Of all the arguments that can be made for improving and using public transit — the environmental benefits, alleviating traffic congestion and reducing dependency on cars — creating more satisfaction in people’s lives isn’t normally one that’s heard.
This statement may fly in the face of the negative stereotypes that haunt public transit (overcrowding, slowness and unreliability), but Jason Cao, a transport policy scholar, wanted to explore how transit affects people’s satisfaction with life. Polling residents in Minneapolis, he found that those who lived along the Hiawatha light rail line rated their satisfaction with life higher than those who did not. In another study, Swedish researchers recruited 106 people, gave them pre-paid fare passes, and asked them to switch from driving to taking transit to work for one month. The month finished with participants reporting significantly greater satisfaction with their daily commutes than they had predicted before the study began.
The correlation between access to good public transport and overall life satisfaction may seem like a stretch, but there are many small benefits that can really add up. For example, Cao’s study concluded that participant’s increased satisfaction was derived from perceived accessibility to major destinations. Not having to drive may also afford moments in the day to relax and enjoy small pleasures like reading a book, listening to music or just taking in the scenery, not to mention removing the stress of rush hour traffic!
What do you think makes public transport ‘good’, and do you think increased access would change the way you feel about your life?