Why do buses come in threes?

A question that has been tumbling through my mind of late, is why do buses often arrive in threes? I know, it is totally random, but I’ve been trying to quantify the answer. Yes, there really is nothing else going on in my mind of late.

I first considered, just as De La Soul sang in the early nineties, that three is the magic number, perhaps the answer is simply that everything should happen in threes… though perhaps not (though three is, and always be the magic number)

Then I was thinking… why, when you are planning to get a bus, and you want bus A, do you often get to the bus stop just in time to see the previous bus drive into the distance, you didn’t know you wanted that bus, but as it leaves you are narked that it did.

Then you wait for your bus, bus A, the bus you wanted to get, the bus you planned on getting, the bus that was going to get you to your destination. You wait patiently, watching the people make their way through the mundane of their day, until you check your watch, and realise that this bus, bus A is late. You check again and realise that it is just a few minutes late, so you sit and wait longer. An hour later, knowing that all of your plans will have to be altered due to the tardiness of said transportation you peruse the timetable for alternative options.

You notice that bus B should be along soon, and it’s going in the same direction, but perhaps not as directly as bus A. You think and wonder would it do, just this once, you never know it might be fun.

You re-plan your day, bus B should arrive in ten minutes and will still get you to your destination, which you haven’t visited for a while and you are most excited to do so. It’s not perfect, you probably wouldn’t choose to take it again, but just this once, all will be fine.

Just as you are about to give up on buses altogether, you see buses A and B arrive and what’s that behind them, but bus C.

Now bus C wasn’t on your radar, you weren’t really looking for yet another transport solution, but you notice that it is one of the fancy new buses, not seen very often, and what’s more, is a fast bus direct to where you want to go.

The three buses arrive together, bus A, the one you have been waiting for, bus B, the alternative, and bus C, the one you weren’t looking for.

Now from a traffic flow point of view, and pulling a memory deep within my mass store, I seem to remember that if you have three buses each starting from the bus terminal, on the same route to a defined point (your bus stop), at a defined interval between, the following will occur;

Bus A will start, and pick up everyone from each bus stop, this constant stopping to let people on will start to make bus A late. Bus B will commence it’s journey a little later, and due to the diligence of bus A, will have to pick up fewer people, perhaps some who missed bus A. Now these shorter stops means that the time difference between bus A and B will diminish. Then bus C starts on its merry way; bus A has picked up the majority of travellers, bus B the stragglers so there are no more passengers to pick up, hence bus C travels faster, relatively speaking than buses B and A.

Still with me?

Essentially, the relative speeds of buses A, B and C are increasing, not their real speed on the road, that is the same, it is the quantity of time each takes to stop and pick up and drop off passengers that alters the relative speeds and thus concertinas up the three vehicles.

So, the question I pose you, is which bus would you get?

Bus A, the one waited for, but now late.
Bus B, the one on time, but not at the time you wanted.
Bus C, the early one, previously not considered.

I am in a cantankerous mood today and thus was wondering if it is, just sometimes, better to get on your bike…

PS, If three is anyone particularly interested in the question, Why do buses come in threes? I have found that there is a book that explains this and other such burning issues. I have however never read it, so have no clue if it will explain or further confuse.

Thank you for reading, I hope you are as confused as I am, and just so you know, I miss you, I am thinking of popping back to say hello every now and again, or perhaps feeding the habit of writing.

Who knows… watch this space xxx