Happy Commuting: an Oxymoron?

For the vast majority of Americans, commuting is one of the least enjoyable parts of the day. Economists Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger studied individuals’ well-being when engaging in a variety of daily activities and found that the morning commute was the most unpleasant of activities (out of 19 activities). Specifically, individuals reported negative emotions during 28% of an average 28 minute morning commute (survey of 909 employed women in Texas conducted in 2004). By comparison, exercise was the sixth most pleasant activity with individuals feeling unpleasant 9% of their time.


Source: Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger, Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being, Journal of Economic Perspectives-Volumes 20, Number 1-Winter 2006, 3-24.


Causes for unhappy commutes are not hard to come by. The vast majority of Americans commute alone by car (76% according to the 2013 report Commuting in America) and other studies have shown that this passive, solitary and often unpredictable form of commuting makes it the least enjoyable of commutes when compared with walking, biking, or taking certain forms of public transportation (see a study from Montreal researchers at the School of Urban Planning). Furthermore, those with long passive commutes (greater than 20 miltes) are less healthy (higher rates of blood pressure, higher BMI), get less exercise, sleep less well and report lower levels of life satisfaction compared to those with shorter commutes (see this excellent article on commuting and health by Vox).

So if we were rational beings seeking to maximize our utility (which we know we are not thanks to behavioral economists), we would want to minimize our commute and/or add enjoyable aspects to the commute (socializing, exercising etc.). The goal of this website is to help readers reduce the unpleasantness of commutes by bringing together the lateset research, equipment, and apps dedicated to to this challenge of turning commutes into a source of energy.


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