But Grand Central, for years now, has relied on a system meant to mitigate, if not prevent, all the crazy. It is this: The times displayed on Grand Central’s departure boards are wrong — by a full minute. This is permanent. It is also purposeful.
The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they’re about to miss can actually be dangerous — to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains’ posted departure times. That minute of extra time won’t be enough to disconcert passengers too much when they compare it to their own watches or smartphones … but it is enough, the thinking goes, to buy late-running train-catchers just that liiiiiitle bit of extra time that will make them calm down a bit. Fast clocks make for slower passengers. “Instead of yelling for customers to hurry up,” the Epoch Times notes, “the conductors instead tell everyone to slow down.”
Not everyone is going to equilibrate, just the regulars. But that’s exactly what you want. If you set the clock right then everyone is rushing to the train just when its departing. If you set the clock 1 minute off and everyone equilibrates then still everyone rushes to the train when its departing.
The system works because some of the people adjust to the clock and others don’t. So the rush is spread over two minutes rather than one.