Please Do Not Form An Orderly Line

2012-boston-red-line-harvard-2011

If you wander out near Market Street in downtown San Francisco at approximately 5:30 PM, you will be confronted by a strange sight. On every street corner you will see business professionals standing in a perfectly straight line, waiting for the bus. The line is orderly, evenly-spaced, and calm.
 
Descend into the BART station and you will find a similar sight – even, orderly lines by each rectangle on the ground that indicates where a door will open. Each line is on the same side of each rectangle and extends in the same direction.
 
Now transport yourself to the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. You see a mixed crowd of Berklee School musicians, young business professionals, and shoppers all waiting for the Route 1 bus. This unwieldy mass gives no indication of who has been waiting the longest. When the bus arrives, the crowd will quickly jam themselves into a bottleneck by the entrance.
 
The same thing is happening directly underneath them in Copley Station, where crowds waiting to take the Green Line to Boston’s western suburbs stand scattered on the platform. There are no rectangles in the floor to indicate where the train will stop. As it pulls up, the eyes of the passengers wave along with their bodies as they try to anticipate where the train will stop and beat everyone else to the spot.

Order begets order. Chaos begets chaos.

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