Commuting Stress: Psychophysiological Effects of a Trip and Spillover into the Workplace

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - commuting, ridership - commuting, economics - benefits, mode - rail


Workplaces, Stress (Psychology), Stress (Physiology), Stress (Human), Rail transit, Mental stress, Infrastructure, Improvements, Field studies, Data collection, Data acquisition, Commuting, Benefits, Before and after studies


This study took advantage of a major improvement to the infrastructure of a commuter rail line to conduct a field study examining the effects of that change on commuter stress. The study used a multimethod approach, employing self- and significant other-report data, behavioral measures, and physiological measures of stress. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data were collected with a pretest-posttest design including both within- and between-group comparisons. The results on psychophysiological, self-report, and job strain measures revealed that those commuters using improved transit service showed reduced stress in the postchange period and those staying with the previous service remained constant. Commuters who switched to the new train service also experienced a reduced level of job strain after the implementation of the line. A subgroup of rail passengers with elevated sensitivity to commuting conditions were also uncovered. On both a behavioral index of motivation and perceived job strain, women who had children at home especially benefited from the intervention. Multimethodological evidence from a natural experiment indicates that transit infrastructure improvements not only increase efficiency but also enhance passenger well-being by reducing commuting stress.