Arlington’s Car-Free Diet

Arlington's Car-Free Diet

Case Study: Arlington County Commuter Services
Project: Arlington’s Car-Free Diet

Arlington County, Virginia sought a dramatic way to market alternative transportation options to, from, and around the County for its residents and visitors.


Arlington County has one of the most comprehensive arrays of transportation options in the country that includes Metrorail, Metrobus, Arlington Transit, Virginia Railway Express, bike paths, bike sharing, walkways, car sharing, van pools and carpools. In addition, the County is planned so development of recreational, business and residential facilities take maximum advantage of the ease of getting around the County as well as reaching the tourism and cultural destinations of Washington, DC.

Arlington County conducted extensive research to determine the most compelling factors associated with visitors and residents using their wide variety of alternatives versus the single occupancy vehicle.

Research indicated that one of the most attractive features of Arlington County for visitors and residents alike was that they didn’t really need a car at all to get around Arlington or to reach the major tourism or cultural sites of the nation’s capital.


Pulsar was engaged to create a brand campaign that would link long-term transportation alternatives with a contemporary ‘call to action’ to stimulate use of the alternate transportation modes and increase the overall attractiveness of the Arlington experience.

The Car-Free Diet campaign was created to stimulate awareness and motivate behavior change among the young, well educated professionals, which make up a substantial portion of the Arlington market, and are also the most likely to be willing to try alternate transportation modes. The campaign was designed to leverage the positive environmental perspective indicative of the Arlington area, use high visibility marketing techniques, and connect environmental goals with the brand of Arlington County.

The Car-Free Diet is not an actual diet, but rather a lifestyle that encourages people who drive alone to explore alternative transportation options – like riding the bus or metro, biking, walking, carpooling, vanpooling and teleworking – so they can save money, improve their health and clean up the environment.


The Car-Free Diet, along with ACCS’ coordinated group of support programs, have earned Arlington County the distinction of the highest use of auto alternative transportation modes in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.

The Car-Free Diet campaign has established a framework and marketing model for ACCS that has resulted in a significant impact on the qualify of life and the business climate of Arlington County every day:
• The elimination 38,000 vehicle trips per day
• A reduction of 542,00 vehicle miles traveled per day
• Savings 23,000 gallons of gasoline per day
• A daily reduction of 511,000 pounds of CO2 and an annual reduction of 64,000 tons of air pollution per year

88% of Arlington County Business Leaders say that Arlington County is a good place to locate a business and 40% listed transportation access as the reason that Arlington is a good place to locate a business. Additionally, 88% of citizens of Arlington County rate their overall quality of life favorable and 85% rate the transportation system as good or very good. The overall ability to travel around Arlington County is the biggest driver in satisfaction with Arlington County’s transportation system.

In 2009, ACCS conducted a study among Arlington Residents that not only showed that 31% were aware of the Car-Free Diet, but it also that 41% actually changed behavior as a result of the Car-Free Diet.

The Car-Free Diet continues to be an important part of achieving the County’s goal to move to a 40/60 drive-alone/alternate-mode split.