In an interesting study conducted by researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, several types of commuter stressors were measured in an effort to determine which was “the best” means to travel to work. The bottom line: Drivers have the most stress, closely followed by public transit commuters. The “winners”: pedestrians, who experience the least stress out of the three groups surveyed.
If the results are indication of what is to come, more commuters will choose jobs close to their homes so that they can walk to work. Whether that is a feasible result remains to be seen.
The objective stressors examined of the study participants included travel time and predictability and the subjective stressors examined included trip pleasantness. The researchers surveyed approximately 3,800 students, staff and faculty of McGill University during a wintery day in Montreal.
One of the major conclusions of the survey: drivers experienced the most stress, largely due to unexpected delays. The study points out that, “This additional time budget indicates that [drivers] have, perhaps paradoxically, less control over their commute than commuters on other modes. Frequent and unpredictable occurrences require of them a peremptory stance toward their commute, where extra time becomes the best way to assure arriving to work or school on time.”
Essentially, on average, drivers budget about 20 extra minutes in their commute time in order to deal with traffic congestion caused by accidents, poor weather conditions and construction. Interestingly, drivers expressed a stronger desire to rather commute by walking or public transit rather than either of those travellers expressed about driving.
Out of the relatively few studies previously conducted on this subject, it was determined that some commuters found riding public transportation and driving to be equally stressful. In the recent study, public transit came in just behind driving.
Other findings from the recent study came in at about the same as previous studies: walkers tended to be more satisfied with their commute and; longer commutes were more stressful than shorter ones.
With respect to each style of commuting, there were a few commonalities. With drivers, the major complaint was predictability. With regards to those who rode public transportation, the major problem was also predictability caused by delays, transfers, etc. With respect to walkers, the general vibe was that they were simply less stressed with their major concern listed as feeling safe from traffic.
In sum, the researchers conclude as follows: “[The commutes by walkers] are not only environmentally and socially more sustainable, they are also a less stressful way to travel. One way to increase pedestrian mode-share is to protect walkers from traffic and provide more pleasant and more comfortable streets to walk on. Furthermore, public transportation is also less stressful than driving, which is found to involve (somewhat perversely) less control for commuters. Increasing the predictability and range of transit options in an era of increasing driving unpredictability could lead to a great transit mode share.”
Basically, commuting to work is not the best part of the day - no matter how you do it.