Tylor BenedettoJanelle BradyDecember 23, 2018Analyzing Social SettingsPublic TransitIntroduction: In this social setting analysis, we will be observing the social setting and structure of the rapid public transit. It is the one place where people of all social classes and backgrounds come together, even if it is for a small portion of ones day. We will be specifically looking at the three major forms of public transit including the subway, bus and streetcar; the interaction patterns and interpersonal interaction rituals in these specific social settings.Methodology: Taking a qualitative approach, entering as a participant observer, I placed myself into a rather familiar place. Living in a fairly rural area and enrolled at the school of design; traveling to and from the downtown core takes nearly four hours every single day. It happens to be an exceptional place for subtle observation. There’s only so much to do as you’re speeding down a one-way tunnel. However, unlike most days, I specifically took the role of observing this environment, as a regular passenger. Results: On the morning commute, we see blue collar workers in their hoodies and steel-toe boots next to well-dressed people reading the morning paper, however, they didn’t all get on at the same stop, nor will they get off at the same stop. First we are on the VIVA Blue down Yonge line to finch station, we notice the bus shelter conveniently placed at a high traffic area in the small town I live in – most people who commute downtown use this stop as its a one way straight to finch: the start of the subway line. The fare terminal is placed beside the shelter and the PRESTO tap machine is placed inside the shelter. As we wait for the bus to arrive, it is almost has if people take turns peaking out to see if the bus is coming. On all types of transit, the priority seating for the elderly, pregnant women and disabled, are always located at the front or beside the door. This adds a level of accessibility to more than just the average person, who does not fall in those categories. The bus ride to finch station is a straight away down Yonge Street, one of the most demographically dense streets. People of all classes live at various intersections; every few stops the demographic and class of passengers boarding changes, this is the same for all modes of public transportation. No matter the time of day, you are going to be surrounded by people of all social classes.As you arrive at Finch; it’s a terminal station meaning you have the option to switch to the various methods of transportation to get to your destination. As you walk into the station, traveling down a large staircase or escalator and find yourself channeled, all heading in one direction. The layout of the subway has changed over the years and the only remaining communication may be when one is purchasing their fair but thanks to the introduction of PRESTO an electronic fare payment system passengers are now able to tap a card and proceed to their destination, each mode of transit observed PRESTO has been implemented.. successfully modernizing the transit system and channeling people to their destination faster than ever before. You no longer stand in line, possibly engaging in social interactions you are sent straight to your destination.After paying for your fare, you are allowed past the gates then channeled again down a second set of stairs or escalators, around you is a multitude of art, advertisements and people. The subway, much like the forms of public transit, keeps random people together in a contained, observable setting. It’s a perfect rolling laboratory for the study of human behaviour. Once inside, there is usually waiting to do. Eating and drinking is not allowed on most busses, however you will find many taking part in an after work snack, so if you have to wait for your train, there is not much to keep you entertained. Every station is designed differently, using various forms of art that pertains to the history and most definitely, the economy of that area. Tiled art and creative benches are a standard in each station. The various forms of wall art and advertisements keeps people from focusing on each other or making any uncomfortable eye contact. In such a stuffy, dark area, it seems important not to encourage people to look or interact with others. Once we are on the train, the seating shows you clearly that the train may run one way or the other, as the seats face both directions. You’ve reached your stop and as you head up those stairs, you pass the fare gate we once we saw at Finch. Our behaviour becomes much less controlled and guided outside the station as we are off towards our final destinations.Interaction Patterns: Most people can board a subway, take their position among the other passengers, and behave as a passenger, even if they have never been on a train before. This is because the social structure shapes and constrains passengers behaviour in highly predictable ways. For example, what would happen if someone boarded a subway and decided to take a disruptive approach? Many would stare, some would move away or even approach this individual. In this day and age, the situation would most definitely find its way onto the internet: most already have their phones out. It is this social structure that constrains and makes passengers act in predictable ways. Many of us are accustomed to the saying and social norm, no matter your culture or background, speaking to strangers is not something that one should take part in and is shunned