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Need Directions? Might Not Want To Ask a Transit Rider

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the take-a-left-then-descend-into-your-first-tunnel dept.

Transportation 97

Daniel_Stuckey writes "According to new research, drivers, walkers, and bicyclists will generally provide us with more useful directions than transit riders. Published in Urban Planning, 'Going Mental' shows that cognitively active travelers, regardless of commute by foot or car, tend to trump cognitively passive travelers (those who frequent public buses and trains), in perceiving distance. Questioning cognitively active, passive, and mixed travelers about distances from a survey site to LA's city hall, the research demonstrated that the passive bus and subway riders have less of a grip on distance. Actively cognitive travelers, according to the results, were more likely to integrate street names in their directions, and also exhibited a sharper understanding of distances."

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97 comments

Of course people who navigate... (5, Informative)

DontScotty (978874) | about 4 months ago | (#45625243)

Of course people who navigate...are better at locating than people who are passengers.

This article does not need Slashdoted,
 
it needs a quick trip to dev null...
 
(provided someone can give it directions)

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 4 months ago | (#45625373)

It also tells us about the way our politicians wants us to go - go in public transportation, don't think for yourself. Back to the "Metropolis" of Fritz Lang.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

emj (15659) | about 4 months ago | (#45625423)

No that's what the summary tries to imply what the research says, count on research from LA being negative towards public transport.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 4 months ago | (#45625583)

No that's what the summary tries to imply what the research says, count on research from LA being negative towards public transport.

Actually, I read both articles and the summary, and it doesn't seem to be what they are trying to imply at all.

But I agree with the GP that you get more control over people's ability to move around, if you limit them to bicycles or public transportation; for example, the BART stations that have been shut down to try and prevent protests against them shutting of cellular service in order to prevent previous protests, the ability to take busses and trains out of service to limit the ability of people without cars to move around and so on. They also tended to shutdown BART stations near the Occupy movement when it was still going on to any extent. Handy if you are trying to stop a zombie outbreak as well, I guess.

With the exception of short hall train corridors (because BART and CalTrain can't agree to share), and of course the Facebook/Google/Apple/Genentech/etc. busses run by those and similar private companies, public transit is pretty crappy in the SF Bay Area. The incessant BART strikes also tend to discourage use of public transit as well, but that's more about the unions blackmailing the politicians by pissing off voters than it is about controlling peoples movements.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45627789)

They also tended to shutdown BART stations near the Occupy movement when it was still going on to any extent. Handy if you are trying to stop a zombie outbreak as well, I guess.

Excellent observation, and insightful juxtaposition of Occupy and Zombies.
Well played, Sir!

Re:Of course people who navigate... (5, Interesting)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 4 months ago | (#45625427)

The article says nothing about thinking for yourself. It talks about giving directions.

Now re-run the test asking car and bicycle drivers what metro line or bus route you should take, .and how long it'll take to get there. (Who cares what the distance is - it's time that counts).

Re:Of course people who navigate... (3, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 4 months ago | (#45625507)

or even better, how to get from point a to b when it requires 3 lines and two transfers. mixing bus and rail.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (4, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 4 months ago | (#45625605)

I am a frequent public transport user. I don't even have a car.

Unless on a familiar route, I wouldn't be able to answer such a question. Instead I have an app for that. Hong Kong has over 500 bus routes, about 300 green minibus routes, numerous red minibus routes (of which no route information is available other than on their stops, if they even have formal stops), non-franchised buses, and on top of that the trains, trams, light rail and ferries.

Quite often to get home from an unfamiliar place I just find a bus stop, see which buses run there and where they go (looking for major interchanges on the route, e.g. "I need a cross-harbour route - any of the about 80 such routes will do"), and go from there. Works quite well.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 4 months ago | (#45625925)

Quite often to get home from an unfamiliar place I just find a bus stop, see which buses run there and where they go (looking for major interchanges on the route, e.g. "I need a cross-harbour route - any of the about 80 such routes will do"), and go from there. Works quite well.

Doesn't work very well in this city... but I imagine that HK has a much better transit system than Ottawa, Canada. Here, to get from, say, downtown to, say, a shopping mall like Billings Bridge, there's essentially 4 routes. Sounds like a lot. But which route you take has a *huge* impact on how quickly you'll get there. There's 3 direct routes, and one involving a transfer. We'll skip the transfer one, because it follows the exact same route as one of the direct routes, just means taking a bus that doesn't go all the way and changing to a different commuter route.

