Public Service Announcement:
This one’s for the rush hour commuter, the city girl/guy, and all those who value their personal space and sanity.
The unspoken rules of public transportation are something I’ve picked up over years of trains, busses, and cable cars from San Francisco, to LA, Boston, and even Paris. I recently posed the question of what should be included in my list over on my Instagram stories, and it was clear that I hit a nerve with fellow city dwellers who felt just as strongly about the subject as I did.
Read on to see my top public transportation etiquette to make all of our lives easier, cleaner, and a little less stressful.
The Unspoken Rules of Public Transportation
- Don’t lean on or wrap your entire body on the pole: Yes, I know it’s easier to type on your phone with 2 hands. Just remember that 10 other people can be holding on to that pole if you’re not leaning on it.
- Ok but still hold on to the poles: Now’s not the time to be a hero, Billy. Don’t try to train surf or look cool attempting to balance without holding the poles. Unless you’re a seasoned commuter vet or pro surfer, this will not go well for any of us, and you will feel super awkward when the train stops short and you inevitably crash into at least 3 people.
- Move into the train (don’t huddle around the doors): Picture this – it’s rush hour. You’ve had a long day at work, and your train finally pulls up to your station. Unfortunately you can’t physically get onto your train because everyone is packed in like sardines around the doors. Looking into the train, you can see plenty of room further in, away from/in between the doors. If commuters would spread out further into the train instead of huddling around the doors, there would be room for more people to get on the train via these doors.
- Take off your backpack: Your backpack takes up more room than it needs to. It will bump into people unnecessarily as you turn one way or another (yes it will). Be considerate and hold it until you’re off the train.
- Cover your sneezes/coughs: I’m filing this one under we-shouldn’t-have-to-ask. Countless times, I’ve seen people openly sneeze on others, or into their hands and then immediately grab a nearby pole with said hand. This one could really help keep viruses away on a big scale, which could even save lives for the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.
- Let folks off the train before trying to board: This one should be a no-brainer, but I see it multiple times a day. Even if you’ve been waiting forever for your train, let people get off the train before you try to barge on. Trust me, this will be easier for all involved and a lot less awkward. Similarly, if you’re getting on the front and are paying in cash or are still getting your pass out (or any other way for you to take much longer to board), let others get on first. This is common sense that doesn’t seem so common.
- Maintain civility when boarding: I’m gonna be honest, one of the main times I lose faith in humanity is watching what happens when a train pulls up during rush hour. Forget chivalry, all civility goes out the window. I’ve seen grown adults cut off and elbow others to get onto the train. Yikes! We’re all trying to get on our trains but let’s try to keep some baseline respect for each other.
- Offer your seat: If you’re strong and healthy, give up your seat to those who are disabled, elderly, pregnant, optional: bag ladies, because sometimes this is me after a grocery run.
- Personal hygiene: Ok we covered this a little on the coughs/sneezes front, but it needs it’s own category. Don’t clip your nails or dig for gold on the train. Wear deodorant for us shorties.
- Don’t talk loudly or for a long time on the phone: If you have to take a quick call from a relative/potential employer/client, we get it. But most calls should be kept short or to some degree of “I’m on a train can I call you back in 10.” Have some respect for the others on the train who do not need to hear your recap of your last date (ok unless it’s like really interesting), or what drama is happening with Becky right now. I’ve heard people drag on for 20+ minutes talking loudly about nothing immediate, which is pretty self-centered assuming that everyone around you wants to hear your story and completely distracts from anything else they’re trying to think about or work on while on their commute. This falls under the over-arching category of this is not your private train, it’s a shared space.
- Your bag does not get a seat: Unless it’s a completely empty train, this should go without saying. Many times I’ve had to tap people on a crowded train/bus who pretend like they don’t notice people need a seat around them, and didn’t care to move their bag to let someone sit.
- Don’t be weird: This can take a lot of forms, but just generally be a normal human. Don’t lean on people (even if it’s crowded), don’t read other’s texts (I weirdly see this all the time), and don’t sit right next to someone on an empty train.
- Don’t play music without headphones: Are you Beyonce? If the answer is no, you do not look cool doing this and it’s annoying to every single person on the train/bus with you.
Overall, be generally observant of your surroundings and as considerate of others as possible. This is not your private train, or city, or world. We’re all sharing it with each other so let’s try to make it as civil, logical, and considerate as we can.
Did I miss any?
What rules of public transportation do you wish more people would follow?