Why Do Two Buses Arrive at My Stop at Once?

Shaunacy Ferro
iStock / iStock

Anyone who relies on public transportation has endured a seemingly endless wait for a city bus. Then, suddenly, one bus rounds the corner … followed immediately by another, and sometimes by a third or even a fourth. Why can’t buses stay evenly spaced throughout their route so passengers can avoid having to wait an extra 20 minutes for a ride?

Lewis Lehe, a transportation engineering Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, built a video game to explain this phenomenon, which is called bus bunching. The whimsical animation allows you to play Transportation God, delaying buses at your leisure. After only a few delays on one bus route, the two buses begin to get closer and closer. If you pause a few extra seconds to pick up someone running for the bus, or to allow a hoard of passengers to exit through the front door, or to let down the wheelchair boarding ramp, pretty soon you’ve got two buses stuck together, leaving the rest of the passengers on the route waiting. And waiting.

Play it here

[h/t: Flowing Data]