That leaves the #97, which follows a bus-only highway almost all of the way, and then local roads. On a map it's a roundabout route, but it's the fastest because it's on the transitway.
The #1 is a direct route. Single road, no turns, straight line to the mall in question. Also quite slow, because it goes through three major commercial districts with a lot of pedestrian traffic.
The #8 wends its way through a residential area and takes twice as long as the #97 to get there.

If you're just using an app to look at which routes will get you to the destination, you may think that any of the above will work well. But when you actually look into it, the choice of which one you want to take is clear.

For the record, I mix both driving and transit. I take transit for my commute to work, because I don't feel like paying $200/mo for a parking pass when a bus pass is $100/mo and taking the bus is faster than driving during rush hour (because of the transitway I mentioned). But during off-peak hours or weekends, I will drive. As a result, I've needed to learn familiarity with the roads and general layout of the city, but also have a basic understanding of how to get around by bus. I do have apps for both navigation by car and by bus, but try not to rely on them -- sometimes either of them will muck up the directions and tell me to take a route that's longer than an alternative.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626163)

any of those apps pretty much anywhere tend to use the timing tables of the stops for estimating the time so they would know.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45627399)

I am yet to see an app that does not include timing information.

I live in Vienna, which has a huge public transit network for its size. And I always use it with the app; although it's no strictly necessary, it often informs me of some smarter connections I wasn't aware of.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45627701)

Also the buses are a lot more frequent in Hong Kong than Ottawa.
I know both Ottawa and Hong Kong and use public transportation in both places.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 4 months ago | (#45628221)

I don't know what the Ottawa app is like, but the Transport for London App will list the different routes available, the number of changes, how many minutes you will have to wait for the next bus, train etc to turn up, approximately how long it will take and the estimated time of arrival. Sometimes for example, there is a bus that will take you there with no changes, but takes ages because the traffic is bad, or you can go by rail which is faster, but you have to change. If I'm tired and carrying loads of heavy stuff, I'll take the bus. If I'm in a rush, I'll go by rail.

Scary (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 months ago | (#45626997)

That is actually kinda scary to a guy like me. When I leave home, I know where I'm going, I know how to get there under my own power even if my car dies on me. I don't have to rely on a phone, or an app, or the kindness of strangers. I know how to get from point A to point B, and when I decide that a stop at point C is advisable, I just turn the wheel and go to point C. Something comes up that I need to go to point D, where I've never been before, all I insist on is a proper address, like "123 Main Street, Backwater, Nowhere, USA".

I simply can't imagine heading out the door, hoping that I can figure out how to make bus lines, train lines, subways and ferries all fit together.

Have you ever been in a hurry, and found that the connections would deliver you where you wanted to be, but four hours late? You would have been better off just canceling your plans, because everyone has gone home for the day!

In a car, or on a motorcycle, I can make my mind up that I can make meet the schedule, or that I can't. And, if I can't make the schedule, then I can reschedule for tomorrow, knowing that I'll just have to leave home some hours earlier than I might like.

Re:Scary (1)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | about 4 months ago | (#45628913)

Iagree, as a driver that has had to get by while visiting transit-only cities. With my health problems, Ialready knew it was probably important that Ibe able to make an outing quick &to the point or turn back at will, but Ihad no idea just how crucial until I'd had to spend 4+ hours miserable on a bus to complete an errand that would've taken me maybe a half-hour at home via car (and that Imight have bailed on partway through even then). That I kept finding sick thanks to the scents of perfume, cologne, cigarettes, or pot lingering on people didn't make the experience any more pleasant for me.

Re:Scary (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 4 months ago | (#45629511)

The ones being late, that are almost always the drivers, not the public transport users.

Why? Because drivers get stuck in traffic, have to spend ages finding a parking place, then ages to walk from that parking place to their destination... With a little preparation (the same you have to do if you want to drive to an unknown destination - check your route, and figure out how long it will take) you can make it perfectly on time.

And four hours late never happens if you simply leave on time. That's about twice the longest distance available. Arriving late simply means you leave late. And if I'm in a hurry, I'll use taxi. Cheaper than cars even, And much faster than driving yourself as you don't have to park the thing!

Re:Of course people who navigate... (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#45625731)

"Now re-run the test asking car and bicycle drivers what metro line or bus route you should take, .and how long it'll take to get there. (Who cares what the distance is - it's time that counts)."

I don't understand the article at all. This is news for nerds, who are in the majority male.

And everybody knows that males don't ask for directions.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#45627165)

And everybody knows that males don't ask for directions.

