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Fun poll: do you prefer quiet on transit?

Many riders turn to their phones on transit!

Do you keep to yourself on transit? Or would you rather be interacting with others?

I thought we’d tackle the subject today, as Pete McMartin has a Vancouver Sun article this morning called “Alone in a crowd on transit.” From the article, Pete seems to say that we withdraw on transit, and it’s something he laments. A quote from the end:

No one talks. The train jounces along, screeching on the long curves. We settle glumly into the rhythm of the train — the deceleration before stations, the disembarking passengers shouldering through the crush, the closing doors and the rising hum of the quickening train. Langara. City Hall. Yaletown. Downtown. The train gradually empties out. It slows to a stop at the Waterfront station, and a man, already laden with a vague weight, allows the cabin to clear before he steps out on to the platform. He has not uttered a word the entire 20-minute trip, and has never looked into the face of another passenger or said a kind word to anyone, even though he has thought it would be nice if he or someone did. As he watches the last of the passengers hurry out of the station toward the day’s work, he thinks:

When did we become so afraid of one another?

But I’ve also seen quite a response to the article around the web, saying just the opposite. Here’s a few comments from a much longer Reddit discussion:

Yes! There’s nothing better then a nice quiet bus ride in the morning the slowly wake up. The AM is me time. (link)

Completely agreed. Nothing wrong with a bit of human noise, but also nothing wrong with people just being themselves.

Hell, I’d rather a chill time on the train than having to deal with people trying to chat me up while I’m reading with headphones in. (link)

Fun poll time!

So here is where I turn it over to you! Take our fun poll, and tell us what you think in the comments. I’ll report back with the results on Friday!

Do you prefer a quiet ride on transit, or do you want more interaction?

  • I prefer a quiet ride on transit (86%, 146 Votes)
  • I'd like more interaction (8%, 13 Votes)
  • Other (7%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 170

And before I set you loose for discussion, I should also highlight that retreating into privacy on transit isn’t a Vancouver phenomenon, or something that happens in only this time period. For example, here’s a quote from a Slate article about subway psychology:

By 1971, Erving Goffman, in his book Relations in Public, was noting that a ritual of what he called “civil inattention” had taken hold on the subway as in other spheres of city life: We acknowledge another person’s presence, but not enough to make them “a target of special curiosity or design.” Or, as the authors of the essay “Subway Behavior,” (in the book People and Places: Sociology of the Familiar) put it, “subway behavior is regulated by certain societal rules and regulations that serve to protect personal rights and to sustain proper social distance between unacquainted people who are temporarily placed together in unfocused and focused interaction.”

OK! Have at it!


  • By Donald, December 11, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    I typically like quiet, but someone started a game of catch with a little foam ball on the 160 bus one time and that was so fun. A dozen people were participating, myself included. :)

  • By Jenn, December 11, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

    I don’t mind a little noise, frankly there should be toleration for some level of noise given it is public transit. I would prefer not to hear long animated phone calls which I find Skytrain users are still really at doing but at the same time respect that there will be noise from children and other passengers. This where I find the largest issue of contention, there is no clear consensus on what degree of noise is offensive. I had a lady get angry with me over a 2 minute phone call about a cooking question on the bus yesterday. That is excessive.

  • By Core, December 11, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

    I can understand coming home and wanting to decompress. But, to people new to Vancouver we probably come off looking cold and closed off – not friendly at all. We are are in danger of becoming a society of closed social circles.

  • By Christine, December 11, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    I prefer quiet most in the mornings, but I agree with Jenn that there’s a certain noise level that’s to be expected. Really loud people, whether they’re on the phone or talking to the person next to them, are annoying no matter what time of day it is though.

  • By Tone1point1, December 11, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

    As a rule I’d say that people at the rear of the bus shouldn’t be privy to conversations taking place at the front of it. Same goes for SkyTrain cars.

    Additionally it would be really helpful if people muted the various noises that their phones make while they play games or access the Internet with them. Just yesterday on the #6 Davie there was a fellow playing a game on his phone. Every few seconds the phone made a chirpy noise not unlike the sounds that once came from Mattel football circa 1976. I could use less of that. He kept it up all the way from Georgia to Cardero. There is enough necessary noise in our daily lives, we could at least try to be conscious of the purely gratuitous noise our habits and devices generate.

  • By Nick, December 11, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    I enjoy having a quiet ride in the mornings because I’m pretty much half-asleep on my way to school (I’m sure others may feel like this, too).

    I find that transit is more live with conversations with people going places in the midday and I like that chatter. I sometimes engage in some small talk with fellow passengers and that seems to brighten my day!

  • By Eugene Wong, December 11, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

    Bus drivers are the worst offenders sometimes. The community bus drivers turn on the radio, which can be clearly heard at the back. Passengers should never need to ask somebody to turn it down. Lately, passengers have been playing their music loudly. One guy threatened me when I reported him to the bus driver.

  • By Sheba, December 12, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    When I was on the Skytrain today I noticed a bunch of people pressing their phone/tablet – but it was all very quiet. I usually see people with earbuds in so the sound doesn’t bother anyone else.

    There are still plenty of people who talk loudly on their phones while on the train, although thankfully not around me today. What’s up with that? You don’t have to ‘talk over the noise’ for the person on the other end to hear you.

  • By Sheba, December 12, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    Thankfully we have better privacy laws than the US…

  • By Hockey fan, December 12, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

    I think I am kind of split, I do like interacting with other people on transit, but it’s nice to have some quiet time too.

  • By Stephanie, December 13, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    I prefer quiet as I almost always read while on the Skytrain.

  • By ???, December 13, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    Another vote for quiet. I love the isolation of single seats.

    However I hate it when half-deaf seniors sits behind me and uses the single seat section as a private phone booth. Too often the conversation goes on and on as they yell behind my head.

    With regards to interaction. What does it upset people when we read electronic screens, but we don’t criticize people who read books in transit? 10 years ago reading was celebrated, but today it’s a fault?

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Fun poll results: 87% prefer a quiet ride on transit — December 14, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

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