Different types of commuting must have different sorts of effects on the psyche. I know that personally driving makes me mental. I don’t enjoy it because the risk of accidents is far greater than almost any other form of transportation. I am unable to stretch or move around or relax, and particularly at night my eyes get tired. However, you can listen to the radio quietly, you can adjust the temperature to suit you and in general you are in a private space.
Subway travel is unpleasant to me, but not as frustrating. The lack of fresh air can be appalling at times. The sheer rudeness you see on a subway car is staggering sometimes. People will push and shove to get a seat, or throw their bags onto empty seats. Many riders appear to be highly dismissive of the concept of hygiene. The positive aspect is that you can instantly close your eyes and drift off until you reach your destination, or read or even just play a handheld video game. Time passes much more quickly on public transportation.
I have endured other commutes: near daily shuttle flights back and forth from New York to Boston for work, ferry rides and long rides on the Metroliner up and down the East Coast. For one wonderful year, I was close enough to my office to walk; so close that there was really no other possibility but to walk.
Right now I suffer through a part-driving, part-train-riding commute. I wonder if the type of commute affects happiness. Statistics show that a commute over 45 minutes decreases your overall satisfaction with your life. But what about the type of commute?
I would personally say a long car commute in heavy urban traffic is the worst. My sister-in-law, who detests public transportation, would disagree. My parents, who lived most of their working lives in a small town, think any commute over 20 minutes is unbearable. I have met plenty of people in New York who have two hour train rides between Long Island and Manhattan and don’t seem to mind because they can read the paper from front to back. Other coworkers spend four to five hours a day in their cars because they can’t bear to be in such crowded environments as a MetroNorth train or Long Island Railroad car.
What do you think?