Google Maps navigation is the best thing to happen to us males. No more do we have to stop and ask some stranger for directions, or worse, get yelled at by our wife/girlfriend for being so reluctant to ask for directions when we're out and lost. Instead, we just whip out our smartphone, tap in our destination, and get Google Maps to show us how to get there, whether it's by car, bus, or walking. It's really a godsend.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (2)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45627869)

The male tendency to not ASK directions is likely due to the male tendency to OFFER directions that are useless, and often wrong. Males also tend to have a buffer queue of exactly 4 items deep, and anything beyond that we need paper and pencil. Which again is genetically engineered to hold only the useful number of items, because any beyond that are increasingly vague and wrong. Men know they suck at giving directions, which is why they don't trust directions given by others.

Reminds me of the old saying: Directions that are least explicit often end with "you can't miss it".

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 4 months ago | (#45626129)

In my experience as a cyclist and then (after someone ran over my bike) a transit rider, cyclists generally know the bus routes reasonably well -- they're the ones dodging the damn things. They also know where the subway stops are.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#45627151)

Exactly. The modes of transport are entirely different. Buses don't always travel in a direct route, and in fact, frequently travel in an extremely indirect route to get more passengers in certain locations. Whether you're a transit rider or a cyclist or a walker or a driver, the only thing you care about is time. But if you're driving a car, the fastest route may be longer than the fastest cycling route, because you can take advantage of high-speed roads (highways) that cyclists aren't allowed to use, even if that adds a few miles to the route. If you're taking a bus, the fastest route may involve taking multiple buses and a circuitous route that no one else would bother with, because that's the only route the bus travels to get there.

Transit riders' perception is totally different too. They have to worry about getting off at the correct stop, so all they care about is the names of various stops, and then how to get from the bus stop or subway station to where they're going. They have no reason to care much about all the roads in between the two transit stops.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45627953)

But if you're driving a car, the fastest route may be longer than the fastest cycling route, because you can take advantage of high-speed roads (highways) that cyclists aren't allowed to use, even if that adds a few miles to the route.

Not being allowed to use a highspeed route that adds miles is not an issue for cyclists, whose speed and distance is limited by physical stamina rather than posted speed limits.

Other than that, I don't necessarily agree that it is all that much different for a transit commuter than a bike commuter as far as their knowledge of the map. They each know different maps. Transit users know transit maps, bike commuters know their own route maps, and may be totally ignorant of locations and routes one street away from the route they follow. Ask them how to get to 127 Maple street, and they may be clueless, unless it happens to be a street they use.

Having bike commuted for almost 30 years, I can tell you there is a lot of time to think on a bike, and yet large portions of the route are done on autopilot, and you have virtually no recollection of traveling that portion. You remember traffic intensive routes, lane change areas, busy intersection, and bad pavement, but you can often arrive at your destination with no more awareness of what you passed along the way than the transit rider.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#45628083)

Yes, but there's a big difference: a bike commuter is going to want to take, more or less, the most direct route, because he only has so much physical stamina and his max speed is also pretty low. The only exceptions are that he'll want to avoid highways, and might also want to take some lower-traffic roads if possible, as long as they don't add too much distance to the trip. There's a very strong correlation between physical distance and travel time for a cyclist.

A transit rider doesn't care one bit how far anything is as far as physical distance. It's completely and utterly irrelevant. The only thing that matters is transit time there, and that's entirely unique to the mode of transit and its routes. Since buses travel on specific routes, something might only be 5 miles away, but it could take 4 hours to get there by bus (because you have to travel 30+ miles to get there, taking 3 transfers along the way, because there's no direct route available), making it a destination to avoid for a transit rider, while another destination that's 10 miles away may only be a 30-minute ride. The only way physical distance comes into things is if the transit rider decides they might need to walk some or all of the distance, because the available public transit routes aren't sufficient, but since walking is so slow, that only realistically gives them a few miles to work with.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Nos9 (442559) | about 4 months ago | (#45629573)

When my car broke down for a week a couple years back, my 10 minute commute, turned into a 45 minute bus ride, or 30 minutes on my bicycle.... I chose to ride the bike rather than pay for bus faire.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Nos9 (442559) | about 4 months ago | (#45629557)

I was a living example of this on my trip to Japan. At first I only rode the subway everywhere... I knew which stops to get off at and which direction to go from there. Then I got a map and realized that I could walk to most of the places I wanted to go in about the same amount of time it took to take the subway, because I need not go out of my way being only able to follow preset limited transportation routes. Not to mention I got to see a lot more interesting places.

