Mind the perception gap: The impact of bus rapid transit infrastructure on travelers’ perceptions of affective subjective well-being

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, place - urban, place - north america, planning - public consultation, planning - service improvement, infrastructure - bus/tram lane, land use - planning, land use - urban design, ridership - perceptions


Bus rapid transit, Built environment, Wellbeing, Happiness, Safety


Over the past 20 years, bus rapid transit (BRT) has been increasingly promoted as an affordable way to improve public transit services in cities around the world. In many places, however, BRT projects have faced community opposition for a range of reasons, such as concerns around loss of private transport space and parking, demand for improved pedestrian and cycle infrastructure, and impacts on streetscapes. This research informs the selection of BRT infrastructure options by considering the perspective of travelers’ affective subjective well-being (SWB). Specifically, in a randomized control trial framework, individuals are presented with photo-simulations of various BRT infrastructure alternatives, and report their psychometric indicators of happiness or perceived safety. We test this approach using an urban corridor approximately 2 km in length in Boston, exploring the impact of 65 different BRT infrastructure alternatives. We find that: (1) compared to regular bus services, a ‘standard BRT’ consisting of a painted bus lane and the addition of a cycle lane significantly enhances SWB; (2) an ‘SWB infrastructure’ option that replaces car parking with improvements for cyclists and pedestrians and adds street amenities further enhances SWB; and, (3) the BRT infrastructure elements most effective in enhancing affective SWB for users of all transport modes are the addition of green spaces, improvement of crosswalks, and provision of more space for pedestrians and cyclists. This study shows the importance, for citizens’ emotional well-being, of moving from a traditional bus-only approach to multi-modal BRT infrastructures. Future research could integrate this technique into actual participatory planning processes to select the most effective BRT infrastructure in corridors of specific interest, in Boston and beyond.


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


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: