Project details

Full project title: The daily commute

Sponsor: Merck

Project Manager: Professor Glenn Lyons

Collaborating colleague: Dr Kiron Chatteree

Start date: June 2006

Finish date: August 2006

Project summary

The daily commute has held its place as an institution in society for generations - the daily ritual or slog of getting to and from work. Getting to and from work now takes nearly an hour on average. The average worker spends 139 hours per year commuting - the equivalent of 19 standard working days.

This short study was a commission to produce a paper providing a multi-perspective examination of commuting drawing upon literature in transport, planning, geography, economics, psychology, sociology and medicine.

The study examined statistical evidence shedding new light on the variation in commuting behaviour across the population of workers. It explored the different impacts (economic, health and social) that commuting has on the individuals that conduct it, seeking to better understand the role of commuting for individuals in today's society.

The review examined the place of the commute in people's long-term and short-term decision making and looked at the commute experience itself including attitudes towards it and use of time during the journey. An overarching sense emerged that there are two very different sides to the coin that is the daily commute. One might be labelled 'burden' and the other 'gift'.

Commuting has a time and monetary cost and indeed cost extends to include a number of physiological impacts such as stress, fatigue and consequent health effects such as respiratory and cardio-vascular disease. Meanwhile the low cognitive effort associated with commuting allows the journey time to be treated as 'transition time' or 'time out', thus acquiring a positive utility.