In a time when resources are scarce, facing the problem of the traffic in a city like Palermo is an ambitious purpose, but for the criticality of its context it represents a perfect lab to prototype innovative and low cost solutions. If changing the urban fabric is a long and expensive process that surely could degrade the environmental heritage of the city, then we have to try changing the citizens.
TrafficO2 is an action-research study that tries to pursue the objective to improve traffic conditions without using any top-down policies but, through a social network, fostering directly the citizens toward more green behaviour in a one-to-one dialogue. The aim of the game is to build a strong and values driven self-organized community, able to change the actual urban condition without any command and control policies or any structural transformation.
The goal of trafficO2 is to reduce traffic and pollution caused by the use of private cars by facilitating the interaction between pre-defined categories of users, companies, and potential sponsors in order to arrive to an agreement that is fair to all of them: an agreement providing for a reward in exchange for sustainable modes of circulation.
The idea is to combine in a serious game two of the complementary actors involved in the urban traffic scene: the community of workers and the local retail businesses. All of the local businesses that subscribe to the platform as sponsors become stations of a new type of mobility system that fosters travel by walking, biking, public transportation, car pooling and car sharing.
For every respectful behaviour towards the environment, the citizen earns a certain amount of points, with whom he can rise the ranking of his community and win the prizes offered by the sponsors.
In order to test the assumptions trafficO2 application was tested in the city of Palermo with the participation of the students from the University in what was called “S.U.V. Challenges”, where the acronym stands for Sustainable Urban Values.
The testing phase of the project involved about 2,000 users (of which more than 20% were active ones) and about 100 companies, which provided prizes for € 10.000.
trafficO2 players reduced their ecological footprint on average by 54% of CO2 equivalent with some users achieving more than 70%.
Over the years the project was awarded many times and earned international acknowledgements.
The TrafficO2 system allows the user to plot on a map their point of departure and arrival and describe, for each route and for any single mode of circulation, the travel time, the cost in Euros, the environmental cost expressed in CO2 and the calories burnt.
Furthermore, each choice will be worth a certain amount of so called O2 points (a virtual currency), which the users will earn and use towards prizes, transforming trafficO2 from DSS sustainable and environmentally friendly trips into a game citizens play. The possibility to earn O2 points is also influenced by a weather factor. This option is created with the attempt to promote more sustainable systems (walking, biking and moving by the public transport network) on the cloudy and rainy days.