Chart of the Day: Commute Mode vs. Happiness

Here’s a compelling chart, from a Canadian study, that attempts to measure the vague notion of “happiness” and/or “satisfaction.” Check out the different commute modes:

commute mode v happiness

This shouldn’t be rocket science to anyone who spends much time stuck in traffic on the freeway. Here’s what Citylab had to say:

The first thing that’s clear is that, in keeping with previous surveys, active commuters tend to enjoy the journey more than those who passively endure either traffic congestion or transit crowds. But commuter-rail passengers in this survey enjoyed the trip, too—in this sample, even more than bike riders. That result likely speaks to the ability to be productive on the train.

For my mind, I’m curious about the huge gap between “bus” and “train.” In theory, these two modes shouldn’t be that different; in practice, they’re very far apart.

6 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Commute Mode vs. Happiness

  1. Mike Amundsen

    One thing to note is the scale on the right… By showing the satisfaction from 70-86% rather than 0-100%, they skew the look of this. At first glance it looks as though the walkers and train riders are 3x (!!!) as satisfied as those that ride the bus (15/16 vs 5/16 on this scale). When in reality they are just slightly more satisfied. (85% vs 75%)

    It has been said many times before… the same statistics can be shown to prove two opposite results based on how they are presented.

  2. Ben

    It would also be nice to know the margin of error. Also would be nice to show a 2nd graph next to the satisfaction showing the subsidy %.

      1. Ben

        Less interested in walking but since you bring it up, if the state is considering taxing motorized vehicles per annual mile, where does it stop? Tax bikers and walkers by mile? Absurd I know, but where does it stop?

        Why not know the financial sustainability per mile of the modes of transportation? Would add weight to the cost vs benefit discussion. Add the satisfaction information make the discussion even more interesting, especially from a marketer’s point of view.

        1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

          As you may be aware, the discussion of financial sustainability is far more complicated than how much it costs to provide X miles of road for Y people to drive on (vs a bus or a sidewalk to complete the same journey). The public bears all sorts of costs thanks to the link between transportation infrastructure and the land uses that complement it. Examples include:

          – Stormwater runoff/groundwater use & refill
          – Non-road utility costs per residential/commercial user (water mains, sewers, etc)
          – Soft costs serving X amount of people in Y square miles (police, fire, medical, schools, etc)
          – Opportunity cost to cities for land used by different transportation infrastructure (ex. freeways in Minneapolis paying 0% of the property taxes formerly paid by houses/etc)
          – Required infrastructure to handle the final “mile” of their journey (publicly provided parking, sidewalks for transit users, etc)
          – External costs (pollution’s impact on climate change, pollution’s impact to public health, economic value of life from crashes killing.injuring non-occupants, etc)
          – Capital (buying a car, building the light rail tracks, etc) vs Operating (annual maintenance/ops for a car, transit operations costs, etc)

          I could go on. But boiling this down to a single “true number” is incredibly difficult and up for debate. What’s the “real” subsidy car drivers get? Do you include the cost of streets paid out of local property taxes, or only highways & freeways (assuming businesses/residents view their property tax as a worthwhile investment to drive or attract customers).

          To answer your question in an entirely different way, Germany spends 74% what we do per capita on transportation (including transit capital/ops), and their transit systems recover 77% of their costs (compared to our 33%).

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