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Changing Patterns in Daily Routine among Urban Commuters

Sandhya Rani P J* Nafisa Khan** Charumathi P J***


*Sandhya Rani P J , PhD Research Scholar, Department of Applied Psychology, JBAS College For Women, Teynampet. Chennai. **Nafisa Khan, PhD Research Scholar, Department of Applied Psychology, JBAS College For Women, Teynampet. Chennai. ***Dr Charumathi P J, Research Supervisor, Guest Faculty, Department of Psychology, University of Madras, Chepauk. Chennai.

Introduction: Lifestyle is determined by ones attitudes, beliefs and opinions (Assael, 1998). The daily routine is an indicator of ones lifestyle. The lifestyle of those living in the urban setting and those living in the rural setting differ widely due to reasons like access to comforts, distance and time taken to commute from one point to another and the socio economic status. In the past decade Census reveals that there has been 85% increase in households owning cars. The reasons could be that globalization has led to the introduction of multiple brands of cars that cater to different levels of income groups. Dual income families and loan options have facilitated the purchase of cars. For the multitasking individual owning a vehicle is out of necessity more than comfort. In spite of public transport being cheaper it is seen as a facility that is not comfortable due to over crowding and time consuming. Apart from privately owned vehicles there is a rise in the number of private buses that caters to students of colleges and employees of companies often working on shift basis 24/7 in Special Economic Zones which are located in the outskirts of cities. Call taxis and shared auto rickshaws have also increased in numbers. These changes have caused inevitable traffic congestion in the city not only during peak hours but also through out the day. However, the options and comforts available for families in the rural setting is not the same as that in the urban setting. School drop out rate was found to be higher in rural schools than in urban schools. (Usha Jayachandran, 2007). The school drop out rate was higher among rural girls as compared to urban girls. (Usha Jayachandran, 2007) One of the reasons for school dropouts in the rural settings was observed to be distance from school and lack of time for parents to drop them at school (Govindraju and Venkatesan, 2010). Need for the study: According to Taylor (2004) daily hassles have a cumulative impact on health, making them a bigger stressor than any other. Health psychologists have identified traffic as a routine stressor. It causes time delay, noise pollution and air pollution. Therefore traffic not only causes stress but also affects health. Growing traffic congestion has affected the respiratory health status of children in urban setting (Nandasena, Vikramesingheand Sathiakumar, 2012). Long-term infrastructure development projects like metro rail project, highways, flyover constructions and maintenances have resulted in narrowed roads, bottlenecks and changed route. However, owning a vehicle also facilitates traveling anytime anywhere and gives the freedom to plan their time schedule. With all these changes the need to understand how commuters deal with this constant stressor was felt.

Method and design: The aim of the study was to identify the measures taken by commuters to adapt to traffic congestion. The study was an exploratory study conducted using interview checklist survey technique. Convenient sampling method was used in this study. The sample consisted of 65 Chennai city residents in the age group of 30 years to 50 years out of whom 32 were men and 33 were women. Inclusion Criteria: Owners of two-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles were included in the study. Exclusion criteria: Commuters who use public transport like buses and trains were excluded from the study. Sample consisted of 23 two-wheeler owners, 24 four-wheeler owners and 18 commuters who used both. Tool used for the study: Interview checklist: An in-depth interview was conducted with five commuters. Open-ended probing questions to understand traffic stress and changes in activities revealed changes and adjustment made which have been listed. Based on the responses an interview checklist consisting of 34 items describing the changes in their routine to cope with the traffic was developed. The checklist consisted of 19 items (shown in Table:1) that indicated measures to accommodate traffic and 15 items (Table: 2) that indicated lifestyle changes. Data: Primary data was collected from commuters who had come to drop their children to school and from individuals who were on their way to work. Analysis: Percentage analysis was done for the frequency of changes adapted by the respondents. Results: Commuters have reported that they use vehicles to commute to office, to go shopping, to pick up and drop children at schools and for extra curricular activities, to visit friends, relatives and for picnics and outings. The changes observed among commuters in their routine due to traffic have been tabulated in Table 1 and Table 2. Table 1 Changes due to Traffic. Item No TS1 TS2 TS3 TS4 TS5 TS6 TS7 TS8 Traffic stress N=65 Affected by traffic jam. Change route. Avoid main roads. Take by lane, small lanes Affected by noise Affected by smoke Complete all tasks en route destination Go out during weekends only Percentage 95.4 93.8 47.7 76.9 81.5 87.7 38.5 52.3

TS9 TS10 TS11 TS12 TS13 TS14 TS15 TS16 TS17 TS18 TS19

Avoid traveling during heavy traffic Shopping/visiting for weekends only. Move closer to work place / school/college Car pool to work ( sharing transport) Shop in the neighborhood /nearby area. Avoid long distance driving. Use public transport to avoid driving. Rest well before trips Avoid self-driving (use a friend or a driver ) Avoid driving alone Avoid going out at all

58.5 67.7 49.2 35.4 80.0 83.1 46.2 63.1 33.8 35.4 50.8

Table 2 Changes in lifestyle. LS1 LS2 LS3 LS4 LS5 LS6 LS7 LS8 LS9 LS10 LS11 LS12 LS13 LS14 LS15 Start earlier to work. Eat breakfast /lunch in the vehicle Change vehicle (Upgrade/ Downgrade) Rent a cab in spite of owning vehicle Frequently go out on picnics Do more long trips. Travel late nights often Have more number of vehicles Do more things as I have my own vehicle Do things by myself as I can drive Attempt all pending tasks in a single day Listen to music / chants / FM Channels. Complete phone calls. Reading newspapers, essential materials. Visit more people and places due to vehicle 84.6 20.0 20.0 29.2 21.5 24.6 26.2 26.2 76.9 75.4 56.9 64.6 35.4 35.4 61.5

Results indicate that commuters were affected by traffic (95%). They were also affected by the smoke (87%) and noise levels (81%). To accommodate this they changed their routes (93%); used smaller lanes and by lanes (76%). They planned their shopping only during weekends (67%) and prefer to shop in local and nearby areas(80%). Commuters try to avoid the rush hour driving to escape traffic (58)%and also avoid long distance driving (83%)and sometimes even going out at all(51%). The results indicate that commuters tried to avoid the stress caused by traffic by either by avoiding it or finding alternate ways of reaching places. This in turn increased noise and pollution in residential lanes posing as a major health hazard. Traffic stress has been found to have influenced the well being of the urban population leading to depression (Gee , Takeuchi 2004). Commuters were able to do more things in a day as they had their own vehicle (76). They try to complete all tasks on their own (76%) and try to complete it on the same day itself instead of distributing it over the week (56%). They have developed new habits like listening to music, chants and radio while traveling (64%). Also they have the liberty of exploring new places like malls and restaurants (62%). They also leave for work early

(84%). Eating in the car and night driving have also become more frequent as commuters enjoy the privacy and freedom their vehicle provides. Having a vehicle has empowered commuters to include new activities in their routine and also they have displayed changes in their work habits. The findings throw light upon the fact that although long term projects and increase in traffic are inevitable they have affected the citizens lives to a great extent resulting in lifestyle changes. Such changes can gradually lead to a change in work culture and habits of people. In spite of the RTE act (2010) girls in the rural settings face many hurdles in continuing their education. Social stigma against womens education is high in the rural settings. Disapproval by family members in the name of safety and future concerns during marriage has been the reasons cited by girls for discontinuing education. Parents stated that there is no time to accompany children to school due to housework were the most cited reasons for higher school drop out rates among girls (Uma Rani 2010). Cleaner air and lesser pollution may be the benefits enjoyed by rural citizens yet, the benefits of owning vehicles like saving time, facilitating school drops and pick ups need to be made aware for rural citizens so that they do not discourage rural girls from attending schools under the pretext of lack of time and safety. Future directions: An awareness programme on the benefits of transport is necessary for those living in rural setting to save time, effort and for the continuity of childrens education. Further studies on working and non-working people in rural and urban setting are necessary to understand the effect of traffic stress. Car pooling and public transport system needs to be encouraged to reduce costs, fuel consumption and pollution. Changes across different age groups can help identify the target group for which awareness programmes are necessary. Conclusions: 1) There are changes in daily routine due to traffic stress. 2) Commuters have displayed changes in their daily patterns as a result of using private transport. 3) Changes in lifestyle can lead to gradual changes in the habits and culture.
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