Anorak | How To Wait For A Bus

How To Wait For A Bus

by | 23rd, January 2008

bus-picket.jpgYESTERDAY we learnt how to ‘catch’ a bus.

Today, New Scientist adds some notes based on research by Scott Kominers, a mathematician at Harvard University.

He and his researchers have derived a formula for the optimal time that you should wait for a bus at each stop en route before giving up and walking on.

Says he: “Many mathematicians probably ponder this on their way to work, but never get round to working it out.” This is most likely because they are distracted by looking for the square route of the Number 73, or if three No.10 buses arrive in a row, is the third bus a No. 1000.

The Anorak is useless at maths and was relieved when Ken Livingstone helped us dunces out by rounding up the price of a fare to the nearest two.  

The team found that the solution was surprisingly simple. When both options seem reasonably attractive, the formula advises you to choose the “lazy” option: wait at the first stop, no matter how frustrating (

The formula does break down in extreme cases, Kominers says, when the time interval between buses is longer than an hour, for example, and your destination is only a kilometre away.

If you do choose to walk, you should make your decision before you start waiting, he says. You will still reach your destination later than the bus you’d have caught, but it will be much less frustrating than waiting for a while and then watching the bus shoot by. “It certainly has changed the way I travel,” Kominers says.

Brilliant. We have all learned something, chiefly that you don’t have to be all that good at maths to be a mathematician, just able to walk five eighths of a mile in under an hour, at an average speed of, er, slow…

Posted: 23rd, January 2008 | In: Strange But True Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink