Seating Preference of Subway Riders

Do you stand or sit down in a crowded subway train? Give up your seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly or do you pretend not to notice?

Researchers from the New York City Transit Authority know what you'll do, because they've done the research:

Some of the findings might seem intuitive to the veteran subway rider, even if the rationale is not.

When a subway car has more passengers than seats, the study found that an average of 10 percent or more of the seats were not taken. And even when a subway car is less than half-filled, the authors found that a small percentage of riders would inevitably choose to stand.

Riders prefer seats near a door, the authors said, and demonstrate “disdain for bench spots between two other seats.” Those who stand also prefer to do so near doors, in part because of its many “partitions to lean against,” and for the precious seconds they save getting off the train.

But the doorway area was desirable for a less obvious reason, too, the report found; it allowed riders to avoid “the sometimes uncomfortable feeling of accidentally making eye contact with seated passengers.”

The snapshots combine to sketch a transit landscape of convenience, game theory and occasional altruism, where often every movement is executed with purpose.

Matt Flegenheimer of The New York Times has the post: Link (Photo: Michael Appleton/NY Times)


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