All minutes are not equal: travel time and the effects of congestion on commute satisfaction in Canadian cities

Abstract

Despite decades of research, it is unclear under which circumstances travel is most onerous. While studies have found that some individuals derive positive utility from aspects of commuting, others have shown that traffic congestion can entail important time, monetary, and mental stress costs. Moreover, responses to traffic congestion-related stressors differs by individual characteristics. In response, this research captures how exposure to traffic congestion events, the duration of this exposure, and individual trait susceptibility to congestion affect the utility of commuting. Working through the lens of individual satisfaction with the duration of their commute, we show that not every minute of travel is valued the same by car commuters in Canadian cities. Results suggest a complex relationship between travel time, congestion, and individual predisposition to congestion-related stress. While improvements in travel time matter for increasing commute satisfaction, it is reductions in travel in congested conditions that matter most, particularly among those susceptible to congestion-related stressors.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the constructive feedback and suggestions offered by reviewers and conference attendees. This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Grant No. 435-2013-1120.

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Correspondence to Christopher D. Higgins.

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Higgins, C.D., Sweet, M.N. & Kanaroglou, P.S. All minutes are not equal: travel time and the effects of congestion on commute satisfaction in Canadian cities. Transportation 45, 1249–1268 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-017-9766-2

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Keywords

  • Transportation costs
  • Commuting
  • Commute satisfaction
  • Value of travel time
  • Congestion
  • Commute stress
  • Regional planning