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Measures of a Sustainable Commute as a Predictor of Happiness

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The ways in which we travel—by what mode, for how long, and for what purpose—can affect our sense of happiness and well-being. This paper assesses the relationships between measures of

The ways in which we travel—by what mode, for how long, and for what purpose—can affect our sense of happiness and well-being. This paper assesses the relationships between measures of the sustainability of transportation systems in U.S. metropolitan areas and subjective well-being. Associations between self-reported happiness levels from the Gallup Healthways Well-being Index and commute data were examined for 187 core-based statistical areas (CBSA). We also supplement this quantitative analysis through brief case studies of high- and low-performing happiness cities. Our quantitative results indicate that regions with higher commute mode shares by non-automobile modes generally had higher well-being scores, even when controlling for important economic predictors of happiness. We also find that pro-sustainable transportation policies can have implications for population-wide happiness and well-being. Our case studies indicate that both high and low scoring happiness cities demonstrate a dedicated commitment to improving sustainable transportation infrastructure. Our study suggests that cities that provide incentives for residents to use more sustainable commute modes may offer greater opportunity for happiness than those that do not.

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  • 2017-07-13

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Rural Communities and Transportation Equity in California's San Joaquin Valley

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Smart growth policy and planning have tended to emphasize urban centers and regions, yet rural communities can also be important sites of innovation. Recent work demonstrated that these communities had

Smart growth policy and planning have tended to emphasize urban centers and regions, yet rural communities can also be important sites of innovation. Recent work demonstrated that these communities had surprisingly high levels of current and potential nonmotorized travel. Legislation in California mandates reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all of the state's metropolitan planning organization (MPO) regions, including the heavily rural San Joaquin Valley. Advocates for rural communities are finding common cause with more traditional environmental organizations around the vision of investing in and enhancing extant rural places as an alternative to leapfrog patterns of urban and suburban sprawl. Because of existing patterns of extreme disparity and legion underserved unincorporated communities, analyses that can help integrate social equity within regional planning are needed to serve and empower rural residents. This paper presents the results of several new analyses of the social equity dimensions of regional transportation plans in the San Joaquin Valley. Activity-based travel model data were used to analyze equity, with a particular focus placed on eight disadvantaged unincorporated communities identified by community advocates to be important demonstration sites. The investigators showed how improvements to traditional equity analysis could enhance the consideration of equity in the planning process and compared the results developed by innovative techniques with those obtained by use of their traditional counterparts. The methods outlined here can make substantial contributions to reduce disparities in rural communities, which would likely be overlooked in typical regional equity analyses because of their small size, and offer lessons for MPOs serving rural areas across the country.

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  • 2013-11-30