I hate buses. Sure, I am a firm believer in more and better public transportation; yes, the bus rides are frequently entertaining involving a large cast of characters, but, I can’t get past the fact that I hate riding buses, unfortunately they are my primary mode of transportation.
I started riding the bus many years ago after I lost my driver’s license because I didn’t pay fines for some minor tickets. About 8 years ago I began having seizures and had another restriction placed on my record that I was not able drive. It’s miserable taking a bus. According to a Clemson study, I’m not the only one who is unhappy about it.
Clemson researchers investigated how emotions like happiness, pain, stress, sadness and fatigue vary during travel and by travel mode in a new study published in the journal Transportation. Utilizing data from the American Time Use Survey, collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the researchers were able to determine the average mood felt by people during different types of travel.
“We found that people are in the best mood while they are bicycling compared to any other mode of transportation,” said Eric Morris, lead author on the study and assistant professor in Clemson’s planning, development and preservation department.
Morris said that bicyclists tend to be a self-selected group who are very enthusiastic about their mode of transportation. “Bicyclists are generally younger and physically healthy, which are traits that happier people usually possess,” he said.
I use to ride a bike to get to work and around town, but I had an accident which changed that for me. I hit a dip in the road, flew up and landed straight down on the top of my head in the middle of a car lane with heavy traffic. Fortunately the car coming at me had good breaks. With hesitation I continued to ride but it wasn’t long after that my bike was stolen. I didn’t bother replacing it. I had enjoyed riding before, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore.
Next happiest of travelers are car passengers and then car drivers. I am not a fan of cars at all. I don’t mind being a passenger too much, but I don’t like driving in traffic. It frustrates me that everyone doesn’t follow my rules which would allow me to be king of the road. I also don’t like the maintenance and upkeep of a car. There’s a reason I don’t have a dog – I don’t want to have to take care of one. The same reason applies to cars.
And then there’s buses and trains. I don’t have to repeat myself regarding buses, but I’m shocked that trains equal buses as the form of transportation that evokes the most negative emotions. Researchers believe that a small part of the unhappiness associated with bus and train travel can be attributed to the fact that mass transit is disproportionately used for commuting to and from work.
I use to take the subway and then the commuter rail every day to and from work. I enjoyed letting someone else do the driving while I read, napped, or got some work done on my laptop. Unfortunately where we live now, we are too far from L.A. to have a subway, and too close to L.A. to have commuter rail. Where does that leave me? On the bus, of course.
The study’s findings suggest that bicycle use may have benefits beyond the typically cited health and transportation ones, and that improving transit riders’ emotional experience may be as important as improving traditional service features, such as headways and travel speeds.
The next time you drive down the street, take a look at all the people waiting at the bus stops. You’ll occasionally see the glimpse of a smile, but these are an exception. Most of what you’ll see is bored, miserable faces. Waiting for the bus can be as bad as, or worse, than riding in the damn things.
“Understanding the relationship between how we travel and how we feel offers insight into ways of improving existing transportation services, prioritizing investments and theorizing and modeling the costs and benefits of travel,” said Morris.
I hope someday their insight and prioritization will someday get a subway in my neighborhood. Until then, I’ll see you on the bus.
The study was published in the journal Transportation.