I used the subway when going back to the hotel from shopping, but to get to the electronics district in Osaka I tended to walk (unless the weather wasn't decent).

    Before then I had no notion of the spatial relationship of the hotel to the various shops.

Back in England ... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 4 months ago | (#45625937)

It also tells us about the way our politicians wants us to go - go in public transportation, don't think for yourself

Oooh, a chill suddenly springs up my spine ...
 
For the past decade or so I've been very puzzled by the decision of the Ministry of Education of Great Britain in teaching their students how to use Microsoft Words and Microsoft Powerpoint, instead of teaching them how to code...
 
Now I KNOW WHY !!

The motive is none other than to DUMB DOWN THE ENTIRE GENERATION OF PEOPLE so to make them that much more easily controllable !!

Just when you thought school is supposed to be the place to kids get educated ...
 
  Many thanks for the enlightenment !!!

Re:Of course people who navigate... (2)

khasim (1285) | about 4 months ago | (#45625443)

Also from the summary:

Questioning cognitively active, passive, and mixed travelers about distances from a survey site to LA's city hall, the research demonstrated that the passive bus and subway riders have less of a grip on distance.

Rather they had a better grip on how distance is really measured ... the time it takes you to get there.

Which is more useful for a traveler to know:
a. The miles between A and B?

b. The time it will take to get from A to B?

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

sodul (833177) | about 4 months ago | (#45625463)

When I was riding the train between SF and the South Bay all I know is that RedWood City was when we started to run out of beer. Did not care much about time or distance at that point.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 months ago | (#45626359)

Rather they had a better grip on how distance is really measured ... the time it takes you to get there.

Only if you were asking about some place that they went to on a regular basis (and then only if you were departing from a place they went to that place from). One of the interesting things about different parts of the U.S. is that I live in an area where, when asked how far some place is from some other place, the overwhelming majority answer by giving a time, not a number of miles. Most other parts of the country answer that question by giving a number of miles. Where I live how long it takes to get somewhere depends very much on which direction you are going (15 miles in one direction will take 15-30 minutes, 15 miles in another direction will take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on time of day).

The miles (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 months ago | (#45627047)

Miles are more important to me, the guy relying on an internal combustion engine to get him there. I have an aversion to pushing my ride to the nearest gas station. The car gets 29.9 miles to the gallon, the bike gets 53 miles to the gallon. I want to know how many miles it is from point A to point B, and I'll get there in my own good time. Believe me, that time will be considerably faster than the bus you guys are riding on. In most cases, my time will rival that of a train that doesn't make stops along the way, and I'll always beat the train that has to make stops at every hamlet along the way.

Re:The miles (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45628023)

Similarly, having bike commuted for decades, asking directions and being told by a motorist that something is 20 minutes away, is useless.

The depressing tendency of transit riders and motorists to measure distance in minutes is something that has sprung up almost un-noticed over the years, but which only makes sense in s specific circle of reference.

Re:The miles (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 4 months ago | (#45628631)

That has nothing to do with transit riders and motorists. I measure the distance of places in my neighborhood by how long it takes to walk to them. There are two reasons for this. One, most people don't walk around with a surveyors wheel measuring distances to everything. and two, I really don't care about the distance. The travel time is much more useful to know.

Re:The miles (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 months ago | (#45628831)

Depending on your age and health - twenty minutes is about a mile, three mile per hour is a nice steady walking pace that doesn't exhaust most people. Even walking, I want to know the miles.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
BY ROBERT FROST
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Logical map vs physical map (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625563)

You have to use logical maps on transit lines, not physical. So it is no surprise that mass transit riders are not practiced at physical distances and directions. Think about it. The lines are one dimensional and the only relevant unit of distance is the number of stops. Occasionally there will be a transfer or walking.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45625675)

Of course people who navigate...are better at locating than people who are passengers.

It might not be so simple as that: people who travel by different means are travelling a different set of routes:

If you embark on a mass transit system you are effectively traversing a graph with a bunch of nodes that are (as a factor of time of day/day of week, rather than distance) more or less frequently linked to one another. When the link is available, taking it will get you to the next node in an amount of time only very weakly correlated with distance (the bigger variable usually being the number of stops made, the closest equivalent to 'traffic' and the biggest drag on theoretical maximum speed).

Similarly, pedestrians are likely acutely aware of distance, because they have to walk it and because they move slowly; but are probably a poor source of information on things like one-way streets, traffic signals, etc. because they move more or less freely except at road crossings.

