The Secret Weapon that Could Make Waiting for the Bus Less Terrible | Atlas Obscura

Sarah Laskow at Atlas Obscura writes about The Secret Weapon that Could Make Waiting for the Bus Less Terrible, featuring our research

Every minute at the bus stop feels longer than it actually is (Photo: Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay)


Waiting at a bus stop or a subway station, it can feel like the minutes stretch on forever, forever, forever, foooooooorever, for-ev-er before the train or bus finally (finally!) arrives. This isn’t because your local transit agency is conspiring to make your life miserable. Your brain perceives the minutes spent waiting as longer than they actually are.

Studies of transit riders’ perception of time have found that people unconsciously multiple their wait times by a factor of 1.2 to 2.5. In this time warp, a five-minute wait can feel like it takes anywhere from six minutes to 12.5 minutes.

The vibe at the stop can make time feel even longer, too. Say a woman’s waiting for a bus at a stop where she feels unsafe. In this situation, time can feel three times as long. That woman might tell you she’d been there for about 30 interminable minutes, when only 10 minutes had passed.

Even under normal circumstances, though, transit riders hate waiting. “People actually consider waiting at the bus stop for buses as among the most unhappy moments of their life,” says Yingling Fan, an University of Minnesota associate professor who specializes in planning and policy.


Our Research on the subject

Update: Summary in French