General

UM researcher dives into happiness in transport

UM researcher dives into happiness in transport

People experience many emotions while commuting, but is happiness one of them?

That’s the question Yingling Fan, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota, wanted to answer. She found that the happiest commutes were often the most environmentally friendly, and says the best way to increase happiness in public spaces is to design them with the needs of the most marginalized communities in mind.

“In public spaces you meet people of a different race, a different class, a different background, and it’s important to have a shared sense of happiness,” Fan said.

Human emotions are influenced by the physical environment, Fan said, so it’s important for city planners to create environments that promote happiness. In cities, most public space is devoted to transportation, Fan says, which in the United States is largely designed to move as many vehicles as possible quickly between two different points. This system leads to more greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and ignores what Fan sees as the key questions: How happy are people while they are moving? Can we make them happier?