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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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Living in Place: Using Public Participation to Foster Meaningful Connections

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Public participation is lauded as a keystone of sustainability policy and community development. Sustainability issues span all sectors of society and are best addressed at the local level, which makes

Public participation is lauded as a keystone of sustainability policy and community development. Sustainability issues span all sectors of society and are best addressed at the local level, which makes community involvement and participation necessary for building local sustainability strategies. But do public participation events actually foster meaningful connections among those who attend? How can we as sustainability experts empower communities to share their knowledge about the place where they live? This project starts by considering at gaps in public participation processes that prevent members of a community from building a sense of trust. Major gaps identified in the public participation process include a lack of attention to underlying power dynamics, unaddressed social tensions, and a lack of focus on the co-creation of knowledge. These gaps lead to a lack of trust between facilitators and participants, and prevents participants from feeling invested in the process and forming meaningful connections with their fellow participants. Based on the gaps identified in public participation processes, the second part of this project focused on hosting a workshop that would bring people together in an effort to rebuild trust. The workshop centered around the meaning of community and sense of place, as these topics are relevant to the health and relationships of communities. The event was hosted on Arizona State University's Tempe campus, and the participants were all connected to the university in some way (student, faculty, or alumni). A pre-workshop survey was sent out to participants to gauge favorite places on campus and what made those places meaningful. The workshop itself was broken into two parts: Part One focused on the building a trusting space for the workshop and unpacking the definition of community in a group discussion. Part Two included two mapping exercises that engaged participants in how the land around ASU's Tempe campus had changed over time, followed by a discussion about how the history of land affects communities. A post-workshop survey was sent out two weeks after the event to see how participants had incorporated lessons from the workshop, if at all. The workshop process brought up several interesting areas for further research. One outcome of the discussion in Part One of the workshop was that the participants tended to think of community in terms of relationships rather than place. People also interacted differently based on how confident they were in their knowledge of the topic at hand, whether expert or informal. Public participation workshops like this have implications for how governments, businesses and schools approach stakeholder engagement. With the right balance of power and co-creation of knowledge, public participation events can become places for members of a community to rebuild trust in each other and the institutions that govern them.

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  • 2018-05