Happiness and travel mode switching: Findings from a Swiss public transportation experiment

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - car, place - europe, ridership - behaviour, ridership - mode choice


Travel well-being, Dynamics of travel satisfaction, Reference points, Hedonic treadmill, Travel behavior modification, Mode switching


We present results from a recent experiment conducted in Switzerland that studies the effects of a temporary change in the mode of travel to work on travel happiness and mode switching. The primary aim is to study the dynamics in travel satisfaction ratings obtained before and after the intervention. Two behavioral mechanisms driving the change in satisfaction ratings are analyzed. The first one is that satisfaction ratings are influenced by reference points. The second mechanism is that satisfaction ratings are affected by cognitive awareness, whereby the disruption of routine travel conditions makes people think more fully about their travel happiness with different modes of transportation.

It is found that the measure of satisfaction with the commute by car obtained right after the temporary intervention is significantly different from the measure obtained before the intervention, and both behavioral hypotheses are supported by the pattern of change in satisfaction ratings. The policy and modeling relevance of different well-being measures obtained at different points in time is discussed.

As to mode switching, none of the 30 participants switched completely to public transportation after the intervention but a number of them continued to commute occasionally by public transportation. The relationship between mode switching and satisfaction and the implications of this intervention for public transportation agencies and other organizations interested in behavioral modification are discussed.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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