Peak of the Day or the Daily Slog: Commuting and Subjective Well-Being

Oliver Smith, Portland State University


To understand the impact of daily travel on personal and societal well-being, researchers are developing measurement techniques that go beyond satisfaction-based measures of travel. Metrics related Subjective Well-Being (SWB), defined as an evaluation of one’s happiness or life satisfaction, are increasingly important for evaluating transportation and land-use policies. This dissertation examines commute well-being, a multi-item measure of how one feels about the commute to work, and how it is shaped. Data are from a web-based survey of workers (n=828) in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., with three roughly equally sized groups based on mode: bike, transit and car users. Descriptive analysis shows that commute well-being varies widely across the sample. Those who bike and walk to work have significantly higher commute well-being than transit and car commuters. A multiple linear regression model shows that along with travel mode, traffic congestion, travel time, income, health, attitudes about travel, job satisfaction and residential satisfaction also play important individual roles in shaping commute well-being. A structural equation model reveals a significant correlation between commute well-being and overall happiness, controlling for other key happiness indicators. This research helps expand existing theory by demonstrating (1) how commute well-being can be measured and modeled; (2) how accessibility, distance and travel time impact commute well-being; (3) how individual mode choices interact with attitudes to impact commute satisfaction and (4) the relationship between commuting and overall well being.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
October 30,2013
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2011
UTC Funding: