Driving-Addiction Treatment

How Australia pried people from their cars.

Australia is as car-happy as the US, yet in the city of Perth, drivers have stepped out of their autos in record numbers. A 12-year-old public program called TravelSmart trims an estimated 30 million car trips each year and has increased annual transit boardings by more than 4 million. That translates into a yearly savings of 88 thousand tons of C02 and 5 million gallons of gas.

How did TravelSmart do it? The program targets uncommitted drivers—those who acknowledge in surveys that they’re open to walking or transit—with tenacious, individualized campaigns. Workers assess a person’s transit needs and provide bicycle maps, bike-shop coupons, walking tours, discounted transit passes, and bus schedules. Staff then follow up by phone, letter, or in person, sometimes up to a dozen times, to make sure the information has been understood and utilized. Through sheer persistence, TravelSmart has slashed total car miles traveled in Perth by 13 percent. And word is spreading: At least six US cities and six more in Europe are trying similar programs. “People want to be part of the solution,” says Werner Brög, TravelSmart’s founder. “They just don’t know how.”


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.