Traveller has always allocated what many have considered generous amounts of space for crew quarters when compared to say the living accommodation of the average sailor in any of the world’s navies. This has often been compounded by ship deck-plans with the wrong scale or with large amounts of open space and artwork that bears only a tenuous resemblance to the ship design. So let’s examine the evidence.
First let’s try and convert the standard units used to something we can visualise. Traveller star ships and components are measured in Displacement Tons, which doesn’t exactly tell you much. A displacement ton is 500 cubic feet or approximately an 8ft cube. That is the size of a very small room in a house.
A standard shipping container, a train carriage or a bus is about 8ft wide, so think of a section of train carriage or a bus that is just 8 ft long and you have a reasonable mental image of a displacement ton.
A Traveller stateroom is nominally 4 DTs which is about the same size as a single deck of a routemaster (London) bus. Sound quite generous? There is a twist: only half of the 4 DTs is assigned to the actual cabin, the rest is allocated to corridors and common areas. If you are not senior command staff or travelling first class you share a stateroom. Your allocated stateroom space is equivalent to a single 8ft cube. Still sound generous?
Now imagine that you have to live in that amount of space for at least ten days at a time. It’s not as if you can go outside for a breath of fresh air. You are stuck with your fellow crew or passengers 24 hours a day for the entire journey. Your total allocated space that you spend your life in is less than the size of a single garage.
It gets worse… If you are in the Terran Navy then they are trying to compete with a much larger enemy. So crew space is cut back to the bone to get more fighting capability out of their limited budget. Most crew live in bunkrooms. These are half the size of staterooms and hold up to 10 people, though there is usually at least 20% excess capacity for mission flexibility. This is an eighth to a tenth the living space that a crewman in a stateroom gets. Do you still want to be an astronaut?
The argument for "large" staterooms is not driven a woolly concept of being nice. Consider that modern western navies have recruitment problems. They are struggling to attract professional level staff partly due to the cramped conditions they are asked to endure. Professional staff want executive accommodation and if they don’t get it they will be much less likely to enlist or having tried what is on offer wont reenlist. Already significant concessions are being made in this area in real world navies.
Not convinced real navies would do this? Check out the accommodation on the new Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyers. The 2 officer 2-berth cabin and the junior rates 4-berth cabin look a lot like Traveller staterooms and bunkrooms.
Considering that Traveller is set several thousand years in the future and even the Interstellar Wars period is over a hundred years in the future then … perhaps the Traveller staterooms are too small?