Friday, 7 March 2008

Psychology of commuting in London - thank you Transport for London

Okay, on one hand, I am totally amazed by how good and useful the http://www.tfl.gov.uk site is for travellers planning their route from point A to point B. Coming from South Africa where one has to drive everywhere because the public transport system is not reliable or completely too unsafe to use, this facility for using a rather complex system of very good public transport is awesome!

However - onto my real point of cleverness on their side. Whenever I am especially bombarded by frequent public announcements of "We are pleased to report that all services are running well / There are no problems reported on the Transport For London services" I have started watching the time pass more closely. And I have started to take greater notice of the uncommented /non-excused pauses that occur during such journeys. And more often than not, my journey time is 20-50% longer on such days, than when such public "All is well" announcements are not as frequent.

This amazing little simple psychology trick works so well: telling people what they want to hear. I have noticed how people on the platform, crowding around waiting for the train to arrive are not as irritated by the fact that they are CROWDING and pushing each other for a place or a seat to sit down on. I have noticed how people are so much more at ease when they are jammed in like sardines and stepping on each others' £5-£500 shoes, and bashing each other with bags or newspapers. It really is amazing for me!

Whereas on a real "normal" day, the trains are less crowded, the platforms are less crowded, and my journey is over almost in a blink of the eye.

Interestingly enough, today was the first time I have noticed another commuter who was clearly irritated by the pauses, the crowding, the sardines, and the personal effects damage. And more noticeably, the fact that they too were going to be arriving late for work/wherever they were going, and they knew this even before the train had departed "as scheduled".

London provides so many little things like this - even the daily free newspapers - that make for easier fulfilment of my motto since arriving in London nearly 1 year ago - "every day an adventure"

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