Wait/walk dilemma

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Waiting girl sculpture at a bus stop in Aachen, Germany

The wait/walk dilemma occurs when waiting for a bus at a bus stop, when the duration of the wait may exceed the time needed to arrive at a destination by another means, especially walking. Some work on this problem was featured in the 2008 "Year in Ideas" issue of The New York Times Magazine.[1]


The dilemma has been studied in an unpublished report entitled "Walk Versus Wait: The Lazy Mathematician Wins".[2][3] Anthony B. Morton's paper "A Note on Walking Versus Waiting" supports and extends Chen et al.'s results.[4] Ramnik Arora's "A Note on Walk versus Wait: Lazy Mathematician Wins" discusses what he believes to be some of the errors in Chen et al.'s argument; the result of Chen et al.'s paper still holds following Arora's alleged corrections.[5]

Harvard mathematics major Scott D. Kominers first began fixating on the problem while walking from MIT to Harvard,[2] which are more than a mile apart in Cambridge, Massachusetts along MBTA bus route 1. He enlisted the help of Caltech physics major Justin G. Chen and Harvard statistics major Robert W. Sinnott to perform the analysis.[2]

Their paper concludes that it is usually mathematically quicker to wait for the bus, at least for a little while. But once made, the decision to walk should be final, as opposed to waiting again at subsequent stops.[2][1]

A broader application of the principle is applied to generation ships.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Clive (2008-12-13). "The Bus-Wait Formula". The New York Times Magazine: Year in Ideas. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bierman, Noah (2008-02-03). "Cellphones remain mum in tunnels". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ "Lazy option is best when waiting for the bus". New Scientist Magazine. 2008-01-23. 
  4. ^ Morton (2008-02-25). "A Note on Walking Versus Waiting". arXiv:0802.3653Freely accessible [math.HO]. 
  5. ^ Ramnik Arora (2008-03-21). "A Note on Walk versus Wait: Lazy Mathematician Wins". arXiv:0803.3106Freely accessible [math.HO]. 

External links[edit]