Do You Say “Thank You” When Disembarking From Public Transit?

About 34% of all riders in Metro Vancouver do.

Translink Bus

In the August of 2011, Translink, the transit authority in Vancouver, British Columbia conducted a poll on its blog asking readers “Do you say ‘Thanks’ to bus drivers?” Only 16 of the survey’s 593 respondents, or 3%, responded that they never say “thanks” (“Friday Fun Poll“). Although the online nature of this poll creates numerous biases including self-selection and undercoverage, it served as my motivation to explore this subject in greater detail.

Research Question

Does gender play a role in the likelihood an individual will say “thank you” or “thanks” to the public transit operator when he or she disembarks from a non-articulated bus in the Metro Vancouver area?


For this study, the primary data was generated using an indirect unobtrusive measure, meaning that research subjects were not aware that the data was being collected. To ascertain the data, I boarded the #25 bus on Monday, November 10th at 1:38pm, at the first eastbound stop, the UBC bus loop, and sat near the back door, from where a majority of passengers exit. From here, I proceeded to record the gender of each passenger (male or female), the door each individual used to exit the bus (front or back), the stop the passenger disembarked at, and of course whether or not each passenger expressed gratitude when exiting the bus. All of these measures were binary with the exception of the stop name. This data collection was continued until the bus reached its last stop in Metro Vancouver, Kincaid Street at Boundary Road. Here, I switched to a westbound #25 bus departing at 2:37pm and repeated the data collection process for all passengers until UBC.

The #25 bus was selected for two reasons. It is one of only the two buses (the other being the #49) to traverse the entire East to West length of the Metro Vancouver area. Additionally, it is the only one of the two aforementioned buses that is not articulated. On articulated buses, individuals may be less likely to say thank you to the driver because of the distance from the back doors to the front of the bus. The greater number of available exits would also increase measurement error, as it would be hard for the researcher to accurately hear, see, and count passengers as they exit the longer buses.


After logging the collected data into Microsoft Excel and cleaning up the entries to ensure consistency and accuracy, it was transferred to SmStata 13.1 for analysis. The results of the survey are summarized in the following table with column percentages:

  Male Female Total
Did not express gratitude 40 (65.6%) 56 (66.7%) 96 (66.2%)
Express gratitude 21 (34.4%) 28 (33.3%) 49 (33.8%)
Total 61 84 145 (100%)

A few points of note on this table are that 33.8% of all individuals surveyed expressed gratitude when disembarking from the bus. Additionally, even before the execution of any statistical analysis, it is evident that the rate of expressing gratitude is fairly similar between males and females, at 34.4% and 33.3% respectively.

Subsequently, a chi-squared test of independence was performed on the two variables. In this experiment, the null hypothesis is that the propensity of an individual to express gratitude when disembarking from public transit is independent of the individual’s gender. The test yielded a p-value of 0.891, much higher than the predetermined significance level of α = 0.05. Consequently, there is no reasonable evidence to support the rejection of the null hypothesis.

This study therefore concludes that the likelihood of an individual saying “thanks” or “thank you” as he or she disembarks from public transit in the Metro Vancouver area is independent of said person’s gender.


One major issue with this study is the external validity, or the potential inability for the results to be generalized to larger populations, (such as all bus riders, or even all riders Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.24.39 PMon the #25 bus). This is because of the non-random sampling method utilized, and the limited sample size caused by the time and budget constraints. It is possible that bus riders at the times or on the routes selected are not representative of the average bus rider in Vancouver. For example, a bus rider in rush hour may have a different propensity to expressing gratitude when disembarking than those in the evening due to confounding variables.

Finally, there is also the chance for measurement error. As I was the only one observing individuals on the bus, it is possible that I may have systematically misheard passengers, miscounted passengers disembarking at the busier stops, or even misjudged individuals’ genders.


Curtin, Michael. “A Question of Manners: Status and gender in Etiquette and Courtesy.” The Journal of Modern History (1985): 396-423.

Deandremouse. “Re: Animated Bus Thread.” Weblog comment. Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board. N.p., 24 Feb. 2011. Web.

“Friday Fun Poll: Do You Say “Thanks” to Bus Drivers?” The Buzzer Blog. Translink, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Harris, Mary B. “When Courtesy Fails: Gender Roles and Polite Behaviors.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22.18 (1992): 1399-1416.

Mills, Sara. “Class, gender and politeness.” Multilingua 23.1-2 (2004): 171-190.

Spark: The Buzzer Blog’s Friday Fun Poll: Do you say “Thanks” to bus drivers?


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