upon. Public transit, for many, is the one place and for some, the only place where we are surrounded by strangers of all social classes and backgrounds. It is this norm that hinders the possibility of social interaction in public transit as many would rather be safe than sorry, distracting themselves till they reach the destination ahead. The art and advertisements that decorate the inner portion of public transit, keep people from focusing on each other in such a congested place. It acts as an aid for many, to avoid eye contact or any room for potential social interactions. It was seen time and time again, from the more formally dressed people immersed in the morning paper, to students listening to music or playing Candy Crush on their devices, to the little old lady reading every single advertisement in sight. Everyone has one goal in mind and on public transit, it is the end destination.Much like table etiquette, there are a set of unspoken rules on public transit, such as moving down when there is more space so other passengers can stand, or offering your seat to someone who looks like they could use it more than you, and most importantly, not taking up the priority seating if you don’t fall into the category. Sociological Discussion/Analysis: Public transit, first and foremost, has an incredible passenger turnover, thousands of people commuting back and forth, to and from work, or to any other destination in and around the city. On transit, a fare payment needs to be made in order to travel from point A to point B, it is also required that you get a transfer if you are crossing over from one subway line to another, or one bus to another.Despite the massive amount of people that use public transition, interactions amongst passengers are little to none. Why do people feel the need to distract themselves on public transit? It is possible that people do not feel the need to interact, considering that the purpose of this social setting is strictly transportation. However, the occasional moment when there is an interaction, it is likely due to a brief comment to one another about the following things: the weather or traffic or something one of the other passengers may be doing that caught their attention. Possibly even a comment about how crowded the streetcar is today, but really – the streetcars during rush hour are hardly fathomable. But nevertheless, surrounded by everyone from the working class, to students and the elderly, the lack of communication seems to be pointed to a few things. As a designer, this detail stood out – the layout. For example, in the VIVA bus, the seats are facing each other, this promotes friendly conversation, even if it is brief. I’ve been on the receiving end of a spontaneous conversation and if it weren’t for this seating arrange, who is to say that would have been the case? In the TTC busses and even in the subway, the seats are back to back or are facing the same way. You’re seated in a row of three or four, and the distance is too far in between for conversations to successfully happen. People standing however, manage to converse more, due to the inability to be seated or to stand anywhere else because of the lack of space. Seating arranges may have a part to play in the lack of passenger interactions, because the designers of these modes of transportation are not focused on increasing passengers ability to socialize amongst each other, but rather the efficiency of transporting passengers.When it comes to the layout, maximizing passenger capacity outweighs the need to improve on the social dynamics of public transit. The focus is always improving how we get from one place to the next, no matter how long or short the trip may be. However, being forced to sit uncomfortably close to a stranger definitely adds to the avoidance and increase of stress levels leading to little to no social interaction. If interactions do occur, a few general things you may here that between passengers consist of a obvious set of manners to practice like ‘excuse me’, ‘sorry’, ‘would you like to sit down?’ and ‘thank you/no thank you’, however, some people do not exercise those manners and some people react to that lack of consideration. Occasionally, someone that is new to travelling on public transit, may ask around about whether or not this is the right bus/train/streetcar they should be on and if it will them to their point B. But unless you’re accompanied by someone, it is highly unlikely that you will be striking up a full blown conversation, due to the excessive amount of distracted passengers. We simply fall in and out of the norms – it has become routine to keep your head down and no engage in any potential conversation. Does it make people feel safer? Or does it create a subtle social divide we don’t realize we’re making? Conclusion: In conclusion, most people can board a subway and take their position among the other passengers, and behave as a passenger, even if they have never been on a train before. This is because the social structure shapes and constrains passengers behaviour in highly predictable ways. We simply fall in and out of the norms – it has become routine to keep your head down and not to engage in any potential conversation. Other than the odd in-direct communication, like taking turns at the bus stop to see if the bus is on its way to letting the little old lady standing, sit in your spot. I learned that this social setting and structure is what shapes the way people act but at the same time, pushes people to not engage in direct communication.