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Transportation

Need Directions? Might Not Want To Ask a Transit Rider 97

Posted by timothy
from the take-a-left-then-descend-into-your-first-tunnel dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "According to new research, drivers, walkers, and bicyclists will generally provide us with more useful directions than transit riders. Published in Urban Planning, 'Going Mental' shows that cognitively active travelers, regardless of commute by foot or car, tend to trump cognitively passive travelers (those who frequent public buses and trains), in perceiving distance. Questioning cognitively active, passive, and mixed travelers about distances from a survey site to LA's city hall, the research demonstrated that the passive bus and subway riders have less of a grip on distance. Actively cognitive travelers, according to the results, were more likely to integrate street names in their directions, and also exhibited a sharper understanding of distances."
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Need Directions? Might Not Want To Ask a Transit Rider

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  • by DontScotty (978874) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @04:03AM (#45625243) Homepage Journal

    Of course people who navigate...are better at locating than people who are passengers.

    This article does not need Slashdoted,
     
    it needs a quick trip to dev null...
     
    (provided someone can give it directions)

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      It also tells us about the way our politicians wants us to go - go in public transportation, don't think for yourself. Back to the "Metropolis" of Fritz Lang.

      • by emj (15659)

        No that's what the summary tries to imply what the research says, count on research from LA being negative towards public transport.

        • by tlambert (566799)

          No that's what the summary tries to imply what the research says, count on research from LA being negative towards public transport.

          Actually, I read both articles and the summary, and it doesn't seem to be what they are trying to imply at all.

          But I agree with the GP that you get more control over people's ability to move around, if you limit them to bicycles or public transportation; for example, the BART stations that have been shut down to try and prevent protests against them shutting of cellular service in order to prevent previous protests, the ability to take busses and trains out of service to limit the ability of people without

          • by icebike (68054)

            They also tended to shutdown BART stations near the Occupy movement when it was still going on to any extent. Handy if you are trying to stop a zombie outbreak as well, I guess.

            Excellent observation, and insightful juxtaposition of Occupy and Zombies.
            Well played, Sir!

      • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @05:13AM (#45625427) Journal

        The article says nothing about thinking for yourself. It talks about giving directions.

        Now re-run the test asking car and bicycle drivers what metro line or bus route you should take, .and how long it'll take to get there. (Who cares what the distance is - it's time that counts).

        • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @05:45AM (#45625507)

          or even better, how to get from point a to b when it requires 3 lines and two transfers. mixing bus and rail.

          • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @06:34AM (#45625605)

            I am a frequent public transport user. I don't even have a car.

            Unless on a familiar route, I wouldn't be able to answer such a question. Instead I have an app for that. Hong Kong has over 500 bus routes, about 300 green minibus routes, numerous red minibus routes (of which no route information is available other than on their stops, if they even have formal stops), non-franchised buses, and on top of that the trains, trams, light rail and ferries.

            Quite often to get home from an unfamiliar place I just find a bus stop, see which buses run there and where they go (looking for major interchanges on the route, e.g. "I need a cross-harbour route - any of the about 80 such routes will do"), and go from there. Works quite well.

            • Quite often to get home from an unfamiliar place I just find a bus stop, see which buses run there and where they go (looking for major interchanges on the route, e.g. "I need a cross-harbour route - any of the about 80 such routes will do"), and go from there. Works quite well.

              Doesn't work very well in this city... but I imagine that HK has a much better transit system than Ottawa, Canada. Here, to get from, say, downtown to, say, a shopping mall like Billings Bridge, there's essentially 4 routes. Sounds like a lot. But which route you take has a *huge* impact on how quickly you'll get there. There's 3 direct routes, and one involving a transfer. We'll skip the transfer one, because it follows the exact same route as one of the direct routes, just means taking a bus that doesn't

              • by jonbryce (703250)

                I don't know what the Ottawa app is like, but the Transport for London App will list the different routes available, the number of changes, how many minutes you will have to wait for the next bus, train etc to turn up, approximately how long it will take and the estimated time of arrival. Sometimes for example, there is a bus that will take you there with no changes, but takes ages because the traffic is bad, or you can go by rail which is faster, but you have to change. If I'm tired and carrying loads of

