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The Common (and not-so-common) Sense Etiquette of Public Transit

November 9th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
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A few months ago I became a regular public transit user. As is the case in many big cities, our buses are overcrowded and, at times, woefully behind schedule. In my few short months as a transit user, I’ve quickly adapted to the often uncomfortable conditions and I’ve learned a few things about public transit culture and etiquette.

Recently, there have been several videos surfacing showing some deplorable behaviour by the drivers employed to chauffeur the commuter masses in our nation’s capital. Commuter videos have captured cellphone use while driving, paperwork being completed while driving, and the most recent incident involving an expletive verbal assault on an autistic passenger. Clearly, these are some serious infractions that need to be investigated; however some of the public has been quick to vilify all bus drivers, and frankly I think this is just plain wrong.

Public transit drivers have a difficult job when they have to deal with hundreds, if not thousands of people on the move. It would behoove those who are quick to lash out at all drivers to remember that some passengers make their job even more difficult. While I don’t condone the aforementioned infractions, I think we all need to take a step back and look at what we as individuals can do to make public transit a more pleasant experience for everyone.

I’d like to suggest some common sense (and maybe some not-so-common sense) etiquette for passengers of public transit.

  1. Unless you’ve paid for two fares, you get only one seat. Sure, if the bus is empty feel free to put your bags on the seat next to you; however, be prepared to remove those bags as the seats fill up.
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  3. Courtesy/Priority seating is meant for passengers that may have difficulties standing for long periods of time. If you’re occupying a seat near the front of the bus and someone gets on the bus that requires the use of the seat – MOVE! Nothing ruffles my feathers more than seeing a young, able-bodied passenger completely ignore this common courtesy.
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  5. Be aware that odours you emit affect those around you. Whether it’s the lack of personal hygiene or the overabundance of perfumes and colognes, how you smell impacts other passengers. Maybe it results in mild discomfort due to your noxious odour, but for some it has far greater implications such as allergic reactions. Overcrowded transit results in crossing the boundaries of personal space, so be kind to those around you and tone down the perfume (and remember to brush those pearly whites before leaving the homestead).
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  7. The buses and trains are not a garbage can. Question: Would you toss food on your floor at home? By the end of the day, most public transit vehicles look like the morning after a frat party. Seriously, folks – use a garbage can. Can’t find one? Then take the garbage off the bus with you and find a proper receptacle to put it in. Think it’s a harmless act? Not only do rolling juice bottles create a safety hazard on an over-capacity bus, but our taxes pay people to clean up after your mess.
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  9. Don’t block the exits. Yes, it’s pretty difficult not to block an exit on an overcrowded bus, so have some common sense to move when the bus stops so that departing passengers can exit quickly. This is not only courteous; it helps to keep transit on schedule.
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  11. Turn down the volume. I’m less concerned about that fact that your hearing is going to be completely shot by the time you are forty, than I am by the fact that I’m subjected to the siren calls of Celine Dion at 7:30 in the morning. Enough said.
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  13. Tone down the language and your voice. It’s completely unnecessary for me to be able to hear every word of the conversation at the front of the bus, when I’m sitting at the back of the bus. Furthermore, the use of colourful language isn’t necessary to get your point across. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear you say those words, then don’t say them on the bus. Chances are someone else’s grandmother is on that bus, so extend the same courtesy you would to your own matriarch.
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  15. Be respectful to other passengers and your driver. Think of all the behaviours you wouldn’t want perpetrated on you and then do the opposite. Don’t like the grumpy looks of most commuters? Try getting on the bus in a pleasant mood and smile when someone makes eye contact. Be polite. It goes a long way to establishing a pleasant commute.
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  17. Don’t distract the driver. This means stay behind the designated line so as not to obstruct the driver’s view and try to avoid unnecessary conversation with the operator of the 12 tonne metal box on wheels you’re riding in. Transit operators are professional drivers, but a distraction at the wrong time can have fatal consequences.
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  19. Thank your driver. Sure there are a few bad apples in the bunch, but the majority of drivers are professional, conscientious, and polite. Transit operators are providing a service that is invaluable to your city. Sure, it might not have been the most pleasant ride, but drivers have a lot of distractions to deal with, including those both inside and outside their vehicles. Distractions that they often don’t have control over. While you are in their vehicle, your life is in their hands. So, take a moment and thank them for getting you safely to your destination.
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I’m sure there will be dissenters out there who will insist I must be in cahoots with some transit union (or married to a bus operator). Fact is – I’m not. I’m just a gal who commutes, and who has observed some very unbecoming behaviour of passengers – and, yes, some drivers. Given the recent onslaught of media coverage concerning drivers’ behaviours, and the subsequent backlash from the public – I’d like to encourage every transit user to take a moment and evaluate their own behaviour before they start pointing fingers to the operator behind the wheel. If we learn to be better passengers, we’re bound to encourage better drivers.

M. xo

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  1. March 6th, 2012 at 15:10 | #1

    The map showing ietnnsity of transit service is interesting and would be a useful resource even isolated from the discussion of employment class . However, I believe it falls on two points:1) Its weighting of streetcar service as twice as attractive as bus service. (The methodology weights streetcar and subway service higher than equivalent frequency bus service, which leads to the revelation that areas closer to streetcar and subway lines tend to have higher scores!) In the Toronto context I believe that a more effective measure would be travel speed, not vehicle type (which would still result in a premium on subway service).2) Its use of census tracts as the base measure. The census tract pattern (and the transit network) has a finer grain downtown than in the suburbs. Moreover, the suburbs are more likely to be be developed with high-density uses along the arterial network (and on the outskirts of the census tracts) and low-density uses away from the main streets (and at the centre of the census tracts). The study’s methodology measures ietnnsity of transit service related to the centre of the census tracts. This results in things like the transit ietnnsity along Finch East corridor showing up as being low or non-existent, despite being the busiest bus corridor in Toronto in terms of number of buses per hour.If Finch East shows up as low or non-existent, then the report’s suggested policy of implementing express buses / BRT along key routes would have no impact, at least on that specific map.Perhaps a better graphic depiction of accessibility would be to use walking distance to stops along the street network or public pathways, in combination with some measure of number of vehicles serving each stop (with subways weighted a little more heavily). This should be reasonably feasible to folks with a reasonable amount of GIS knowledge, using the street network and TTC stop/schedule data available at toronto.ca/open.

  2. Laura
    December 3rd, 2011 at 09:14 | #2

    BY FAR MY FAV RANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You need to come up with an etiquette list for the general public… I will post it in my lobby!!!!

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