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LISTEN: Professor Wener talks to WHYY about SEPTA's QuietRide


Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s Richard Wener, a professor of environmental psychology, appeared on Philadelphia’s WHYY FM on Monday, April 6 to comment on how noise affects commuters. He has studied stress and train commuting for many years.

As of Monday, the first car on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) regional rail trains with three or more cars will be designated as a “QuietRide” car during peak morning and afternoon travel times. Commuters are expected to enforce restrictions on loud conversations, loud music, and talking on cell phones in QuiteRide cars.

Read the transcript below of Professor Wener’s appearance with Maiken Scott, or listen to the segment.

Scott: [Wener] 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.

Scott: 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.

Scott: 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.

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