Herd Mentality with Bus Riding

Stephen Dubner has figured out an interesting strategy for improving his bus commuting across Manhattan with his daughter:

Herd Mentality? The Freakonomics of Boarding a Bus

So a while ago, we started walking a block west to catch the bus at what we’ll call Point B. Point B is perhaps 250 yards west of — that is, further from our East Side destination — than Point A. But at Point B, the lines are considerably shorter, and the buses arrive less crowded. At Point B, we have a 90% chance of getting aboard the first bus that arrives, and perhaps a 40% chance of getting a seat. To me, this seems well worth the effort and time of walking 250 yards.

I’ve seen similar issues with buses falling behind schedule. The further they fall behind schedule, the more passengers they end up carrying since some of the passengers would have missed the bus had it run on time. As the bus becomes more crowded, I believe it falls even further behind schedule. At rush hour times where buses are coming, say, every 10 minutes, the next bus on the route can actually catch and overtake the laggard. This happens from time to time with the 21 on Lake St or the 12 on Hennepin.

It cracks me up when two buses driving the same route are running back to back with the first one STUFFED with passengers and the next one basically empty. People STILL try to get onto the first bus. Perhaps they think they’ll get to their destination 2 seconds earlier and that’s worth the discomfort?

One thought on “Herd Mentality with Bus Riding”

  1. Yes, but is it more of a ‘baaaaaa’ or a ‘moooooo’ herd?

    Truth is though, it is a feature that intelligent people can exploit without guilt.

    “I’ll take bus number two for $1, Alex.”

    Bask in the comfort, Deets.

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