The Federal Transit Administration announced Thursday that it awarded $700,000 to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to assist its development of a travel-rewards research pilot project.

According to Metro, the project will focus on understanding how people choose to travel around the county and region, and will encourage people to take transit and other alternatives to driving alone. It also seeks a way to reward people for taking public transportation.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for Metro to find innovative ways to not just recover but come back stronger from this challenging pandemic,” Metro CEO Phillip Washington said. “We’re thankful that this grant from the FTA will allow us to explore creative new ways to get more people walking, biking, rolling and riding on transit to help solve traffic in Los Angeles County.”

With the grant, Metro said it is partnering with the Harvard School of Business, the Duke Center for Advanced Hindsight and private-sector technology and mobility partners to identify and test the most effective incentives to persuade travelers to skip driving alone and choose transit, ridesharing, walking, bicycling or telecommuting.

The project’s total budget is $1.3 million, with $412,000 of development from private technology partners.

The FTA said the grant was awarded as part of its Accelerating Innovative Mobility program, designed to drive innovation by promoting forward-thinking approaches to improve transit financing, system design and service.

The idea for the pilot came from a 2018 forum hosted by Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation called “Think You Can Solve Traffic?” The forum was designed to solicit private-industry solutions to traffic problems in the county.

The results of the pilot will be shared with other transit agencies, Metro said.

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