Talk to someone on the bus/train
I usually enjoy meeting new people. One of the easiest AND hardest places to do this is on public transit. If you take the same route every day or if you are on a longer distance trip this can sometimes be a little easier. Often times other commuters will have their "shields" in place. This can take several forms. Earbuds in, eyes closed. Nose buried in a book, appearance of sleeping, etc. Sometimes these are outward signs of wanting to be left alone. Would you want some random person interrupting you just as the book was getting good? But other times these are just defense mechanisms. It can be hard to tell the difference.
Other times you will see the folks who either have their gaze locked out the window, at the ceiling at the floor, or reading the same poster over and over again. These may be more approachable.
As an introvert who still enjoys talking to others, here are some conversation openers I've used in the past.
Would polite conversation help or hurt the image below? You decide. Ignore the arms that don't look quite right.
1. Haven't I seen you on here before?
Works best for commuters who are frequently on the same route. If you recognize the person, they likely recognize you as well. This makes it more natural.
2. Is it OK if I sit here?
A classic that is often appropriate. But what do you do if they say no?
3. You can ask for directions.
This obviously won't work if you both ride the same route frequently
4. We're on this same train all the time. Might as well have someone to talk to.
This is a very straight forward request. It states a common fact that both parties can readily agree on. And it makes it clear that you are interested in at least a brief conversation. But I don't believe that it comes across as rude or pushy.
5. How far are you going?
This works best for long distance multi-stop routes. Think inter-city bus or train.
6. I thought maybe you would like this?
Perhaps you've finished a paperback. Or have an extra unopened bottle of water.
7. Have you been on this route before? Anything I should know.
Again, better for long distance routes.
8. Ask a question about something specific that you notice about them.
Are you interested in the book they are reading? Is the gentleman wearing a military field jacket with unit patches that interest you? Are they wearing a brand or type of clothing you've been meaning to buy.
Most people like talking about themselves. Now you are providing them the opportunity.
9. I'm sorry I'm intruding into your space.
I've used this mostly on flights. It is more appropriate for some than for others. At 6'3+ and right at 300lbs I am not a petite soul. By acknowledging that to a seat mate I'm stating the obvious, letting them know that I get it and simply sound more human.
10. Ask them about your destination.
"Hey, this is my first trip to ___________. Where would recommend I go first?
11. We all know the stereotypes.
Don't be the annoying traveler that never shuts up. You have to be able to recognize social cues. But don't be afraid to interact with your fellow commuters / travelers. You never know.