Chris Mueller – Visualmotive

Thoughts on maps and visualization

Walk or Bus?

Should you walk or take the bus?

Should you walk or take the bus?

It is intuitive that when you have a short distance to travel it is always faster to walk than wait around for a bus. But exactly how long should you wait? We decided to do some calculations to find out.

Click here to see Walk or Bus? and discover for yourself how long you should be willing to wait for a bus.

If you remember this rule of thumb you ought to get along just fine:

If you have N blocks to travel, you should only wait for the bus if it is less than N minutes away.

Of course, if you have a bike, you should probably use that instead. 🙂

Feel free to leave your questions or comments.

Link: Walk or Bus?

Sep 28, 2009

Category: Visualization



  1. Ben says:

    Would be neat if you included “or bike” in the chart.

  2. Nathan says:

    Great tool!

  3. Ryan says:

    Great always needed this.

  4. wth says:

    wth, ‘great tool!’ and ‘Great always needed this.’????

    So, you guys are printing this chart and taking that always with you. At a bus stop, you take the chart and you start looking to determine whether to wait for the bus or to walk?

    You guys don’t think there are way to many variables to consider that too heavily impact the chart to be actually useful?
    – average blocksize 310 feet? (what happens if an average block is 400 feet?)
    – average bus speed 30 mph (what happens if there is a congestion and the bus can travel only 10 mph?)
    – what happens if the bus is a few minutes late?

    Damn, this must be a theonion page

  5. Nathan says:

    @wth Clearly there are plenty of variables that could influence the exact breaking point at which it becomes quicker to walk vs. take the bus, as you so generously pointed out. But, *in general*, this will definitely help me decide whether it’s worth sitting around or taking a walk.

    One need not carry around a printed version of the chart, you can just remember the ‘rule of thumb’ stated above.

  6. Rich says:

    Yeah i don’t agree with the very first one.
    If you have 1 block to travel and it is 1 minute away…you have to either walk a block(not far at all) OR
    Wait a minute for the bus
    Wait for the bus to top and open the door
    Board the bus
    Wait for everyone to board
    Wait as the bus takes you a block.
    Wait for the bus to stop
    Wait for the bus to open door
    Wait for people to get off the bus in front of you

  7. Thanks everyone for your feedback.

    @Rich and @wth Agreed, there are clearly dozens of other variables we could be using to provide a clearer picture of which is faster. The algorithm is based purely on assumed travel speeds as indicated.

  8. Marc says:

    Make this into a shirt! Then I will have it with me while deciding to walk or bus.

  9. We just updated the chart to use an average speed of 15mph rather than 30mph. This is in line with estimates we’ve seen on several authoritative transit websites as well as anecdotal evidence from a number of commentors. Thanks everyone for your feedback!

  10. This is a great little tool – it would be even better if we could have a mobile version of it somehow, so that we can use it on the go (iPhone optimized would be nice!)

  11. John Russell says:

    Why is it that everyone seems to assume that there are 17 blocks to a mile? It doesn’t make sense. All of Oregon and Washington were platted based off of the same baseline and meridian, and most of the time there are exactly 20 blocks to the mile. This is true in both Portland and Seattle. It makes it very easy for distance calculations, especially since it takes one minute to walk a block. Elsewhere, another common number is 16 blocks to the mile, but never 17.

  12. […] wonder whether you would be better off walking rather than waiting for the next bus? A chart by Visualmotive may be of help. The rule of thumb, according to Visualmotive, is that “if you have N blocks […]

  13. Steve Bush says:

    Hey, neat article. Of course, it helps if one lives in a city like SF which has GPS/internet enabled buses so you CAN know when they will arrive! (Da*m I **love** on my iPhone, couldn’t live without it! Speaking of great visual charts, their explanation page is a great example of very understandable scientific explanations:

    Way long ago I worked on a simulation to study a new monorail proposal. We actually did model time for door to open, different number of people in line at various times of day, acceleration and deceleration figures, what would happen on rainy days, the works.

    An iPhone app or java’d website is suggested here. Can u get to the Muni GPS database? Would be even neater to have it right inside google map for iPhone. But once into an app, we could do any amount of algebra!

    Recently, google map said it would only take me a few minutes to get to a place a few hundred meters away. What it didn’t know was that the route was almost straight up! Hardest climb I’ve ever seen! Another variable to add to our model!! I wonder what is the optimal route around a 3D cosine function “hill” if you optimize not distance but “human calories”. Something like Snell’s law maybe, if you were a light beam which way would you go? We’d need to know how much harder (in terms of burned calories or maybe in terms of “perceived effort”) various angles are for average (or overweight) humans. I suspect walking up a 10 degree slope is harder than level ground by more than a factor of 1/cos(10)! Googled for that but see no studies or data… Oh well, not everyone is as nuts as some of us!

    OK, gotta go now. I think I see my bus coming!