What Form of Transportation Makes You Happy?


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.

8 comments on What Form of Transportation Makes You Happy?

  1. while i rode the city bus for several years to most places, i never liked it. i found just planning my trip the day before to be so stressful i almost couldn’t picture even going. i was so anxious when i did go to the stop, i was almost completely paralyzed. i mean, i couldn’t talk-nothing came out. once i was on the bus, it was much better because then i knew i would reach my destination intact.

    sometimes, i was able to use a cab, which is much better than using the bus. but i was terrified of being stranded (this actually happened a few times). sometimes the cabs were arranged through my doctor’s office, and this is where i had the most fear of missing the cab.

    but by a very very large margin, my favorite way to travel is to have my own private car. i know my ride is there to get to the destination. and i know it is there waiting for me to return home again. there is no worry of missing my ride, no worry of being stranded, no worry of being late or lost. now that i think about it, it is likely a control issue for me, and the more control i have the less anxious and stressed i am. give me a car to drive any day!

    1. When I was a complete disaster before getting properly medicated I would get lost and would call Maurice in a panic. He would ask for as many landmarks as I could see and then come pick me up.

      The two of us and my pdoc decided the bus was off limits for awhile. Then I was allowed to take it as long as I didn’t have to transfer. Then I was allowed to make one transfer, and I’m happy to say that I can now go wherever I want. Well, I don’t know if happy is the right word. I am still on the bus, after all.

      I know you and most of the world prefer driving a car. I hate it and consider it a necessary evil (I plan to get my license back in the next couple of months). I guess I’m just weird that way.

  2. Evening Bradley.

    What an interesting post. I drive a car and absolutely hate public transport! Lol
    Part of that reason is that at times I don’t really feel safe on either. There’s always that element of riff raff that goes on both and I don’t wish to be anywhere near them!

    As for a bike I haven’t ridden one in years. You are so lucky you weren’t hurt more in your accident. Have a good night. Nite from Oz, Paula xxx

    1. First of all, Paula, welcome back to the blogging world, Paula, you’ve been missed. I know I’m in the minority regarding the car thing. I just find them to be a pain in the ass.

  3. Definitely a car, especially in this town. Public transportation here is awful. If I lived closer to the middle of the city, maybe I would bike, but businesses and places I need to go are sprawled out all over the city. I’d have to be in really REALLY good shape to do that, and frankly, no one really rides bikes around here. In this town, the only way to really do it is to have personal transportation. I also do like to ride as a passenger, depending upon who is driving.

    1. Here in LA we have a lot of bicyclers. Amazingly, you rarely hear of someone getting hurt because it seems none of them follow the rules of the road.

      Enjoyment of being a passenger always depends on who is driving.

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