Thursday 11 May 2017

Bad Bus Equilibrium

I don't see any way of fixing this one, but maybe you do.

Current Wellington bus rules have cheaper fares for students for a reduced class of carriage: if the bus is full, full-fare passengers get to sit and students get to stand.

That's all fine, but the resulting equilbrium isn't. Students clog up the path near the rear exit of the bus. Empty seats are behind them. Adults queue up in front of them, unable to reach the empty seats. And then the driver sometimes breezes past bus stops because, from the driver's perspective, the bus is full.

There are ways of solving it, but none of them work:

  • Simplest would be a norm where adults sat at the back first, kids sat at the front first, and then kids start yielding to adults (starting near the back door) as the bus fills up. I don't know how you get there from here. Also, some adults would resent having to walk past the kids. I wouldn't because efficiency, but others might. 
  • If high school kids weren't idiots, they would get out of the way by sitting in closely adjacent seats, let the adults move to the empty seats at the back, then resume their prior position. And we would all have ponies too.
  • If kids had to yield to adults on request rather than having to stand if there are adults unable to take a seat, that could simplify things - and especially if adults were sensible and made the request of kids at the back first. But it would conflict with Kiwi politeness norms around asking them to yield their seat, which then in a politeness-jamming equilibrium with the kids standing anyway to avoid having to be asked to yield, and we're back where we started from. 
File under "Trivial but sad and likely non-remediable imperfections of a world that's still rather good on the whole". Or First World Problems. But it was frustrating watching the usual mess unfold from the back of the bus this morning. 

In related Helpful Efficiency Tips for a Better World: unless you have good reason not to, always choose the seat that is currently most difficult to reach when entering a room or bus if the table/room or bus is likely to be close to capacity. Your sitting in any other place means somebody else has an even more difficult time of reaching the currently most difficult to reach seat. 

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