Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 23, 2014

Isle for CAPRI?

Filed under: Alameda, Transportation — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Now that the City of Alameda is moving ahead with the license plate readers to combat crime in the City  (seriously, it took a lot of will power not to put crime in quotation marks) perhaps we could use tracking technology for another problem in Alameda: traffic.

A new company called “Urban Engines” co-founded by a former engineer from Google and a Stanford professor, is looking to help solve the problem of congestion and traffic by using a variety of carrots (not sticks) to help relieve congestion issues, from the article:

On one hand, they believe new data insights can help cities adjust the supply of transit vehicles and road space. On the other, they plan to use behavioral incentives to control commuter demand.

The incentives side of Urban Engines draws from programs that Prabhakar has helped conduct that pay commuters to travel at off-peak hours. Recognizing that too few cities had implemented congestion pricing plans, Prabhakar and collaborators have taken the opposite tack — rather than charge commuters who traveled during rush hour, they reward them for traveling outside it. In behavioral terms, it’s a carrot instead of a stick, and Prabhakar says it’s been successful so far in Bangalore, Singapore, and Palo Alto.

How it would work is better described in the Stanford pilot:

[R]esearchers at Stanford University have launched a study and program aimed at shifting traffic patterns by encouraging drivers to slightly alter when they arrive at campus. To entice people to change their arrival times, the researchers have turned the morning commute into something of a game. Dubbed Capri, or Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives, the program awards points to enrolled drivers who arrive either before or after the 9 a.m.-to-10 a.m. and 4 p.m.-to-5 p.m. rush hours.

Participants’ arrival times are tracked through RFID tags and drivers are entered in a raffle that awards random cash prizes. The jackpot? A high of $50 and a low of $2. Not much, sure, but the researchers have found that even meager rewards – and the even more meager chance of actually winning those rewards – can have a significant effect on people’s behaviors.

There’s also an option to forego the raffle and instead rake in a 10-cent reward for each off-peak trip into or out of campus.

From Alameda’s census numbers, the vast majority of commuters leave the island between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.   A  little more than 50% of morning commuters exit Alameda at that time.   According to the researches getting 10% of those drivers to shift the times they leave would make a huge difference in traffic flow.

Anyway, since Alameda has controlled points of access — much like the campus of a university — one tool in a tool box of traffic mitigation could be this carrot approach.  Who doesn’t like the occasional nominal reward for doing something completely mundane like commuting to work?



  1. “Boss, don’t think of it as ‘arriving late and leaving early,’ think of it as ‘engaging in traffic and parking mitigation.’ Now let’s talk about my raise….”

    Comment by Jack Mingo — May 23, 2014 @ 6:24 am

  2. A user on the Alameda Parents Network reported an armed robbery on Pearl Street at 2:00 am the other day. Maybe the “crime” is just getting started. Hope not.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — May 23, 2014 @ 7:17 am

  3. Congestion pricing and incentives are an excellent idea. The “traffic congestion” in both tubes (and at the bridges) that so many people describe is confined to short periods in the morning and evening-there were 2-3 other cars in the entire Posey Tube this morning at 6:11 AM when I drove Linda to the Jack London Square AMTRAK station for her 6:23 Capitol Corridor train.

    Our “traffic problems” could be easily reduced if people simply:

    1. carpool
    2. walk or bicycle with their kids to school (or let the kids walk or bike on their own) instead of driving them to school
    3. walk or bicycle to work
    4. take transit to work
    5. stagger their work hours and commute at off-peak times
    6. telecommute 1 or more days/week

    Even adopting one of these strategies for one or two days a week would make a huge difference. And they are not as difficult or inconvenient as I often hear.

    How convenient and efficient is it, after all, to spend time sitting in the Webster or Posey Tube for 10 minutes–or to sit on Otis, Doolittle, Island, and Robert Davey for 10 minutes backed up in the crush of traffic headed for Amelia Earhart or Bay Farm Elementary? (In that 10 minutes you could have ridden your kids to school by bike and enjoyed some fresh-air exercise to boot.)

    If you take transit or carpool instead of driving, you can let someone else drive: this means less anxiety and fatigue for you, and more time to read, listen to music, or take naps on your way to or from work. (Napping is NOT recommended while driving 880, of course.)

    Do you really “need” your car every minute of every single day? An objective analysis–without starting from that “daily need” assumption, thinking outside of your sheet-metal “box”–may well lead to less driving and spending your time more effectively.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — May 23, 2014 @ 7:47 am

  4. Musing about sarcastic quotes around the word in a smug attempt to demean people’s concern for safety says a lot more about you, Lauren, than it does about those silly NIMBY’s you are trying to lampoon. But hey, they aren’t “progressive when it {comes} to development” and they “seem to be stuck in some sort of time warp,” so their safety is a mere afterthought.

    Comment by dave — May 23, 2014 @ 7:49 am

  5. Jack M. clearly not everyone can avoid the 7 – 8:30 a.m. leave time, but if 10% of those who do can shift their start times the researchers say that can help increase traffic flow for those that must commute during that hour and a half. More here, excerpt:

    Dr. Prabhakar said congestion pricing and his incentive system need not be mutually exclusive, and he noted that highway congestion was an example of “nonlinear” behavior, in which even a small reduction in vehicles at a given time — 10 percent or less — can have a big effect on traffic flow.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2014 @ 8:05 am

  6. Jon:

    The 51 goes through the tube at that hour:

    Why were you burning fossil fuel and adding to congestion when you should have taken the bus?

