2012 Car-Free Diet Message Testing Study

Arlington County Commuter Service’s Car-Free Diet is a campaign designed to encourage a “car-free” or “car-lite” lifestyle by using transit, biking, walking, or teleworking instead of driving. The Car-Free Diet web site offers information on

Car Free Diet Example Ad

Car Free Diet “What’s Your One?” Example Advertisement

how to use transit, a calculator that shows how much money one could save and how many calories one could burn by shifting from driving to another mode of travel.

The site also hosts “The Car-Free Diet Show,” the “first, only and – most importantly – #1 rated 4-to-5-minute-long sketch comedy show devoted to the Car-Free Diet in all of Arlington!” as well as materials from the “What’s Your One?” campaign. The “What’s Your One?” campaign encourages people to start living the “car-free” or “car-lite” lifestyle by changing just one trip from driving to transit, biking, or walking.

The 2012 Message Testing Study was designed to assess the public’s awareness and familiarity with the campaign, as well as perceptions of the campaign and to what extent it’s changing travel behavior. Finally, the study assessed reactions to specific elements of the campaign using example ads from the “What’s Your One?” campaign.

KEY FINDINGS

Most respondents found the ads to be appealing and most felt that they could participate in the Car-Free Diet

  • 26 respondents thought the ads were “appealing” or “very appealing.” Only 5 thought the ads were “unappealing.”
  • The message or slogan on the ads was the most-frequently cited element that made the ads appealing (13 respondents). Respondents cited the people depicted in the ads as the reason for their appeal second-most frequently (10 respondents).
  • There was no single identifiable reason that the five respondents who found the ads unappealing could give to explain their reactions.
  • Over three quarters of participants feel that they can take part in the Car-Free diet, and
    Reasons Why Respondents Found the Ads Appealing

    Reasons Why Respondents Found the Ads Appealing

    many respondents realized, during the course of the survey, that they already were participating by taking modes other than SOV while in Arlington.

    Reasons Why Respondents Found the Ads Unappealing

    Reasons Why Respondents Found the Ads Unappealing

Most respondents could accurately identify the message of the Car Free Diet ads

  • Of those who could recall seeing the ads, participants identified messages like “[l]eave your car at home when you can,” “help eliminate congestion,” and “[l]ower your carbon footprint” as the message or messages.
  • After seeing examples of the campaign’s ads, 34 of the 41 participants (whether or not they had recalled seeing the ads previously) could identify the message of the Car-Free Diet campaign as reducing travel by single-occupancy vehicle.
  • Nearly half (20 of 41) said that the Car-Free Diet was about traveling by means other than SOV, while some respondents identified the Car-Free Diet as promoting specific alternative modes, such as Metro (8 respondents) or biking (2 respondents).

Most participants could not recall seeing marketing campaigns about transportation. Fewer could recall the Car-Free Diet Campaign, and of those who could, few said that they changed their transportation behavior or sought more information as a result.

  • Only 17 of the 41 respondents recalled recent messages about transportation.

    Messages Cited by Those Who Could Recall Seeing the Car Free Diet Ads

  • Of those 17, 3 remembered seeing the Car-Free Diet message without prompting. An additional 9 participants remembered seeing the Car-Free Diet message when prompted.
  • Of the 12 (3 prompted; 9 unprompted), two took action to learn more about travel options or to change travel behavior.
  • 3 of these 12 visited Carfreediet.com.
  • Of those who could recall seeing the ads, participants identified messages like “[l]eave your car at home when you can,” “help eliminate congestion,” and “[l]ower your carbon footprint” as the message or messages.
  • After seeing examples of the campaign’s ads, 34 of the 41 participants (whether or not they had recalled seeing the ads previously) could identify the message of the Car-Free Diet campaign as reducing travel by single-occupancy vehicle.
  • Nearly half (20 of 41) said that the Car-Free Diet was about traveling by means other than SOV, while some respondents identified the Car-Free Diet as promoting specific alternative modes, such as Metro (8 respondents) or biking (2 respondents).

Limited transit access at home is a major reason why someone might feel that he or she cannot participate in the Car-Free Diet

  • Of the 8 people who said that the Car-Free Diet was something in which they could not participate, 3 gave “live too far away to commute on public transit,” and “residence is not convenient to public transit” each as a reason why.

Participants who drive alone for their commutes to and from Arlington County travel differently once in Arlington.

  • More than two-thirds of participants reported driving alone to get to work in Arlington.
  • 80 percent of participants reported driving alone when they are at home, outside of Arlington County.
    Word Cloud of Car-Free Diet Advertisement Perceived Message

    Word Cloud of Car-Free Diet Advertisement Perceived Message

  • All the participants who reported driving alone to Arlington County say that they walked, took Metro or used the bus while in Arlington to do things like go to lunch, run errands, or go to after-work events. Only a quarter of respondents said that they drove alone to make these trips.
  • “Save money,” “traffic avoidance,” and “parking avoidance” were the three most frequently mentioned benefits for not driving alone.

METHODOLOGY

  • Data collection and analysis by the Southeastern Institute of Research.
  • Intercept survey conducted at two commercial buildings in Arlington, 2500 Wilson Boulevard and 800 North Glebe Road.
  • Surveys were administered by two interviewers on Tuesday, March 19th, between the hours of 8 AM and 12 PM at 2500 Wilson Boulevard, and between 12:30 PM and 3 PM at 800 North Glebe Road.
  • The survey population consisted of individuals who work in Arlington County but who live outside of the county.
    41 responses collected. Given the qualitative nature of the survey and the small survey sample size, the results of the survey should not be interpreted as representative for the population at large.
  • Interviewers offered a $5 gift card as an incentive for completion.
  • Interviewers showed participants four “What’s Your One?” ads from the Car-Free Diet (available for download below) for message testing purposes.

DOCUMENTS FOR DOWNLOAD

Summary Presentation (PDF)

Data Tables (PDF)

Survey Questionnaire (PDF)

Sample Advertisements (PDF)

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