There are a lot of ways to get around Miami. If plan to visit Coconut Grove, you could take the Metrorail. If you need to be somewhere downtown, you could hop on a Bolt electric scooter. Say you want to enjoy a nice bike ride along South Beach, Citi Bike docking stations line the way. And even if you need a rental car to leave the area, there’s Getaround, a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform. And now, taking any of these transportation options not only means you’re commuting car-free, it means you’re racking up rewards you can cash in for your next commute, like Lyft promo codes or a free half hour on a Citi Bike, the city’s bike-share system.
That’s thanks to Velocia, a new app that has officially debuted in Miami and works as a public-private partnership with different mobility services. Miami-Dade public transit, Bolt e-scooters, Citi Bikes, Getaround car sharing, and SwiftSeat carpooling are all partners, meaning users can pair those services with their Velocia account (Miami’s EASY Card for its Metrorail and Metrobus can also be linked to and reloaded on smartphones) and instantly earn rewards.
All of these partners will run campaigns that reward people for using non-private-car forms of transportation in the form of “Velos.” Velos can be redeemed for discounts on any of the connected transit systems—as well as for Lyft and Uber credits. “The redemption offers are 100% mobility focused,” says Velocia CEO David Winterstein. “You can’t get a Starbucks coffee, you can’t get an Amazon gift card. We’re really focused on creating this circular kind of environment that encourages people to use different services in their city and to get out of their cars.” Velocia will even run a campaign that rewards people for walking five miles in a week.
The type of reward you cash your Velos in for will vary, depending on the partners. It may be a promo code to get $10 off a Lyft ride or 30 minutes on a bike-share bike. In the next few weeks, they hope to offer 1- and 7-day public transit passes as rewards. And no matter what form of transportation you use to earn Velos, you can redeem your Velos on any offering; you don’t have to just ride e-scooters to get e-scooter credits back.
It may take a few trips to earn enough to cash, but that also depends on how you’re getting around. Every Metrorail or Metrobus ride will net you 40 Velos (though taking it to or from the airport earns you 250); renting a Getaround car gets you 2,000. Right now on the app, a $5 Lyft credit will cost you 600 of those Velos, and 30 minutes free on Citi Bike goes for 450. (You can disconnect at any time, and Velocia says all this data about where you’re going is encrypted and meets security protocols.)
Winterstein says he and his partner noticed that even though there’s innovation happening in how people get from point A to point B, there hasn’t been a big impact on people’s transportation behaviors. “We’re seeing traffic congestion at an all-time high, so the question that we decided to ask and then answer is, ‘Is it another mode of transportation that’s required, or do we want to start looking at human behavior and what drives people?'” he says. “So we really looked at the incentives and reward side of the business.”
Another insight that came from their research was the value in looking at what’s available outside your organization, rather than just within it. “We came up with this concept of an open ecosystem, the fact that you can earn with riding Metro and then redeem for a Bolt scooter, or you can rent a car on the weekend with Getaround and redeem for a Citi Bike rental,” he says. That means users can also combine these methods of transportation, riding public transit and then hopping on a scooter for the last mile of their commute. “We think with that type of approach, we’re going to start to actually move the needle when it comes to how people move in cities.”
Winterstein knows that not everyone will give up their car tomorrow thanks to this app, and that’s also not exactly the goal. It’s about starting with small changes, and Miami needs to make some. Greater Miami was recently ranked in the top 12 of large metropolitan areas with the worst traffic in the nation. Traffic there is estimated to cost the area about $4 billion in lost economic output each year. Gridlock has been so bad that in 2017, the mayor of Miami-Dade came together with the Knight Foundation, Miami Dade Express Authority, and the Codina Family to fund a “fastrack“—a technology, business, and public-sector based solution to the city’s traffic problem. Out of that, Velocia was born.
From here, Velocia plans to grow more in South Florida before expanding to other cities in the U.S. and Canada where traffic congestion is a challenge. Hopefully, Winterstein says, people can start to make a few behavioral changes that benefit their entire cities, like carpooling once a week or leaving their car behind and walking if they only need to go a short distance. “If we start to behave in these ways, specifically in Miami Dade and I think in any city, [we’ll] start to realize it’s more accessible and more enjoyable,” he says. One of the main goals of the app, he adds, is to show people new modes of transportation and even “put a bit of fun back into the commute, because, let’s face it, no one really enjoys sitting in traffic.”