and carpool trips as more sustainable options to SOV (Single Occupancy Vehicles) travel.[1]

 The individualized marketing program aims to change people’s travel behavior by trying to understand how people travel to and from a particular site (for example a job center, school, or neighborhood). By understanding people’s travel behaviors, the program can then “identify barriers and opportunities to changing travel behavior.”[2]

What does it do?

According to the TravelSmart planning guide, TravelSmart is “about changing the way people travel.[3]” The program aims to reduce, but not eliminate, people’s dependence on cars by encouraging them to use alternative modes of transportation. TravelSmart encourages people to use other modes of transportation through special events, such as Ride to Work Day (Same as the Bike to Work Day held in the United States), newsletters, advertisement in local newspapers and rewards for participating in TravelSmart.

Portland Smart Trips Logo

What is SmartTrips?

In 2002, the Portland Office of Transportation brought TravelSmart to the United States and launched a pilot program in 2003. Like TravelSmart, SmartTrips is a comprehensive method to reduce SOV trips while at the same time increasing cycling, walking, and public transportation utilizing a highly effective individualized marketing plan. Portland started with 600 households participating in the pre-pilot program and had nearly 4 times that in the second year of the pilot program. After sending out an introductory letter to the target neighborhood, the program follows up with a mail-in order form. After receiving the order form, the SmartTrips staff and volunteers put together a personalized packet tailored to each individual household and deliver each one by bicycle. Like TravelSmart, SmartTrips holds special events in the target neighborhood to encourage active transportation use. The Portland SmartTrips program is a highly successful program and has been so for the past decade. Neighborhoods participating in the program have seen the use of active transportation increases from 6 % to levels as high as 15% and citywide Portland’s active transportation use went from 3% to 6%. The typically city have only 1% of their population using active transportation.[4] Portland was just ahead of the game. Since Portland introduced trip planning programs to the United States approximately a dozen more cities and a few counties have successfully implemented trip planning programs similar to the SmartTrips model.

Why would this benefit ABQ?

A travel-planning program similar to TravelSmart and SmartTrips would benefit Albuquerque because of the potential to lessen the financial cost imposed by automobile transportation, reduce contributions to vehicle emissions and traffic congestion, and encourage Albuquerque residents to include transit and cycling as part of their daily travel and exercise routine. Albuquerque faces a transportation nightmare within the next 15 years if the population continues to grow and it’s land use patterns continue to develop with housing on the west side  and employment on the east side of the Rio Grande river.  Additionally, encouraging Albuquerque’s west side residents to use transit and cycling will help the City meet the MTP’s (Metropolitan Transportation Plan) goal of reducing SOV river crossings.

So that’s SmartTrips. I spent a full year writing a thesis exploring how to bring this program to Albuquerque. I am so excited about this possibility because it will add a solid step towards healthier and more sustainable transportation.


[1] State of Victoria, TravelSmart: Travel Planning Guide (2012), p.2.

[2] Ibid, p.6.

[3] Ibid, p.2.

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