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A Universal Lesson in Breaking the Habit of Car Commuting

How one U.K. company got its employees to stop driving to work.
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Paul Appleyard / Flickr

Last fall, the World Wildlife Fund moved its U.K. headquarters from Godalming to Woking. One of the main reasons given for the move was the desire for a more sustainable work environment. To that end, the company encouraged employees to trade their car commute for the train; Woking had much better rail connection anyway, and for six months after the move WWF-UK paid the fare difference for workers whose rail costs rose or who switched from driving.

Getting people to change their commute mode is extremely difficult for companies and cities alike. Decades of transit improvements have made only a tiny dent in car commuting (at least in the United States). Charging drivers higher road and gas prices would increase the dent, but that's politically tricky. Beneath it all is the fact that over time a commute choice becomes so habitual that it's not a choice at all, but rather the response to daily cues that occur more or less without any thought.