Friday, August 5, 2011

Worsening Traffic Congestion Can Drive Us Crazy; Researchers Say Unpredictability Makes It Worse

It's the unexpected delay that really gets to us.
Spend any time with transit- and commuting-oriented websites and you come across information generated around the world that resonates right here on Oahu.

Two Swiss economists did a study a few years ago and identified a condition they called “the commuting paradox” – that in choosing where to live, people consistently underestimate the pain of a long commute. As reported:

“This leads people to mistakenly believe that a mansion in the suburbs, with an extra bedroom and sprawling lawn, will make them happier, even if living there might force them to drive an additional 45 minutes to work. It turns out, however, that traffic is torture, and the big house isn’t worth it. According to the calculations of (the scientists), a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.”

How does that resonate, Oahu commuters?

SeedMag observed that traffic flow unpredictability is what really gets to us and that “if traffic were always bad, and not just usually bad, it would be easier to deal with.”

Reducing the aggravation factor is nearly every commuter’s goal, and traffic engineers and planners are working on it continuously. Here at Yes2Rail, we’re always quick to point out that when a commuter chooses to switch from driving to riding grade-separated transit, the traffic aggravation factor is reduced to zero.

Grade separation is the key. By being elevated above surface streets and highways, Honolulu’s rail system will provide commuters with congestion-free travel that’s fast, frequent, reliable and safe.

You can download the Swiss study and read about the commuting paradox at your leisure. Here are a couple bullet points from the study’s concluding section:

• “We find a large negative effect of commuting time on people’s satisfaction with life. People who commute 23 minutes (one way), which is the average commuting time in Germany, would have to earn 19 percent more per month on average in order to be fully compensated.”
• “For many people, commuting seems to be a stress that doesn’t pay off.”

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