“Life is what you make it” is a popular expression which holds some truth. Indeed, certain factors contribute to how a place can enable overall happiness with its residents.

What are the common ingredients to making a happier city? One obvious answer to many is access to greater financial gain. Indeed, more individual spending power leads to experiences that may not otherwise be enjoyed, but the economy is only one part of what goes into making a happy city.

To find out what makes happier cities, governments have begun to refer to questionnaires originally developed for mental health purposes, adapting them to anticipate the everyday person’s wants and needs. Upon examination of longitudinal studies and the results of surveys, city governments have become wise to the idea that well-being combined with resident satisfaction make up the recipe to making their city a better place to live.

Great health care, a well-rounded education system, close-knit communities and access to great food and clean air are coveted characteristics which fall under the umbrella of well-being and satisfaction in a city. However, the surveys reveal that in addition to the basic money, education and health care criteria, the demand for ease of movement on highways and local arterial roadways become more critical with increasing city populations.

Grocery stores surveys are actually a great model for city planners concerning roadway and infrastructure design for travelers. For example, some of the surveys ask patrons to rate how easily they found items, their comfort level during their shopping experience and the ease of moving through the store. In the same way a grocer can design a shopper-friendly experience with strategic aisle layout and easy product location, a city’s planners and civil engineers are invaluable to creating highways and thoroughfares with the same mind to comfort and ease of travel.

Well-designed cities have fewer incidences of road rage, which can attribute to avoidable accidents, which often produce higher insurance rates for drivers. Los Angeles is considered by many drivers to have one of the most challenging traffic patterns, creating high levels of stress in drivers. Some drivers even declare that the framework of Los Angeles highways is designed to create road rage! This sentiment alone goes to show that when civil engineers put their heads together with urban planners and landscape architects to create an easy-to- traverse city, the results are happier travelers.

City aesthetics also play a surprisingly important role. Residents of the happiest cities live where attention is paid to clean up efforts such as an established, accessible recycling program, landscaping and well-designed architecture. Plentiful green spaces within a city’s framework are a prized attribute to many city dwellers.

Joined with expert city planning, incentivized programs such as the Metropia smartphone app help further enable happier cities. Metropia’s built-in route wizard helps drivers benefit more thoroughly from well-designed city planning and creating happier cities with cleaner air, monetary savings through finding shorter, less congested travel routes, and less stress during travelers’ daily commute.