Researchers in Sweden performed a study measuring satisfaction for people who use public transit and people who do not. They performed two experiments, one measuring the satisfaction of transit-users and non-transit users before and after a month of using their preferred mode of transportation, and another where they asked some drivers to switch to public transit for a month and compared their satisfaction with people who didn’t switch, and those who were already using public transit. Their findings:
- People who used public transit were happier with public transit than those who don’t
- People who switched to public transit significantly underestimated how much they would like using public transit
- People who switched to public transit were happier overall than people who didn’t switch to transit
The first point is not at all surprising. People who eat sushi probably have higher opinions of sushi than people who don’t eat sushi have, too. The second is also not hugely surprising. People who can ride transit but don’t must have low opinions of transit to start with, and low opinions can probably only go up. Similarly, people who don’t eat sushi because they think raw fish is gross, might be surprised to see there’s other stuff, asparagus tempura rolls for example. So from the outside number three might seem surprising, but not, I think, when using my tired and stretched sushi analogy. If you think you won’t like sushi, try it, find out you actually really like sushi, you are going to be pretty happy. Here’s this whole new thing you didn’t think you’d like but do. The world is full of new great things, you might think.
This goes back to my point some time ago that Americans don’t like utopias that don’t have cars in them. If your whole life you grew up eating fish and chips and thinking (maybe being told) that sushi was something other people did and it wasn’t for you, you might not want to imagine a future where people ate a lot of sushi (I may have certainly laboured this one to death, now). So people who grew up being driven and driving, people who only see buses as obstacles to getting to their destination faster, I can easily imagine them seeing the world as a happy place when show how nice transit can actually be.
How applicable a study from bus-riders in southern Sweden is to people in Seattle is not totally obvious; presumably these guys didn’t have to ride the 358. Still, it seems the simplest thing to getting people to want transit or cycling infrastructure may be just getting them out of the car the first time.