            • That is actually kinda scary to a guy like me. When I leave home, I know where I'm going, I know how to get there under my own power even if my car dies on me. I don't have to rely on a phone, or an app, or the kindness of strangers. I know how to get from point A to point B, and when I decide that a stop at point C is advisable, I just turn the wheel and go to point C. Something comes up that I need to go to point D, where I've never been before, all I insist on is a proper address, like "123 Main Stre

              • Iagree, as a driver that has had to get by while visiting transit-only cities. With my health problems, Ialready knew it was probably important that Ibe able to make an outing quick &to the point or turn back at will, but Ihad no idea just how crucial until I'd had to spend 4+ hours miserable on a bus to complete an errand that would've taken me maybe a half-hour at home via car (and that Imight have bailed on partway through even then). That I kept finding sick thanks to the scents of perfume, colog

              • by wvmarle (1070040)

                The ones being late, that are almost always the drivers, not the public transport users.

                Why? Because drivers get stuck in traffic, have to spend ages finding a parking place, then ages to walk from that parking place to their destination... With a little preparation (the same you have to do if you want to drive to an unknown destination - check your route, and figure out how long it will take) you can make it perfectly on time.

                And four hours late never happens if you simply leave on time. That's about twice

        • by nospam007 (722110) * on Saturday December 07, 2013 @07:40AM (#45625731)

          "Now re-run the test asking car and bicycle drivers what metro line or bus route you should take, .and how long it'll take to get there. (Who cares what the distance is - it's time that counts)."

          I don't understand the article at all. This is news for nerds, who are in the majority male.

          And everybody knows that males don't ask for directions.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            And everybody knows that males don't ask for directions.

            Google Maps navigation is the best thing to happen to us males. No more do we have to stop and ask some stranger for directions, or worse, get yelled at by our wife/girlfriend for being so reluctant to ask for directions when we're out and lost. Instead, we just whip out our smartphone, tap in our destination, and get Google Maps to show us how to get there, whether it's by car, bus, or walking. It's really a godsend.

            • by icebike (68054)

              The male tendency to not ASK directions is likely due to the male tendency to OFFER directions that are useless, and often wrong. Males also tend to have a buffer queue of exactly 4 items deep, and anything beyond that we need paper and pencil. Which again is genetically engineered to hold only the useful number of items, because any beyond that are increasingly vague and wrong. Men know they suck at giving directions, which is why they don't trust directions given by others.

              Reminds me of the old saying:

        • by Entropius (188861)

          In my experience as a cyclist and then (after someone ran over my bike) a transit rider, cyclists generally know the bus routes reasonably well -- they're the ones dodging the damn things. They also know where the subway stops are.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Exactly. The modes of transport are entirely different. Buses don't always travel in a direct route, and in fact, frequently travel in an extremely indirect route to get more passengers in certain locations. Whether you're a transit rider or a cyclist or a walker or a driver, the only thing you care about is time. But if you're driving a car, the fastest route may be longer than the fastest cycling route, because you can take advantage of high-speed roads (highways) that cyclists aren't allowed to use,

          • by icebike (68054)

            But if you're driving a car, the fastest route may be longer than the fastest cycling route, because you can take advantage of high-speed roads (highways) that cyclists aren't allowed to use, even if that adds a few miles to the route.

            Not being allowed to use a highspeed route that adds miles is not an issue for cyclists, whose speed and distance is limited by physical stamina rather than posted speed limits.

            Other than that, I don't necessarily agree that it is all that much different for a transit commuter than a bike commuter as far as their knowledge of the map. They each know different maps. Transit users know transit maps, bike commuters know their own route maps, and may be totally ignorant of locations and routes one street away

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Yes, but there's a big difference: a bike commuter is going to want to take, more or less, the most direct route, because he only has so much physical stamina and his max speed is also pretty low. The only exceptions are that he'll want to avoid highways, and might also want to take some lower-traffic roads if possible, as long as they don't add too much distance to the trip. There's a very strong correlation between physical distance and travel time for a cyclist.

              A transit rider doesn't care one bit how

              • by Nos9 (442559)

                When my car broke down for a week a couple years back, my 10 minute commute, turned into a 45 minute bus ride, or 30 minutes on my bicycle.... I chose to ride the bike rather than pay for bus faire.

        • by Nos9 (442559)

          I was a living example of this on my trip to Japan. At first I only rode the subway everywhere... I knew which stops to get off at and which direction to go from there. Then I got a map and realized that I could walk to most of the places I wanted to go in about the same amount of time it took to take the subway, because I need not go out of my way being only able to follow preset limited transportation routes. Not to mention I got to see a lot more interesting places.

