Happy today, satisfied tomorrow: emotion—satisfaction dynamics in a multi-week transit user smartphone survey

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, planning - surveys, planning - service quality, ridership - perceptions


Public transportation, Service quality, Peak-end rule, Mood, Affect, Cognition, Critical incident, Customer satisfaction


Travel well-being encompasses three dimensions: cognitive satisfaction judgments, positive emotions, and negative emotions. Most previous literature on transit users focused either on satisfaction or emotions, but not both, and generally relied on data from one day. This study explores the day-to-day dynamics of travel satisfaction and emotions using a panel data set collected over several weeks from transit users in San Francisco using a smartphone survey. First, we compared emotions and satisfaction experienced during travel to measurements from retrospective surveys conducted at the beginning and the end of the study. Average levels of negative emotions were lower on a daily basis than in retrospective surveys, and the latter align more with the highest reported levels of negative emotions. Second, our dynamic panel models show lagged effects of satisfaction and emotions from the previous day on daily satisfaction, suggesting that dissatisfaction and emotions experienced while riding transit may carry over to the following day, with the effects of satisfaction and emotions having opposite signs. Third, when comparing retrospective emotions for transit travel and car travel, we found that car travel evokes higher positive emotions and lower negative emotions; however car trips are also more frustrating and stressful. Our study provides evidence for the influence of emotions on satisfaction, and advances the survey methods literature on measuring satisfaction in real-time and retrospectively. It also illustrates the need to enhance satisfaction and subjective well-being of transit riders, who are often found to be the least satisfied among all transportation users.


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