1. Finally, someone who’s more obsessed than me with the politics of public transport

    Posted August 2, 2012 in transport  |  No Comments so far

    Last year I wrote a piece about the strategies commuters use to get seats on trains. I ended up appearing on a few radio programmes that portrayed me as an expert on the social rules of public transport, or at least someone who was unreasonably obsessed with that topic.

    So I’m heartened to hear about Esther Kim of Yale University, who has “chalked up thousands of miles of bus travel to examine the unspoken rules and behaviors of commuters” while working on a paper called Nonsocial Transient Behavior: Social Disengagement on the Greyhound Bus.

    “I became what’s known as an experienced traveler and I jotted down many of the different methods people use to avoid sitting next to someone else,” said Kim. “We engage in all sorts of behavior to avoid others, pretending to be busy, checking phones, rummaging through bags, looking past people or falling asleep. Sometimes we even don a ‘don’t bother me face’ or what’s known as the ‘hate stare’.”

    And I thought I was brave to spend 90 minutes a day on an Overground train from Highbury to Kensington. Esther’s exhaustive research has truly put me in the shade.

    Read more at EurekAlert or try accessing the actual article, which is behind an academic firewall I can’t penetrate

  2. The secret strategies of commuting: now up at the Guardian

    Posted October 12, 2011 in transport  |  No Comments so far

    My post about getting a seat on the Overground has got more attention than I had expected. Earlier today I wrote another piece about it which is live on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site and has triggered a bit of a debate already.

    Let me begin with a confession: I’m no good at getting seats on trains. I’m often the only person standing in the carriage, outwitted by my fellow passengers who sit smugly while I’m left to wonder just what it is they know that I don’t.

    It was during one such journey that I started thinking about the dynamics behind the daily struggle for seats. Why do some succeed while others fail? Can it be mastered with subtlety and grace – or does it just come down to being pushy and inconsiderate…

    You can read the full article and join the discussion here: Commuting: the seat acquisition game.