Satisfaction with the commute: The role of travel mode choice, built environment and attitudes

Key takeaway:

  • Active commuters have the highest level of travel satisfaction.


  • Commuting characteristics (i.e., mode choice, congestion, level of services of public transit, etc.) directly influence commute satisfaction. Travel attitudes have both direct and indirect effects on commute satisfaction. The built environment only indirectly affects commute satisfaction by influencing commuting characteristics.


  • This study is consistent with previous findings that:
  1. Active commuters have the highest levels of travel satisfaction.
  2. Travel attitudes are significantly associated with travel satisfaction.
  3. Over-crowding of bus and train carriages and having to transfer between modes of service are associated with lower levels of travel satisfaction.
  4. Congestion has strong and negative associations with travel satisfaction.
  • The built environment impacts commuting characteristics, such as travel mode choice and travel time. For instance, high density, mixed-use land, and pedestrian-friendly design of the built environment can decrease travel time from one destination to another, therefore improving commute satisfaction.
  • Bicycle commuters had the highest level of travel satisfaction, followed by walk commuters and car commuters.
  • People commuting by public transit (rail and bus) reported lower levels of travel satisfaction, largely due to over-crowding and having to transfer.
  • Interestingly, e-bike commuters had the lowest level of travel satisfaction, but no studies have explored the relationship between commuting by e-bike and commute satisfaction.
  • Age and self-reported health condition directly impacted commute satisfaction: Older people and people who said they were in good health were associated with greater commute satisfaction.
  • Socio-economic status significantly influences travel mode choice: In general, people with higher income and education and good health were more likely to use cars and worker buses for their daily commutes. Meanwhile, those with lower income and education levels and poorer health were more likely to commute via walking, bicycle, or e-bike.
  • A short distance from home to work encourages active commuting, and reduces road congestion and transfer amounts on public transit.
  • Travel attitudes indirectly influence travel satisfaction through travel mode choice: Pro-bike, pro-walk, and pro-transit attitudes were associated with less car use and more active travel or public transit use. Meanwhile, people who think the car is safer and enjoy driving were more likely to commute by car. 
  • Subjective attitudes seem to influence commute satisfaction more than other environmental and travel characteristics: Positive attitudes towards travel in general, for instance, strongly and positively impact commute satisfaction.



  • Since public transit is a primary mode of transport for people with lower income, it is important to improve the experience of public transit commuters by improving the level of service (i.e., adding new routes, increasing service frequency, providing more direct routes, etc.), as well as preventing crime, particularly theft and sexual harassment, the two most common crimes cited.
  • To improve transit accessibility, urban planners should (1) better integrate transport and land-use planning for future developments and (2) better integrate non-motorized modes of transport (i.e., walking and bicycling) with public transit. 



  • The authors conducted a survey in Xi’an, China to quantitatively explore the relative effects of the built environment, travel attitudes, and travel characteristics on commute satisfaction.


Ye, R. and Titheridge, H. (2017). Satisfaction with the commute: The role of travel mode choice, built environment and attitudes. Transportation Research Part D 52.

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