    Comment by dave — May 23, 2014 @ 8:34 am

  7. jon
    Number three in your hypocritical do as I say not what I do strategies. Put Linda on one of your bikes and stay home in your sheet-rock box and muse how to save the universe..

    3. walk or bicycle to work.

    Comment by who cares — May 23, 2014 @ 9:21 am

  8. If they are going to collect this data we should make some good use of it like traffic analysis, but it’s a bummer that the data will be retained for six months. Two weeks would be a nice compromise, but if there are no hits on a current hot list where is the real need for any retention? After six months I want to know how many crimes are solved on account of long term retention versus, instant hot list hits. I absolutely hate to act like a paranoid and I’m actually not very concerned in the short term about abuses, but the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center ads a ripple here which is genuinely creepy. The center is regional but the linkage is there…. Give the police the tools they need but nothing more.

    Comment by MI — May 23, 2014 @ 9:30 am

  9. Interesting !
    Look like most commenter work the 9 to 5 shift ,
    Ever tried to get out from work at 1 30 AM from san Francisco , well it take from 1 1/23 hour to 2 hours to get to Alameda , this is assuming the bus driver does not simply blow past the bus stop . Try it …
    How about going to the City early morning , no difference , for the one which spend 3 hours commuting to get a semi decent paying job as they are all 1/3 to 50% more in San Francisco than the East bay forgive them for being selfish they have rent or mortgage to pay .

    Using bicycle , an interesting movement coming out of Berkeley , the ultimate hypocrisy as they are building one of the largest parking Garage for the last 20 -30 right in the middle of the University , in return the dirt and debris are being hauled to the Oakland airport to fill the bay and the marshes , it is not by a few truck but by the hundreds of trip which barrel down Broadway at speed over 50 mph as per the very large display from the APD which happen to be accurate .
    Would you mind talking to our Employer and their clients to stagger our shift to accommodate the Utopia of the Alameda point , turn it which ever way you like , 4500 houses X 2 that’s make 9000 vehicles , 74% according to Lauren’s Data will travel between 7 to 11 AM ,
    What I do find amusing , during the rainy days I don’t see any bike in the street , why not ?

    Now let’s get to that Company which manipulate data to support their point in third world Country by the way ,
    like drug co and other they all did their research while working at Universities at tax payers expenses , fully funded by tax payers , in building paid by tax payers and assisted by fully paying Students , like the one which came across a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and selling the year long drug at a mere $ 50 000.00 a year or the other which is going to put on the market a cancer treatment at over $ 100 000.00 , all these research were made possible by you and me , why not compensate the student which have contributed to these studies ? without them there would be no such CEO .

    I am not against developing the point , give it an access , what we have at this time is not enough to handle the volume even if once in a while John find 2 or 3 vehicle in the tube to Drive Linda to Amtrak to Sacramento {I thought you previously said she worked in Sunnyvale ???} by the way why not work in the east bay ? $$$$$$ and job like all of us .

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — May 23, 2014 @ 9:34 am

  10. I’m guessing you didn’t see this:

    “Peak-hour tolls have little effect on Bay Bridge congestion (5/19/14)

    Four years after its implementation, the $6 toll to curb rush-hour traffic on the Bay Bridge appears to be having little, if any, effect on easing the peak-hour backup on the morning commute.

    In fact, if a recent weeklong snapshot of the morning rush hour taken by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is any indication, the number of peak-hour commuters has grown to 9,000 cars per hour, which is just about the limit of what the bridge can handle.

    Between April 28 and May 2, 117,059 cars and trucks passed through the Bay Bridge toll gates during the morning peak hours – an 8,949 increase over the average weekly commute before “congestive pricing” was implemented in 2010.”

    Comment by Darcy Morrison — May 23, 2014 @ 10:10 am

  11. Congestion pricing (peak tolls) are the stick, these folks are working on the carrots.

    Comment by Lauren Do — May 23, 2014 @ 10:21 am

  12. 9. Isn’t the University somewhat autonomous and can do what it wants on it’s property? Like City Council has limited control and can’t say no to a parking garage on campus.

    Comment by MI — May 23, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

  13. What is funny is no one in college will give up their cars even if they can’t afford to drive them. When I was in college I drove my car like once a week to get grocery’s …Berkley isn’t the same as Alameda. The other difference it to encourage people to take the ferry. It takes 20 minutes to ride the ferry and 30 or more to drive. I also encourage people to build in Metropolitan areas rather than build in areas which actually grow our food. Actually Alameda is one of the largest cities in CA, behind Sacramento. San Francisco, Oakland, LA, Stockton, San Jose and San Diego.

    Comment by Joseph — May 23, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

  14. The things you learn on this webpage, my stars

    Comment by Brock — May 24, 2014 @ 1:27 am

  15. FYI: Um, using above web site, City of Alameda doesn’t show, just other cities in county, in top 100 largest cities. As I recall, we only got in the 75,000 range when we were counting all the military that were deployed on ships that were based here.

    Comment by Li_ — May 24, 2014 @ 7:39 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at