Quiet Cars on Septa trains might reduce stress among commuters.

    After a two-month trial period, Septa is expanding its “QuietRide” car to all regional rail lines starting today. During peak travel hours in the morning and afternoon, the first car on trains with three or more cars will be designated as a quiet zone, to be enforced by commuters themselves. Experts say this will make commuting less stressful – Maiken Scott reports from WHYY’s Behavioral health desk. (Photo: Flickr / Hong Kong dear Edward)

    Loud conversations, loud music and talking on cell phones are banned in the Quiet ride cars.

    Richard Wener is a professor of environmental psychology at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU who has studied stress and train commuting for years. He says noise is a big factor in commuting stress, and giving people options helps reduce it:

    Wener: If people feel they have a choice and a way to get away from the noise, that is critical and is a major way to reduce the amount of stress. So having the car available, even if people don’t always access it, but having the car available is probably going to do a lot to reduce how stressed people feel.

    He says noise is a big factor in commuter stress, and people talking loudly is especially annoying:

    Wener: we are attuned to pay attention to that sort of thing, it’s a conversation! And so your brain is processing that information, is paying attention to it, and it makes it much harder to focus on other things, like something you are reading or trying to write

    A stressful commute can affect a person’s work day and performance:

    Wener: we know that there are effects of commuting stress that flow over after the commute into the work place and probably have an effect not only how somebody feels but how productive they are. And we know that we can reduce the stress by things that we can do to the trip.

    Wener says other major factors in commuting stress are crowding, length of commute, and the reliability of a public transportation system.

    Listen to the radio report:


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