          I used the subway when going back to

      • It also tells us about the way our politicians wants us to go - go in public transportation, don't think for yourself

        Oooh, a chill suddenly springs up my spine ...

        For the past decade or so I've been very puzzled by the decision of the Ministry of Education of Great Britain in teaching their students how to use Microsoft Words and Microsoft Powerpoint, instead of teaching them how to code...

        Now I KNOW WHY !!

        The motive is none other than to DUMB DOWN THE ENTIRE GENERATION OF PEOPLE so to make them that much more easily controllable !!

        Just when you thought school is supposed to be the place to kids get edu

    • by khasim (1285)

      Also from the summary:

      Questioning cognitively active, passive, and mixed travelers about distances from a survey site to LA's city hall, the research demonstrated that the passive bus and subway riders have less of a grip on distance.

      Rather they had a better grip on how distance is really measured ... the time it takes you to get there.

      Which is more useful for a traveler to know:
      a. The miles between A and B?

      b. The time it will take to get from A to B?

      • by sodul (833177)

        When I was riding the train between SF and the South Bay all I know is that RedWood City was when we started to run out of beer. Did not care much about time or distance at that point.

      • by richlv (778496)

        kilometres.
        cha-ching.

      • Rather they had a better grip on how distance is really measured ... the time it takes you to get there.

        Only if you were asking about some place that they went to on a regular basis (and then only if you were departing from a place they went to that place from). One of the interesting things about different parts of the U.S. is that I live in an area where, when asked how far some place is from some other place, the overwhelming majority answer by giving a time, not a number of miles. Most other parts of the country answer that question by giving a number of miles. Where I live how long it takes to get somewh

      • Miles are more important to me, the guy relying on an internal combustion engine to get him there. I have an aversion to pushing my ride to the nearest gas station. The car gets 29.9 miles to the gallon, the bike gets 53 miles to the gallon. I want to know how many miles it is from point A to point B, and I'll get there in my own good time. Believe me, that time will be considerably faster than the bus you guys are riding on. In most cases, my time will rival that of a train that doesn't make stops alo

        • by icebike (68054)

          Similarly, having bike commuted for decades, asking directions and being told by a motorist that something is 20 minutes away, is useless.

          The depressing tendency of transit riders and motorists to measure distance in minutes is something that has sprung up almost un-noticed over the years, but which only makes sense in s specific circle of reference.

          • That has nothing to do with transit riders and motorists. I measure the distance of places in my neighborhood by how long it takes to walk to them. There are two reasons for this. One, most people don't walk around with a surveyors wheel measuring distances to everything. and two, I really don't care about the distance. The travel time is much more useful to know.

            • Depending on your age and health - twenty minutes is about a mile, three mile per hour is a nice steady walking pace that doesn't exhaust most people. Even walking, I want to know the miles.

              Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
              BY ROBERT FROST
              Whose woods these are I think I know.
              His house is in the village though;
              He will not see me stopping here
              To watch his woods fill up with snow.

              My little horse must think it queer
              To stop without a farmhouse near
              Between the woods and frozen lake
              The darkest evening of the ye

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @07:14AM (#45625675) Journal

      Of course people who navigate...are better at locating than people who are passengers.

      It might not be so simple as that: people who travel by different means are travelling a different set of routes:

      If you embark on a mass transit system you are effectively traversing a graph with a bunch of nodes that are (as a factor of time of day/day of week, rather than distance) more or less frequently linked to one another. When the link is available, taking it will get you to the next node in an amount of time only very weakly correlated with distance (the bigger variable usually being the number of stops made, the closest equivalent to 'traffic' and the biggest drag on theoretical maximum speed).

      Similarly, pedestrians are likely acutely aware of distance, because they have to walk it and because they move slowly; but are probably a poor source of information on things like one-way streets, traffic signals, etc. because they move more or less freely except at road crossings.

      Why would it even be expected that people using different types of transportation would treat the same information as salient? In other news, people who fly exhibit a poor understanding of hiking conditions...

    • by sjwt (161428)

      I for one can not wait for their follow up to see if Bike riders are better and faster at riding bikes then people who only exclusively use public transport.

