No activity can ever trump the impact of commuting on our everyday lives. People often use the words “nightmare” and “hell” to describe their travel to and from work, proving the disparaging experience of daily encounters on public transport. Commutes are also depicted as stressful and a wearying factor in daily routines.
In Singapore, public transport operators such as SMRT are taking critical steps to improve the commuting journey of its citizens and tourists. From convenient and seamless transfers, easily accessible services, and competitive travel time, the management and the CEO of SMRT, Neo Kian Hong, ensure a comfortable and reliable journey for their passengers.
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at how the travel patterns of daily commuters affect their journey to work and overall well-being. We’ll also discuss how they make a difference in travel encounters and urban life.
Commuting as a sensorial encounter
Inconsequential encounters have filled our daily commutes, from overhearing conversations and listening to your favorite playlist on your trip to work to catching other passengers’ eyes who are sitting across you and half-noticing cars on the bus window. While these daily occurrences seem irrelevant and commonplace to us, experts say they can actually transform individuals in subtle yet powerful ways.
Being crammed together with strangers in a moving vehicle allows us to look beyond ourselves and intertwine our lives with others. This further intensifies a person’s sense of belonging and connectedness to other worlds besides their own.
All the traveling environments and encounters we discovered during our commutes have left a unique impression on us. In fact, some of our memorable commuting experiences have likely left their mark on our minds. Even if we’re not aware that a certain event has left an impact at the time, we will gradually realize (or even much later) how strong that memory was.
With time or through repetition, the experience becomes a small part of ourselves, and our individuality also becomes a part of the traveling environments we navigate through. In other words, instead of transporting us passively, transport systems and commuting journeys are actively redefining our behavior and identity.
The challenges of daily commuting
Commuting challenges emerged during the mid-20th century when city suburbs started multiplying because of the widespread progressive reform and industrial growth. Entrepreneurs build commercial spaces to establish their businesses and hire people to work for them. This paved the way for various job opportunities, driving people to venture into the city and look for a job.
In the following years, people are going to great lengths to pursue their careers in the city. While this proved to be beneficial in terms of the economy and professional development, it also posed concerns as more people are spending time commuting and managing work demands. The stress and pressures of work and commuting have taken away people’s time for themselves. This is why most economists view commuting as a form of work-induced “dead time.”
But many seem to disagree with this perspective as they view commuting as a time when people engage in various activities between work and play, which help shape who they are. Commutes are filled with activities, both constrained and enabled by different factors as we travel. Everything comes with an underlying meaning, which reveals a variety of motivations, from the early-morning bargains you make to ensure your commute to work is more productive to more spontaneous ones, where you drown your thoughts through social media posts while in motion. But instead of assessing whether these encounters are good or bad, we should look at commuting as a necessary factor in our lives.
Ways commuting is changing people
To view commuting as either a positive or negative activity goes against its fundamentally unpredictable nature. The commuting experience depends entirely on the person itself, depending on their work, lifestyle, attitude, and behavior. Commuting can deplete and tire, but it can also energize, excite, and enliven, particularly those looking for a longer transition time in between coming to work and going home.
Basically, commutes can be both a cure and poison for everyday travelers. Some experiences may drive us to ask ourselves how a particular encounter can trigger strong emotions. A one-off encounter while in transit can frustrate and rattle us, but habitual exposures to normal dangers can change a person’s outlook and values. This encourages you to rethink what matters in your life and re-evaluate how your relationships, communities, and work relate to your everyday journeys.
Whatever mode of transport you use, daily commutes continue to change our lives and travel patterns in different ways. So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, try to reimagine the experience by learning to appreciate the journey and its impact on your daily life.