Initial Findings

As the son of a Melbourne train driver of 40 years, a human factors consultant on rail projects and someone with an interest in the complexity and efficiency of societies, I guess it was only natural that I would be fascinated by commuting and how it affects us. How does it impact us at work, at home, among strangers? How does it affect our employer, our families, other commuters…?

This is a topic I studied passionately through my masters. After reviewing literature from psychology, ergonomics, medicine, allied health, business management, town planning and more, I found that many studies were interested in an aspect of commuting that was psychological in nature (e.g. delays, leading to commuter frustration, leading to poor behaviour at work). In fact, I found around 25 themes ranging from frustration and boredom to control and opportunity.

While the findings reported across the fields were numerous, two main limitations kept appearing. Firstly, the studies usually focussed on bespoke settings so the findings were rarely transferrable. Secondly, there were usually a huge number of confounding variables (i.e. undiscussed factors) relating to the home, the work or the commute itself that could have affected the findings.

To address these shortcomings, I built a survey that reflects psychological themes in the commuting literature but is structured in a way that it applies to all commuting settings. Once we have a standardised picture of the psychological experience of commuting, we can make more confident inferences about (a) how to optimise the commute from a psychological perspective and (b) the impact of this optimisation.

In 2020 this tool was refined with the help of a Delphi Panel of 26 psychologists, engineers and other transport experts. In mid 2021, 212 Australian commuters completed the survey. This was the final step in turning this tool into something useful!

A one-page snapshot of findings is now available below and more formal and detailed findings are being prepared currently; including for the 7th International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology in Sweden this upcoming August. If you would like to be kept up to date, or you would like a pdf copy of the one-pager now, please get in contact