    • Research results often seem obvious. But every once in a while, sociological research comes up with results that contradict conventional wisdom. That is one reason we do studies; to get hard evidence.
  • Unless, of course, you need directions on how to use the transit system.

    • by mcswell (1102107)

      And here I thought it was so they wouldn't have to listen to the passengers giving them directions.

      But all seriousness aside, *how* would a subway passenger have any sense of distance? You're down in a dark tunnel, and for that matter you almost never look out the front (or even the back) of the car; you're looking out the side at the tunnel walls, with no real sense of speed. Even direction is hard to tell, you have only your inner ears to tell, and they're notoriously bad at that. Sometimes you can loo

  • THIS JUST IN: (Score:5, Informative)

    by toygeek (473120) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @04:19AM (#45625289) Homepage Journal

    Navigators know more about Navigation than People who don't Navigate

    More at.... wait no, that's it.

    This news brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department Department.

    • by abies (607076) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @04:42AM (#45625355)

      In other news:
      Musicians can recognize pitch of the sound better than deaf people.
      Special force soldiers fare better in the fight ring than housewifes.
      Women are better at bearing babies than men.
      Slashdot readers are better at detecting duplicate stories than slashdot editors.
      Urban Planners are better at stating the obvious than me...

    • by dasunt (249686)

      Bus riders navigate - they just navigate a different map. One where connections are made by bus routes, and not through city streets.

      Did they try asking the non-bus riders how long a trip by bus would take between two points? I wouldn't be surprised if they made ignorant mistakes, like basing their assumptions off of physical distance instead of where the bus lines are.

  • It's true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @04:29AM (#45625317)

    I love our subway system. It takes you from one corner of the city to another without giving you even the foggiest idea how you got there. For all I know, I could be on a different planet and wouldn't know for sure. But then again, I'm not in it for the ride, I'm in it to get where I have to go.

    While we're at it, I'm also pretty sure that most tourists know more about the monuments of various towns than the inhabitants. I'm pretty sure there have been more Japanese in Notre Dame in Paris than Frenchmen.

  • I am struggling to figure out what we are supposed to do this information.

  • That's rather quaint in a world where many of us have a GPS in our pocket.

    I know there's a relevant xkcd but I'm too lazy to look up the link.

  • the street names above your head, on the street level? Or the distances between them? People may well just like to doze off, ignoring seriously irrelevant pieces of information.

    Did these "cognitively active travelers" also know the telephones of those lived along their sublime subway line? Is the distance in miles or kilometers even a useful metric for distance in L.A.? In my mind minutes would be more useful. If these "cognitively active travelers" had been travelling these roads by car or bicycle before,

  • Expert Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hidden (135234) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @05:01AM (#45625393)

    I think it depends what king of trip planning you are looking for. I'm betting that if you want TRANSIT directions from A to B, asking a transit user is better. If you are seeking road directions, then of course you want to ask a road user (eg, a car driver)

  • If you ask a transit rider how to get there by car, they may not give you the best directions. Try asking them how to get there by bus. If they don't know the answer offhand, they certainly know how to quickly find out.

  • Shit, they make it sound like you just walk out your front door and after a short nap the driver wakes you up directly at your destination. I must be doing something wrong when I have to transfer to 3 different buses so I can pick up dinner on my way home. I may not be in the norm but after extensive travel on the bus system here over the years I've found that I have a better idea of where things than people that just drive straight to work/school and the grocery store day after day.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I move mostly by foot (despite an excellent public transport system in the city where I live), usually over 10 km per day.

    The day before yesterday, somebody in a car asked me directions. I was able to give very precise directions, except as I noticed yesterday, that I sent them through one direction roads the wrong way. Why? Because that information is irrelevant to pedestrians, so I don't pay attention to that.

    • I bike 200-300 miles each week in trips each about 50-60mi. It's an old bike, and I ride just below my lung
      capacity.

      People that hear about it are awestruck, and tell me they would be exhaused even from driving the trip in
      their car. I just shrug my shoulders and tell them that after having biked my route a couple of times you
      get used to it and it doesn't seem 'far out'. The awe I'm met with is actually of a very particular kind, not
      really disbelief, but almost always focuses on distance (and leaves the tim

      • Our ancestors used to run all day to wear their dinner down to the point where they could catch and kill it. By comparison bike riding is easy on the metabolism. My commute is around 26 km/day but one day I would like to try something a bit more challenging.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Despite driving, biking and taking transit, I didn't really know this city until I started running through it randomly. You go down a lot of little side streets you'd never see unless you were trying to keep a 30 km run interesting.

