Since I moved to Vienna, a mystery has haunted me.

I’m riding on the U3 in the direction of Simmering. As I arrive at Stephansplatz, where I will switch to the U1 in the direction of Leopoldau, I observe the following behaviour in certain of my fellow passengers: they run for it.

Initially, I attributed this to the fact that they must simply be the types who are always running for it – always in such a hurry that, to them, it’s worth running for the U1 train just in case one is standing at the platform awaiting some riders to board the carriage.

But then I noticed that, without fail, these runners would make it to the U1 train just as it arrived or was standing with open doors. Somehow, these runners knew that the train was there. And as the train whirred and swooshed into the tunnel and the sign blinked to announce the next wait interval, the runners were smug – a bit sweaty — and en route.

This perplexes me.

I have examined the platform, and I have yet to notice a sign that indicates the time and direction of any U1 trains for passengers disembarking from the U3 trains. I have not figured out any clear visual line of sight that would allow me to see a U1 train on the platform. I have asked others who do not run: how do they know? Nobody has an answer, although some have suggested that the people know the schedule. However, this seems an unsatisfactory answer.

I am a massively efficient commuter. I pre-walk the platform to get myself close to the transfer or exit point. I walk between bus stops to avoid stopping. I like it when I have to run for each transit vehicle on a given commute, because this means I have travelled as quickly as possible and eliminated all platform and Haltstelle waits.

So my question: how do these runners divine the fact that, if they run, they’ll catch the U1? How do these clairvoyant Ubahn riders surpass even the Clydesdale commuter?

7 Comments so far

  1. ben (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

    Three ideas:

    1)Natural Selection.

    Those who can’t predict the presence of a train don’t run.

    2)The trains seems to follow a pretty tight schedual, these people may just know by time or by taking this path every day.

    3)They could be like me, impatient Americans, always in a rush with too much to do.

  2. danieloquence (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

    the viennese have a different stress-level than anyone else on this planet. there seems to be a voice in their heads constantly saying “you may be late…LATE…RUN!!! you may have to wait for another TWO MINUTES for the next train!!!!!”. i’m viennese myself and i hate this behavior in public transport. vienna has the tightest running schedule for public transport in any city i’ve been in, so i am usually quite fond of waiting a bit. life stresses me out as it is ;)

  3. scotty (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 8:55 am

    While I appreciate the comments, I don’t believe the answers. You see, when people *don’t* run, there’s no train. I mean, it’s like they can *smell* it coming.

    I noticed that there is a wind generated by an approaching train that can be felt from the U3 platform. But still, I don’t believe that’s the source of the “hurry” mode.

  4. richardrj (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 9:43 am

    I’ve been known to do this myself from time to time. I think it’s because I know and accept the workings of Murphy’s Law. If I hurry, I’ll just catch a train. If I don’t, I’ll just miss one. And I hate arriving at the platform to see a train just pulling away, even if there is another one in three minutes.

  5. stuff (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Sorry to disappoint you, but it is as easy at it seams, the runners just know the schedule of the trains, there is no mystery involved.

    I used to be a runner when I was a school kid and I knew (cause of the schedule) when to hurry and when there was enough time to walk slowly.

    Maybe we viennese do that because 10-20 years ago there were much longer intervals between two trains, especially on the S-Bahn.

  6. melancolia (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

    stuff is right. more or less, the trains, trams and buses follow the schedule chart posted on the walls or the poles of any stop/station. am not a viennese nor a clairvoyant, but after almost six years of living here and due to my Schwiegermutter’s advice, notably, as my Mann is appalled at taking a public transport, to take a note (even by jotting it down or memorising how long is the interval that’s written there), i’ve become acquainted with the viennese commuters. the viennese/austrians don’t have sixth sense, it has become part of their commuting habit.

  7. Jurie Horneman (unregistered) on December 23rd, 2006 @ 11:59 am

    Yup. Schedule. It used to be that if you took the U1 from Kagran to Stephansplatz, you could make the U3 going to Westbahnhof, if you ran (up the stairs of course, it is faster and less stressful than the escalators). That no longer works, or perhaps I now take that particular combination of trains at a different time of day. I am not Viennese ;) You just find this out and try to shave some seconds off of your commute, just like knowing which part of the train to get into. (Hands up if you’ve ever changed cars multiple times during a trip because you couldn’t get in in the right car right away :))

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