Why would it even be expected that people using different types of transportation would treat the same information as salient? In other news, people who fly exhibit a poor understanding of hiking conditions...

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

sjwt (161428) | about 4 months ago | (#45625905)

I for one can not wait for their follow up to see if Bike riders are better and faster at riding bikes then people who only exclusively use public transport.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626181)

And OTOH, if you need to ask people on how to use the transit system to get from A to B, guess who would give you the best directions....

Head down to Root Square, take a left into Dev Lane, and your destination is right below you. Please make any essential calls before you head down, as reception is shaky.

Re:Of course people who navigate... (1)

Shirley Marquez (1753714) | about 4 months ago | (#45635667)

Research results often seem obvious. But every once in a while, sociological research comes up with results that contradict conventional wisdom. That is one reason we do studies; to get hard evidence.

It all makes sense now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625277)

That's why they put pilots at the front of the aircraft. Who would have guessed?

Obviously... (1)

Jaden42 (466735) | about 4 months ago | (#45625287)

Unless, of course, you need directions on how to use the transit system.

Re:Obviously... (1)

mcswell (1102107) | about 4 months ago | (#45635505)

And here I thought it was so they wouldn't have to listen to the passengers giving them directions.

But all seriousness aside, *how* would a subway passenger have any sense of distance? You're down in a dark tunnel, and for that matter you almost never look out the front (or even the back) of the car; you're looking out the side at the tunnel walls, with no real sense of speed. Even direction is hard to tell, you have only your inner ears to tell, and they're notoriously bad at that. Sometimes you can look forward through the next car and see the curvature of the train, but without knowing your speed, you can't tell how far you've turned.

For that matter, when I used to go caving, it was very hard to get a sense of direction or distance unless we were mapping the cave; and very hard even then to correlate that with above-ground distance. You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike--or all different.

THIS JUST IN: (5, Informative)

toygeek (473120) | about 4 months ago | (#45625289)

Navigators know more about Navigation than People who don't Navigate

More at.... wait no, that's it.

This news brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department Department.

Re:THIS JUST IN: (4, Funny)

abies (607076) | about 4 months ago | (#45625355)

In other news:
Musicians can recognize pitch of the sound better than deaf people.
Special force soldiers fare better in the fight ring than housewifes.
Women are better at bearing babies than men.
Slashdot readers are better at detecting duplicate stories than slashdot editors.
Urban Planners are better at stating the obvious than me...

Re:THIS JUST IN: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626565)

"Special force soldiers fare better in the fight ring than housewifes."

The words of a bachelor.

Re:THIS JUST IN: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45629491)

Need a noshitsherlock tag? Might not want to Ask Slashdot.

Re:THIS JUST IN: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626175)

It also has to do with... this just in, individuals that are forced to take long and out of the way routes don't familiarize themselves with routes for other modes of transportation. Some studies make sense... this one needs a few more studies to be of any worth.

This study is basically saying those individuals that see only blue all day are better at naming a shade of blue than individuals that see red all day.

Re:THIS JUST IN: (1)

dasunt (249686) | about 4 months ago | (#45627303)

Bus riders navigate - they just navigate a different map. One where connections are made by bus routes, and not through city streets.

Did they try asking the non-bus riders how long a trip by bus would take between two points? I wouldn't be surprised if they made ignorant mistakes, like basing their assumptions off of physical distance instead of where the bus lines are.

It's true (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#45625317)

I love our subway system. It takes you from one corner of the city to another without giving you even the foggiest idea how you got there. For all I know, I could be on a different planet and wouldn't know for sure. But then again, I'm not in it for the ride, I'm in it to get where I have to go.

While we're at it, I'm also pretty sure that most tourists know more about the monuments of various towns than the inhabitants. I'm pretty sure there have been more Japanese in Notre Dame in Paris than Frenchmen.

Re:It's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625595)

Wow. Now fancy that, I never would have guessed.

Have been to LA before and didn't even realise they had a subway system!

Where do you guys hide it? (underground, obviously, but surely there must be entrances somewhere...)

Re:It's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45627091)

Reminds me of last time i went from Cambridge (near Boston) to NYC.

Get out of my house, walk across the street to the subway to the train station, take the train (which is basically on the same set of tracks as the commuter rails), get out in penn station, take a subway, bang Time Square.

Or when i went to Chicago.

