Technology

Miles CEO discusses gamification of green travel

Posted on August 1, 2019

Screen shot of Miles app.
Screen shot of Miles app.
Launched last year by CEO Jigar Shah and Paresh Jain, Miles is a rewards platform and app that delivers value for every mile traveled. Users who choose alternative modes of travel or eco-friendly forms of transportation — such as walking, biking, carpooling, or transit — are rewarded even more.

METRO had a chance to talk to Shah, who discussed the app, how it works, and what its impact has been in communities where it is being piloted.

What is Miles? What inspired you to create the company?

Miles is the world’s first universal miles earning program — introducing a bold new concept that all modes of transportation should accrue value for people. Available on Android and iOS, the Miles platform and app allows anyone with a smartphone to earn miles for all of their travel — with greener modes of transportation such as public transit, biking, or walking, rewarded even further. 

To date, Miles users have earned 375 million miles, redeemed more than 55,000 rewards — with an average value of $20 per reward.

Since launching last summer, Miles has quickly built momentum with rapid adoption by tens of thousands of consumers nationally. To date, Miles users have earned 375 million miles, redeemed more than 55,000 rewards — with an average value of $20 per reward. Miles is also partnering with several cities and transit providers to promote greener travel including Caltrain and SamTrans, the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Regional Transit, and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, among others.

The big idea that led to the launch of Miles was to build a universal rewards platform built for the shared economy. Every year, the average person travels thousands of miles via some form of transportation. And yet, despite this, mobility is a universal behavior that largely goes unrewarded. Existing rewards programs are also siloed and limited to one form travel — with consumers facing exclusions when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards.

Our vision for Miles is bold and unwavering: to deliver value for every mile traveled, acros

Shah
Shah
s every mode of transportation, anywhere in the world.

How does Miles work? What are the benefits for commuters and transit providers?

Designed to work seamlessly in the background, Miles automatically logs each trip from point A to B and the mode of transportation, while keeping data completely private. Users can easily view their miles earned per trip, and receive personalized rewards with more than 125 leading brands across categories — redeemable either online or at a nearby store.

Transit providers are able to hold daily and weekly carpool, transit, or bike challenges to incentive users to choose greener forms of transportation, or discover new locations in the city to earn miles even faster. Users can earn additional rewards, such as an Amazon or Starbucks gift card, or other discounts from local retailers and merchants.

Miles platform also provides city and transit partners with valuable insights to assist with transit planning. By using the Miles analytics dashboard, transit authorities can look at travel patterns in aggregate to better understand and nudge alternative, more sustainable transportation behavior.

How do you ensure user privacy?

Privacy is an important focus area for us at Miles, and core to our promise to users. Location and trip data collected via the Miles app is completely private, and used anonymously and in aggregate, to present personalized rewards and offers from brands, retailers, and local merchants inside the app. 

City and transit partners can also look at travel patterns in aggregate to better understand and nudge local commuters to choose greener travel. At no time is personal information shared with any third party. (For more information on Miles’ approach to privacy, see its blog post here.)

The primary goals of the pilots underway, including at Sac RT, are to increase ridership, incentivize green and sustainable travel, and reduce traffic congestion.
Sac RT
The primary goals of the pilots underway, including at Sac RT, are to increase ridership, incentivize green and sustainable travel, and reduce traffic congestion.
Sac RT

Miles recently partnered with Caltrain and SamTrans, as well as Sacramento and SacRT, and Contra Costa Transportation Authority; discuss the goals for each pilot, and some of the initial results.

The primary goals of the pilots underway with cities and transit providers are to increase ridership, incentivize green and sustainable travel, reduce traffic congestion, and increase transit trips during off-peak hours. 

While it’s still early, the Miles platform has already made a positive impact. Nationwide more than 80% of Miles users are opting for some form of green travel such as carpooling, public transit, biking, or walking as a part of their daily commute.

Helping cities shape their vision to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and offer a sustainable mode of travel helps us address a genuine need for our existence.

As a result of our pilots and local market challenges with our transit partners, we’ve also seen a positive shift by local users — with an increased transit ridership and travel by sustainable modes, such as bus, train, biking, or walking, and use of park-and-ride.

For example in May and June, both Sacramento and Contra Costa Transportation Authority held a series of local market challenges with Miles to encourage local transit trips during the work week with rewards such as $5 Amazon or Starbucks gift cards. As a result, both partners saw a 3 to 4% increase in transit trips, based solely on local users who completed weekly challenges, as well as broader mode shift by users toward greener travel.

SamTrans and Caltrain riders will be eligible to compete in special public transit challenges to earn additional rewards, such as Amazon or Starbucks gift cards, tickets to local events, and special offers from local retailers and merchants.
Chris Enright
SamTrans and Caltrain riders will be eligible to compete in special public transit challenges to earn additional rewards, such as Amazon or Starbucks gift cards, tickets to local events, and special offers from local retailers and merchants.
Chris Enright

What are the biggest opportunities and technology trends that will impact transit providers in the future?

Together with our city and transit partners, Miles is helping incentivize greener travel, reduce traffic congestion, and increase ridership through local rewards and challenges.

Miles encourages using local transportation services by offering a bonus reward for greener forms of travel. Taking the local bus or subway to your destination earns you more miles than if you drive there. 

For cities, there are few tools available to help nudge riders to use public transit or stay off of highways during commute times. By providing predictive AI around mobility patterns for commuters, Miles empowers cities and transportation partners to better anticipate customer needs and present relevant incentives.

In addition to offering incentives, cities, and transit providers will have an aggregated view of traffic behavior and how people are moving from point A to point B, as well as receive various insights such as first mile, last mile data to help them plan transit lines, frequency, additional alternative modes, and much more. 

Helping cities shape their vision to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and offer a sustainable mode of travel helps us address a genuine need for our existence. Our goal at Miles is to help cities and transportation providers across the country and globally.

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