Want Happiness? Live Near Transit
Lindsay Abrams writes that Associate Professor Jason Cao of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota's "found that proximity to good public transit is significantly associated with increased well-being: People who live near rail lines are happier with their lives."
[T]he connections between transit and SWL are mainly conceptual, and little empirical evidence is available in the literature. Using the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis as a case, this study explore(s) the impacts of light rail transit (LRT) on SWL.
Abrams writes that "Cao’s research was based on questionnaires sent out to residents along the Hiawatha [Metro Blue] light rail line in Minneapolis, which he compared to responses from people in other areas of the city."
Eric Jaffe writes in The Atlantic Cities that Cao found that "[p]eople in the Hiawatha corridor had higher ratings on questions related to the quality of their lives compared to people in the other four corridors. These were items like "In most ways my life is close to my ideal" and "The conditions of my life are excellent." In short, they were satisfied with their lives."
While there were many reasons offered for the superior satisfaction by the "Hiawatha" residents, Abrams concludes that what was clear was "that much of the satisfaction derived from living in the Hiawatha corridor comes from the high level of mobility that good light rail provides."
Jaffe points to a prior study that found a similar correlation with rail transit in general.
In his 2011 doctoral dissertation [PDF], the transport scholar Eric Morris (not always a fan of public transportation) found that rail transit had a surprisingly strong connection with personal well-being.
In fact, Jaffe writes that Morris found that accessibility to rail transit "had a greater impact on his or her quality of life than whether or not that person owned a car."