Same as above to the train station, take a shuttle (still part of the "subway" system) to the airport, take the plane, subway station is connected to the airport, take the subway, boom, downtown Chicago.

Aside for the time to get from point A to point B, its all "automatic" from my point of view and there's very little difference between traveling within the city and traveling to a city far away. I don't drive at all (even though I'm in my 30s, never needed it really), so I basically only know my geography in term of stations and airports.

Asking for directions? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#45625341)

That's rather quaint in a world where many of us have a GPS in our pocket.

I know there's a relevant xkcd but I'm too lazy to look up the link.

I don't want directions (2)

iYk6 (1425255) | about 4 months ago | (#45625375)

Re:I don't want directions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625523)

It's funny because he doesn't just hang up immediately. The idiot on the other end of the phone is obviously not worth visiting, for any reason, ever.

Re:I don't want directions (1)

enrgeeman (867240) | about 4 months ago | (#45628809)

If I had to guess, I would say Hat Guy does that to people to discourage them from visiting, with bad directions and such.

Re:I don't want directions (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 months ago | (#45625579)

These days people seem to expect to be vectored in on their destination by phone,

Re:I don't want directions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625591)

People these days are so lazy and stupid, they are incapable of writing a simple shopping list. They need to be in constant phone contact with a family member, who will stay at home to look in the fridge to tell them exactly what to buy, item by item. Every idiot shops this way.

Is it any good to know (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 4 months ago | (#45625363)

the street names above your head, on the street level? Or the distances between them? People may well just like to doze off, ignoring seriously irrelevant pieces of information.

Did these "cognitively active travelers" also know the telephones of those lived along their sublime subway line? Is the distance in miles or kilometers even a useful metric for distance in L.A.? In my mind minutes would be more useful. If these "cognitively active travelers" had been travelling these roads by car or bicycle before, yes. Of course they know them better than those who hadn't. What a flawed analysis to begin with. Why didn't the compare with people from Tokya and Ghana to see what their impressions were...

These "cognitively active travelers" sound like nut cases ready for Rainman 2. Maybe they should also include the authors of the actual article - Andrew M., Evelyn B. and Brian T.

Expert Knowledge (3, Insightful)

hidden (135234) | about 4 months ago | (#45625393)

I think it depends what king of trip planning you are looking for. I'm betting that if you want TRANSIT directions from A to B, asking a transit user is better. If you are seeking road directions, then of course you want to ask a road user (eg, a car driver)

Well sure... (1)

Phroggy (441) | about 4 months ago | (#45625435)

If you ask a transit rider how to get there by car, they may not give you the best directions. Try asking them how to get there by bus. If they don't know the answer offhand, they certainly know how to quickly find out.

This really comes down to ... DUH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625457)

I have both driven to work and bus/subway'd to work. The former requires me to pay attention, the latter requires a good book. The only metric I worry about on the latter trip is time. Do I get there on time.

Polite Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625459)

Where research is required to give bloody obvious answers to questions almost no one bothers to ask.

Riding the bus is cognitively passive? (1)

alzoron (210577) | about 4 months ago | (#45625461)

Shit, they make it sound like you just walk out your front door and after a short nap the driver wakes you up directly at your destination. I must be doing something wrong when I have to transfer to 3 different buses so I can pick up dinner on my way home. I may not be in the norm but after extensive travel on the bus system here over the years I've found that I have a better idea of where things than people that just drive straight to work/school and the grocery store day after day.

I walk a lot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625465)

I move mostly by foot (despite an excellent public transport system in the city where I live), usually over 10 km per day.

The day before yesterday, somebody in a car asked me directions. I was able to give very precise directions, except as I noticed yesterday, that I sent them through one direction roads the wrong way. Why? Because that information is irrelevant to pedestrians, so I don't pay attention to that.

I bike a lot (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 4 months ago | (#45625559)

I bike 200-300 miles each week in trips each about 50-60mi. It's an old bike, and I ride just below my lung
capacity.

People that hear about it are awestruck, and tell me they would be exhaused even from driving the trip in
their car. I just shrug my shoulders and tell them that after having biked my route a couple of times you
get used to it and it doesn't seem 'far out'. The awe I'm met with is actually of a very particular kind, not
really disbelief, but almost always focuses on distance (and leaves the time aspect out of condideration).

What you described is a feature. I hate cars. Instead of one way roads, here we also have canals...

Re:I bike a lot (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 months ago | (#45625575)

Our ancestors used to run all day to wear their dinner down to the point where they could catch and kill it. By comparison bike riding is easy on the metabolism. My commute is around 26 km/day but one day I would like to try something a bit more challenging.

