Sittin’ on the bus

Posted on January 20, 2010 by


Commuters avoid talking to other passengers, according to a new study.

Transport researcher Jared Thomas, of Victoria University, says his study found many commuters use reading and electronic devices to avoid conversation while travelling.

Not just that, but people will avoid sitting next to each other, if there’s an isolated seat available. One can even watch for the occasional look of horror on a boarding-passenger’s face as they realise they will have to sit next to another person. The exception is the person who takes the door seat, and spends the entire trip talking to the driver.

… trains and buses should be better designed to encourage face-to-face conversation, as more sociable public transport would reduce crime and bad behaviour onboard by creating a community of regular passengers.

I doubt it’s that simple, although a group of very regular passengers may benefit, most will not. And even then it’s no guarantee that people will make contact, or even want to. One Swedish indie game designer even made a game about the situation on the Stockholm metro; the object is to spot interesting things (ties, mp3 players) while avoiding eye contact with other passengers.

the metro is in a way designed to make people interact; the seats are grouped in sets of four, two facing two – compare this with the long-distance trains where all the seats are facing the same direction giving you a much more enclosed space. Still it only makes us try so much harder to ignore each other.

The report goes on

Dr Thomas says people are increasing the amount of time they spend on public transport, and could use this time to network or even find romance.

in which case, help-site Videojug has the how-to.

However while I think it’s unlikely public transport commute will become a social event, I do think there’s very little to be lost from making public transport more contact or group orientated.