Happy today, satisfied tomorrow: emotion—satisfaction dynamics in a multi-week transit user smartphone survey

  • Huyen T. K. Le
  • Andre L. CarrelEmail author


Travel well-being encompasses three dimensions: cognitive satisfaction judgments, positive emotions, and negative emotions. Most previous literature on transit users focused either on satisfaction or emotions, but not both, and generally relied on data from one day. This study explores the day-to-day dynamics of travel satisfaction and emotions using a panel data set collected over several weeks from transit users in San Francisco using a smartphone survey. First, we compared emotions and satisfaction experienced during travel to measurements from retrospective surveys conducted at the beginning and the end of the study. Average levels of negative emotions were lower on a daily basis than in retrospective surveys, and the latter align more with the highest reported levels of negative emotions. Second, our dynamic panel models show lagged effects of satisfaction and emotions from the previous day on daily satisfaction, suggesting that dissatisfaction and emotions experienced while riding transit may carry over to the following day, with the effects of satisfaction and emotions having opposite signs. Third, when comparing retrospective emotions for transit travel and car travel, we found that car travel evokes higher positive emotions and lower negative emotions; however car trips are also more frustrating and stressful. Our study provides evidence for the influence of emotions on satisfaction, and advances the survey methods literature on measuring satisfaction in real-time and retrospectively. It also illustrates the need to enhance satisfaction and subjective well-being of transit riders, who are often found to be the least satisfied among all transportation users.


Public transportation Service quality Peak-end rule Mood Affect Cognition Critical incident Customer satisfaction 



We wish to thank the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the National Science Foundation, the University of California, and the Ohio State University for generously supporting the data collection and the work presented in this paper. We also thank Wen You from Virginia Tech for the helpful discussions regarding methods, as well as the study participants for their commitment. This research was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of California at Berkeley and the Ohio State University.

Author Contributions

The authors confirm contribution to the paper as follows: HTKL: study conception and design, analysis and interpretation of results, manuscript preparation. ALC: study conception and design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of results, manuscript preparation. Both authors reviewed the results and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic EngineeringThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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