Re:I bike a lot (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 months ago | (#45627169)

Despite driving, biking and taking transit, I didn't really know this city until I started running through it randomly. You go down a lot of little side streets you'd never see unless you were trying to keep a 30 km run interesting.

Re:I bike a lot (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 months ago | (#45628787)

Yeah I do a lot of walking as well. Also I worked for our state road authority for a time, so the architecture and firmware of the city of sort of burned into my brain.

Re:I bike a lot (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 4 months ago | (#45625999)

60 miles in a car is 1-2h depending on the roads you're taking. If you're actually focusing on everything you're supposed to focus on when you're driving, that can be mentally exhausting. Not physically, by any stretch, but it's not surprising that people say they'd be tired. That kind of endurance can be improved, but it's not the same kind of exertion as physical.

New Research from No Shit University also shows... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 4 months ago | (#45625467)

That people who drive may provide more useful directions to drivers than people who cycle; and vice versa.

Re:New Research from No Shit University also shows (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625483)

That people who drive may provide more useful directions to drivers than people who cycle; and vice versa.

People who drive may provide better driving instructions. I was once cycling all day, and stupidly asked a driver for directions of something nearby, and didn't think that they could be wrong. I ended up on the highway with the state police pissed at me.

From the "Who gives a shit" Journal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625505)

What a stupid article.

Walkers (1)

mephist01 (122565) | about 4 months ago | (#45625553)

I've lived in a few different cities and I've always lived downtown close to work and gotten around mostly by walking and never had a car. I find that while I can give good directions to pedestrians I can't give good directions to motorists who stop and ask. This happened all the time in the last place I lived which was a big city that had a densely packed core with lots of one way streets that curved and didn't make much sense.

When I want to get somewhere I just walk in that direction turning here and there as the lights let me. I don't notice that you can't turn left onto such and such street or even that such and such is one way or there are barriers to traffic at some point and you can't drive through.

If you're driving it's probably best to ask another motorist for directions, though that's not always possible.

Re:Walkers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626821)

I do have a car, but normally take bus and subway to work in a dense European inner city with lots of one way streets and bridges, canals, and bicycle and pedestrian-only streets, squares and alleys. Almost without exception the motorists who ask directions took the wrong exit from the ring road into the wrong quarter of the inner city, to discover that they cannot park anywhere close to their destination, and then get completely lost even with navigation on. I can tell them how to walk there, whether it makes sense to integrate a tram or bus ride to get there, and even recommend using subway station tunnel or shortcuts through big stores, but I cannot help them solve a problem that never occurred to me, and that invariably will involve backtracking into suburban areas outside walking distance where I do not know my way around. When I do take my car into that inner city, I know where I am going to be able to park my car on that day and time, and how to continue my jouney after I park my car.

I do agree that I am generally a bit weaker at street names in this area compared to the area I normally drive in, certainly for motorists' only streets that I avoid as a pedestrian, but the reference to enlarged hippocampi of taxi drivers is complete nonsense. The motorists map of the city is simply very different from the pedestrian-and-public-transit map of the city.

how is this research useful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625557)

Will drivers finally stop asking for directions from people who are trying to mind their own business while waiting at a bus stop? Will this research help drivers understand that transit riders obviously do not know where to find the on-ramp to the expressway? No. Of course it won't.

and people get paid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625597)

to study this kind of stuff?

Move along, nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625713)

I don't know which is more annoying, the fact that people wasted the money(likely) or at the very least time to do such a study OR that someone deemed this newsworthy enough to post on Slashdot???

From the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 4 months ago | (#45625723)

According to new research, drivers, walkers, and bicyclists will generally provide us with more useful directions than transit riders.

Well, bugger me with a fishfork, I never would've guessed.

Wait, is this to do with cognition and active navigation, or is just that transit riders are douchebags?

Wow, no shit sherlock! (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 4 months ago | (#45625825)

Usually I'm all for testing the obvious since when it doesn't turn out as you expect that's useful information.

But seriously...People who don't have to give a shit about directions because someone else is handling that for them aren't as good at giving directions as those who do in fact have to work out their own directions themselves. Astounding!

Downtown Centric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45625911)

That's because in Los Angeles, everything is "downtown centric".so there are few Metro Buses that go straight from location to location. Most go from Location to Downtown.. Ie: to get from Glendale to Alhambra by freeway is a 20 min freeway/local street ride. The same trip via Bus takes 90 mins since it has to go through downtown to then catch the bus from downtown to Alhambra.

