UK research on commuting and travel

Two recent studies have shed light on the activities and experiences of drivers and commuters in the UK, both published by research groups at our partner, UWE Bristol.

Commuting is worse than pay cut

Research with over 26,000 employees across the UK found that all else being equal, an additional 20 minutes of commuting each working day is equivalent to a 19% annual pay cut when it comes to measuring how satisfied people say they are with their jobs. At the same time, the average commuting time per day in England has risen from 48 minutes to 60 minutes over the past 20 years, with one in seven commuters now spending at least two hours a day travelling to and from work.

Principal Investigator, Dr Kiron Chatterjee, an Associate Professor in Travel Behaviour at UWE Bristol, said: “While longer commute times were found to reduce job satisfaction, it is also clear that people take on longer commutes partly to increase their earnings, which in turn improves job satisfaction. This raises interesting questions over whether the additional income associated with longer commutes fully compensates for the negative aspects of the journey to work.”

Other findings from the 18-month study include:

• Those who walk or cycle to work do not report reductions in leisure time satisfaction in the same way as other commuters, even with the same duration of commute.

• Bus commuters feel the negative impacts of longer commute times more strongly than users of other modes of transport.

• Longer duration commutes by rail are associated with less strain than shorter commutes by rail.

• Longer commute times reduce women’s job satisfaction more than that of men’s.

For more information see the press release.

Who is stuck in traffic?

New evidence has shown that areas containing vehicles responsible for emitting the most air pollution (on both a per kilometre basis and over a year due to the distance they have driven) tend to be licensed at locations outside the most-populous, relatively-deprived urban areas hardest hit by harmful emissions.

Conversely, the most polluted areas tend to contain older but cleaner cars. Where older vehicles are registered in towns and cities they are likely to be driven less far and therefore produce, overall, relatively small amounts of NOx, PM and CO2. The research presented in the report highlights that the amount that vehicles are used tends to be considerably more important in determining the annual emissions they generate than their per kilometre emissions.

This evidence has implications for the effectiveness of car scrappage schemes in cities – if those causing most pollution are not located in the city then a scrappage scheme based on city limits will have a limited impact.

ClairCity academic Tim Chatterton was a co-author on this research, undertaken for the RAC Foundation. See the press release and the full report is available to download.