How crowded is too crowded for MBTA passengers?
WHEN IS ENOUGH enough when it comes to crowded trains? For about 20 percent of those who ride the MBTA, apparently there is nothing that will stop them from trying to squeeze onto a packed subway car.
As transit officials try to come up with some metrics to increase rider satisfaction, focusing more on customers’ needs and less on the agency’s shortcomings, the MBTA has begun canvassing riders and hosting focus groups to find out what is important. Personal space, it seems, is one of those.
Laurel Paget-Seekins, director of strategic initiatives in the T’s Office of Performance Management and Innovation, made a presentation to the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday showing various points at which riders said they’d be uncomfortable getting on a crowded train and when they just wouldn’t even try.
The T received about 6,000 responses to an online survey that showed six different stages of crowding on a train and asked riders to gauge their comfort level. Meanwhile, with a number of small focus groups, the T marked off a square meter on the floor using tape and asked people to step into the marked area until they were no longer willing to do so.
According to the results, nearly everyone would be comfortable boarding a train holding up to 1 person per square meter. But after that, the tension escalates. Nearly 30 percent said they’d be uncomfortable with an average of 1.06 people per square meter while about 9 percent said they wouldn’t board at that level of crowding.
More than 80 percent said they would be uncomfortable if there was an average of 1.67 people in the square meter, and that rose to nearly 100 percent at each level after that, up to 6.29 people crammed into a 40-inch-by-40-inch square. But that wouldn’t necessarily stop them from getting on.While 98 percent of those surveyed said they’d be uncomfortable being one of three people in that square meter, only about one-third said they would not try to board. When the sardine quotient hits more than 6 per square meter, most people finally say enough and more than 80 percent would not try to board.
A determined 18 percent of respondents said nothing would stop them from trying to get on.