lyness.io Thoughts go in, words come out.

Popular activities on the daily commute

Premise

Which activity is the most popular on an average daily commute? Some people read books or newspapers, some tap away on their phones, and some try to catch a last few minutes of sleep before their day of work begins. But which do people do the most – and does this change as the week goes on?

Over the past year or so I’ve been observing people on my daily commute between Greenwich and the City of London on the DLR. Now, with over 11,000 data points, I’m ready to give some answers.

Caveats

Selection bias will be present in the collected data due to only recording data on the specific DLR route during peak travel times, and only from the carriages near to where I tended to board the train on my commute.

Also, after data collection started, I realised that it would also be interesting to compare statistics for the outbound morning journey with the return evening journey each day. However, I decided not to segregate the data since it would make all data collected up to that point (approximately 2,000 data points) unusable.

Results

First – what do people, overall, do the most on their commute? The results are a little surprising.

Most popular commuter activities

I was also interested in the daily trend of different activities – for example, do people read more often earlier in the week? In the chart below, each activity is broken down by day (Monday through Friday).

Weekly trend of commuter activities

The raw data for the above charts is displayed below.

Day Activity Proportion
Monday Doing nothing 33.6%
  Listening to music 15.3%
  Using a phone 15.3%
  Reading a newspaper or magazine 21.9%
  Reading a book 2.2%
  Talking 11.0%
  Sleeping 0.7%%
Tuesday Doing nothing 38.0%
  Listening to music 18.5%
  Using a phone 17.6%
  Reading a newspaper or magazine 13.0%
  Reading a book 4.6%
  Talking 4.6%
  Sleeping 3.7%
Wednesday Doing nothing 35.5%
  Listening to music 14.5%
  Using a phone 14.5%
  Reading a newspaper or magazine 14.5%
  Reading a book 14.5%
  Talking 5.3%
  Sleeping 1.3%
Thursday Doing nothing 31.6%
  Listening to music 25.0%
  Using a phone 17.1%
  Reading a newspaper or magazine 13.2%
  Reading a book 10.5%
  Talking 1.3%
  Sleeping 1.3%
Friday Doing nothing 25.9%
  Listening to music 15.0%
  Using a phone 19.7%
  Reading a newspaper or magazine 15.5%
  Reading a book 9.3%
  Talking 11.9%
  Sleeping 2.6%

Conclusions

  • On average, one in three people (33%) do absolutely nothing on their daily commute other than stare into space. This peaks on Tuesday (38%) and drops off through the week to around one in four people (26%) on Friday – it seems people are more interested in doing something rather than nothing on their commute as the week goes on.
  • Thursday is the most popular day for listening to music – maybe all the best albums are released on a Wednesday? Or maybe people just need something upbeat to get them closer to the end of the week…
  • While on average 16% of people read a newspaper or magazine, on Monday there is a noticeable peak of 22% – far above the rest of the week. This makes sense – people are catching up on news that broke over the weekend.
  • Monday and Friday are arguably the noisiest days on the train – my guess is that people are either talking about what they did the previous weekend, or what they’re going to do on the following weekend.
  • Finally, Monday nights and Thursday nights seem to be when most people are out late – given the larger numbers of people sleeping on the train on Tuesdays and Fridays!