Different maps (1)

c (8461) | about 4 months ago | (#45625921)

Transit riders and drivers/pedestrians are all navigating... they're just navigating entirely different sets of routes. The transit rider has a much simpler set of possiblt paths, but with the added complexity of time constraints (i.e. last subway at 3am, this bus line doesn't run on the weekend, if I catch this one I have to wait an extra 45 minutes *here*, etc).

More research needed (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#45626027)

We need more such research. We might find that people who cook their own meals know more about the cooking process (boiling vs baking vs frying) and are more likely to include ingredients of the dishes they consume than the passive people who just order off the menu.

Heck, we might even find out that Fix-it-yourselfers know more about plumbing, wiring, door knobs etc and tend to name the tools to be used compared to people who just hire handymen.

There is even a possibility home schooling parents know in detail the lessons, the syllabus, how long it takes to cover a unit etc and even name the actual lessons to be taught compared to people who simply send their children to school.

Different skill sets (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#45626111)

Indian cities are teeming with cars, schooters, motorcycles now after the economic expansion. Back in my days public transport was the only option for some 90% of the city dwellers, even for such a large city like Bombay. It has (had) some 1000 or so bus routes , two huge train systems To give you an idea of the size of the operation, some five to eight people get run over by the trains and die everyday and it does not even make it to news.

I know people who know this system like the back of their hands. Would say things like, "I can take bus XYZ, get out when the bus stops at the signal at MG Road, run through the alleyway and catch bus ABC to Kurla. I can get there faster in the bus than those who ride the train". They seem to have a complete intersection graph of all the busses that ply any part of their commute. They solve a multiple traveling salesmen problem in an abstract space designated by bus routes, the intersection graph and time cost. The drivers have maps and a ready way to visualize their routes. These commuters operate in abstract space. It is probably why this urban planning institute does not even know the metrics by which one can measure the commuter's mind space.

Public transport maps are grossly skewed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626403)

Transit maps are not scale representations of distance or direction. They are grossly skewed so that the stations names and lines are evenly distributed across the page to make a pretty picture. If you go just by that you can have a distorted impression of city layout.

So thankful for this article... (1)

CODiNE (27417) | about 4 months ago | (#45626591)

Up until now when I've been driving and needed directions I'd keep an eye out for the first subway platform, park the car, walk downstairs, get on the first train I see and ask someone for directions.

Now I know there's a better way.

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45627141)

There's a small city about 240 miles away that I have been occasionally visiting for .. fuck, has it been that long? About a quarter century. Until recently I still didn't know my way around the place, because whenever I got there, I was done driving, and my friends who lived there would take over. My incompetence with the area was pretty funny. Then for whatever reason, I ended up driving around the place on my own, and I learned. That's what TFA is saying: if you learn, you know more. So: "duh."

TFA is confused about different metrics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45628509)

Of course public transport induces a different metric than walking or driving, and distance by public transport is less related to Euclidean distance. Doesn't mean it's less relevant. This is one reason why public transport maps are distorted when compared to geographical maps (which are themselves distorted by the specific projection used). It's a distortion that makes sense, and of course it also occurs in the minds of commuters, because it's useful to them.

Also they give time, not distance (1)

ukoda (537183) | about 4 months ago | (#45630633)

I noticed this when I moved to China. If I asked where we were going on a supplier visit out of town I was always given just a travel time not a general direction and distance as I would normally expect. I came to realise that was because of until a couple of years ago people did not own cars so all travel of any distance that could not be walked or cycled was via bus or train, so they though of a trip as time, not distance.

Even today, with many of our staff now owning cars, I am still given just time as an answer by default.

So true, even in years past (1)

ebvwfbw (864834) | about 4 months ago | (#45633443)

I remember even back into the 1970s transit riders were about as sharp as a bowling ball with directions. Washington, NYC, etc.. Didn't seem to matter. Once in a while you might find a guy that actually know what they were doing other than tuning out everything except their stop. Don't ask for advice on how to buy a card fare. Often they can't even get that right.

And somehow we made it to the moon.

"New Research" (1)

ToddInSF (765534) | about 4 months ago | (#45634037)

Jesus, I hope we weren't on the line to pay for this "research".

Go to a new city. Just ride public transit for a few months. Then get a car.

Happened to me. The public transit routes were absolutely USELESS so far as knowing the city. They're designed that way, for economic reasons. Not laid-out so that you actually know how to get anywhere by any other method.
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