          • Yeah I do a lot of walking as well. Also I worked for our state road authority for a time, so the architecture and firmware of the city of sort of burned into my brain.

      • 60 miles in a car is 1-2h depending on the roads you're taking. If you're actually focusing on everything you're supposed to focus on when you're driving, that can be mentally exhausting. Not physically, by any stretch, but it's not surprising that people say they'd be tired. That kind of endurance can be improved, but it's not the same kind of exertion as physical.

  • That people who drive may provide more useful directions to drivers than people who cycle; and vice versa.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That people who drive may provide more useful directions to drivers than people who cycle; and vice versa.

      People who drive may provide better driving instructions. I was once cycling all day, and stupidly asked a driver for directions of something nearby, and didn't think that they could be wrong. I ended up on the highway with the state police pissed at me.

  • But ask a bike rider how to get from point to point by train...

  • I've lived in a few different cities and I've always lived downtown close to work and gotten around mostly by walking and never had a car. I find that while I can give good directions to pedestrians I can't give good directions to motorists who stop and ask. This happened all the time in the last place I lived which was a big city that had a densely packed core with lots of one way streets that curved and didn't make much sense.

    When I want to get somewhere I just walk in that direction turning here and th

  • According to new research, drivers, walkers, and bicyclists will generally provide us with more useful directions than transit riders.

    Well, bugger me with a fishfork, I never would've guessed.

    Wait, is this to do with cognition and active navigation, or is just that transit riders are douchebags?

  • Usually I'm all for testing the obvious since when it doesn't turn out as you expect that's useful information.

    But seriously...People who don't have to give a shit about directions because someone else is handling that for them aren't as good at giving directions as those who do in fact have to work out their own directions themselves. Astounding!

  • Transit riders and drivers/pedestrians are all navigating... they're just navigating entirely different sets of routes. The transit rider has a much simpler set of possiblt paths, but with the added complexity of time constraints (i.e. last subway at 3am, this bus line doesn't run on the weekend, if I catch this one I have to wait an extra 45 minutes *here*, etc).

  • We need more such research. We might find that people who cook their own meals know more about the cooking process (boiling vs baking vs frying) and are more likely to include ingredients of the dishes they consume than the passive people who just order off the menu.

    Heck, we might even find out that Fix-it-yourselfers know more about plumbing, wiring, door knobs etc and tend to name the tools to be used compared to people who just hire handymen.

    There is even a possibility home schooling parents know in d

  • Indian cities are teeming with cars, schooters, motorcycles now after the economic expansion. Back in my days public transport was the only option for some 90% of the city dwellers, even for such a large city like Bombay. It has (had) some 1000 or so bus routes , two huge train systems To give you an idea of the size of the operation, some five to eight people get run over by the trains and die everyday and it does not even make it to news.

    I know people who know this system like the back of their hands.

  • Up until now when I've been driving and needed directions I'd keep an eye out for the first subway platform, park the car, walk downstairs, get on the first train I see and ask someone for directions.

    Now I know there's a better way.

  • To the passive rider problem.

    Replace all transit vehicles with bicycle busses!

  • by proca (2678743)
    Try asking a 14 year old kid for directions and you'd have an answer to your research study.
  • I noticed this when I moved to China. If I asked where we were going on a supplier visit out of town I was always given just a travel time not a general direction and distance as I would normally expect. I came to realise that was because of until a couple of years ago people did not own cars so all travel of any distance that could not be walked or cycled was via bus or train, so they though of a trip as time, not distance.

    Even today, with many of our staff now owning cars, I am still given just time
  • I remember even back into the 1970s transit riders were about as sharp as a bowling ball with directions. Washington, NYC, etc.. Didn't seem to matter. Once in a while you might find a guy that actually know what they were doing other than tuning out everything except their stop. Don't ask for advice on how to buy a card fare. Often they can't even get that right.

    And somehow we made it to the moon.

  • Jesus, I hope we weren't on the line to pay for this "research".

    Go to a new city. Just ride public transit for a few months. Then get a car.

    Happened to me. The public transit routes were absolutely USELESS so far as knowing the city. They're designed that way, for economic reasons. Not laid-out so that you actually know how to get anywhere by any other method.

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