Thursday, September 21, 2006

Criteria for choosing an open seat on BART

Blogger/Commenter Concord Commuter made a VERY INTERESTING point in the comment section. The comment says...

I have often wondered what criteria people choose when selecting which row of seats to share, as often I will see people zero in on a particular spot. I don't really have a criteria, I just go to the first available seat that is not immediately near the doors.

This comment got me thinking a little bit about just how people choose seats. To me, it's an intricate thought process that must take place within 3 seconds or less!! Call me weird but choosing the best BART seat takes experience: one gets better at picking the best seat faster after years of riding BART!

This is how I do it. I take my first glance at the "seat situation" as the train arrives. I look closely through the window as the train slows down at the station to see if there are any empty spaces between heads. Then I keep track of which side of my particular cart has more empty spaces and position my body to walk into the train that way. As I approach the emtpy seats, I try to quickly evaluate the "quality" of the passenger I would be seated next to. By quality, I purely mean cleanliness, size and general physical and mental health. The next evaluation is aisle seat availability- I prefer these seats over window seats- I need my space, what can I say? Then, if there is time and choice left, I pick the available aisle seat that have cleaner upholstery.

I do all that within 3 seconds of walking into the train. It's become second nature. This usually only happens if I leave work around 4pm and get on the train from Civic Center (where the train isn't as packed yet.) In other occasions, I am lucky if I get a seat. But sometimes, standing is much better than sitting next to someone with undesirable qualities.


rafael said...

Wow. I'm impressed i never put that much thought into where I sit. If I can get on the 558pm train heading to the sf airport there is always a seat. The next train after that is packed. I'll follow your strategy next time i miss my 558pm train

Anonymous said...

The other point you missed is which direction to sit in. It depends on the seasons and time of day and where the sun is going to be. Basically, in the summer mornings you should always sit in the direction of travel to SF. In the afternoons to Pitts, again sit in the direction of travel but on the right side only. Winter is different, since often it is foggy in the morning, the side or direction often doesn't matter. Same with going home, it's often dark already so it doesn't matter.

ConcordCommuter said...

Wow, fame at last!

I never realized that there could be so much strategy. Of course it does make a lot of sense, where you decide to sit could make the difference between a typical mundane train ride, or 45 minutes of misery.

I guess I should consider myself lucky, however. Most of the time when I leave Concord in the morning, it is the 7:52 train which is one of the "commuter specials" that turns around at Concord, so I can have any seat in the car. I come home via Civic Center around 4:45-5:00 so seats are also not a problem.

I guess that is one advantage to having a longer commute.