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Can Your Mode Of Transportation Have An Effect On Your Mental Outlook?

Sascha Kohlmann/

There's a relationship between your commute to work and your happiness, according to Dr. Eric Morris, an assistant professor of city and regional planning at Clemson University in South Carolina. 

Jill Ditmire's Q&A with Dr. Morris

Ditmire: Designing roads and sidewalks makes professor Eric Morris happy. 

Dr. Morris: I primarily study transportation and I also study cities and urban planning so I’m one of the early people to apply the study of happiness to cities and the way we get around cities. 

Ditmire: Specifically how we get to work-by bike, car, bus or on foot. To do so he studied a lot of data from the American Time Use Survey

Dr. Morris: They are very specific in figuring out what people are doing… We know if they are fencing or spelunking..there are 600 different categories. 

Ditmire: Including transportation. 

Dr. Morris: In 2010, they did a special well being module where they asked people emotions they were feeling during each activity. 

Ditmire: Morris found bicyclists are the happiest commuters. 

Dr. Morris: Bicyclists are very enthusiastic about their mode in general you don’t bicycle around unless you have a strong commitment to bicycling because it has a pretty high opt in cost. 

Ditmire: Bus riders are the least happy.

Dr. Morris: You don’t feel like you’re in control … You can’t control when the vehicle arrives it might be late you have no control over this…you’re not maneuvering the vehicle yourself… there are people getting on and off asking the driver questions slowing you down. 

Ditmire: People who drive a car or are a passenger in a vehicle are in the middle. As are those who walk to work. 

Dr. Morris: We suspect that it has to do with that a walking trip can be very pleasant or unpleasant depending on the characteristics of the traveler and the trip. 

Ditmire: Morris says in the end happy commuters make happy cities…and isn’t that the point?

Dr. Morris: If were not building cities to try to make people happy I’m not sure why we are building cities.