Public Transit Etiquette

Public transportation is one of my favorite things about living in a city. It’s easy, eco-friendly, cheaper than driving a car, involves sitting in little to no traffic, and doesn’t require me to be fully awake during my morning commute. All of which are extremely good things. Of course, this does vary somewhat depending on where you live, what your options are, and how efficient your public transportation system is. But it’s been pretty great in all the places I’ve lived, which is essential for me since I can’t drive a car, anyway.

There are, however, some unspoken rules of behavior – etiquette if you will – that should be followed to the best of one’s ability. They are as follows:

Walk on the left, stand on the right.

In a city that is as fast paced as mine, many people move through public transportation hubs like they have the world on their shoulders. They have places to be and people to see; it’s just a fact of their lives. To ensure that these oh-so-important people get to where they need to go, (without barreling over anyone) the city has adopted a method for keeping them in motion as much as humanly possible: walk on the left side of the escalator and stand on the right. Its polite and efficient to stand on the correct side when taking public transportation, so please do it. And dear god help you if you stand on the wrong side; you’ll feel the eye-daggers hitting your back the entire way down.

Give up your seat.

To pregnant women and the infirm that is. I wish that I could say I learned this good behavior from my own upbringing, but I didn’t. I was on a trip in Bermuda, taking a public bus across the island, when I saw firsthand how ingrained it was in the culture to allow the children and elderly to sit before anyone else. I stood on that bus for an hour and a half, even though my arms hurt from holding the handle above my head, because it wasn’t appropriate for me to sit when others would have had more difficulty standing than I did.  If you’re headed to the end of the subway line it can be very tempting to hold onto your seat for the entire 30 minute plus ride. Trust me, I’ve been there. But if a woman is visibly pregnant or someone is clearly injured, it’s common curtesy to offer them your seat. As someone who has been on both sides of the aisle (injured leg, not pregnant), it irritates me to no end when people don’t make the effort, mostly because it’s so simple. Think of it like your good deed for the day; it’s easy as pie and it makes a big difference to the other person.

Offer directions.

Being a native of your city comes with certain privileges as well as responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to offer directions to people who are lost. I run into this issue a lot more during tourist season, but it happens all the time, especially if you’re passing through a major transit hub. If you see someone who is very obviously struggling to figure out the transit map, or just can’t figure out which stop to get off at, offer them your assistance. It will take you two minutes to help them. And as a bonus, they’re likely to go home thinking a bit more highly of your city after you do.

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