A previous article detailed one of the biggest benefits to transit, being surrounded by other people and fostering a sense of community. Building on that concept, the togetherness – sharing space with other people – is something that gives people a sense of place and makes communities stronger. Lone car commuters have no meaningful way to interact with other people or feel connected to the places their passing.
Researchers from the University of Chicago asked why people “routinely ignore each other” in public when talking to other people makes increases happiness. They asked commuters on trains and buses to “connect with a stranger” near them or remain the same, talking to no one.
The researchers found that the people who talked to others had a much more positive experience commuting than the people who didn’t talk to anyone, even though the participants anticipated they would not enjoy socializing. “This mistaken preference for solitude stems partly from underestimating others’ interest in connecting, which in turn keeps people from learning the actual consequences of social interaction,” researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder wrote.
Several riders that frequently engage others in conversation along their commute, report a more positive ridership experience. It can be an adventure to find out where people are going and how that particular trip fits into their everyday lives. This is also an opportunity to find out about other people’s commuting experience. Have they had any trouble navigating the transit system? What do they like about riding the bus or light-rail and what do they dislike? What would they change about the system if they had the chance? How long have they been riding?
Mobility Lab and the Missouri Public Transit Association challenges you to interact with someone on your commute today. Compliment someone’s shoes, give a stranger your seat, or whatever little and polite thing you can do to connect to the people around you.
Let us know how it goes by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.