The Electric Commentary

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just Missed It

Every day I take a train home from work, and every day I just barely miss one as I pull up to the train stop. I used to chalk this up to bad luck, but recently I had an epiphany. I don't have especially bad luck. The reason that i miss so many trains is because there are so many trains to miss. Trains run pretty frequently (about every 7 minutes) and I can see the train stop for about two minutes while my bus pulls in. That means that It's very likely that I see a train pulling away.

I barely miss trains because I'm well-served by trains.

Contrast that with my bus. Rarely do I ever "just miss" a bus. Usually when I arrive at my bus stop, there are 20 other people already waiting. I used to think that this indicated that a bus would be here soon. What it actually tells you is that there are not enough buses. The bus shows up about every 20 minutes or so, but what actually happens is that two buses show up every 40 minutes or so. Unfortunately, "bus clumping" plagues almost every public transportation system.

So if you feel down because you feel like you're always missing something, don't worry. You are probably not expecially unlucky. It's more likely that you're being adequately served.


  • In the case of buses, it could just be that they are inherently less reliable than trains. You have traffic, the number of stops utilized on a route, disabled people and so forth whereas none of this stuff slows down a train.

    You would think that the service provider would account for this, but I have a feeling that trains are just more preferable to operate than buses anyway and may even be loss leaders used to feed the El.

    By Anonymous Rashid Z. Muhammad, at 3:07 PM  

  • The joke used to run, "Why are CTA buses like bananas? Because they're green and they come in bunches." The Transit Authority has attempted to account for bunching, but there's this tendency for the 20 people waiting all to get on the first bus to arrive, and the street traffic is sufficiently thick that the followers aren't able to go around, which would at least change the order within the bunch.

    By Blogger Stephen, at 11:43 AM  

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