Transit Etiquette (Ride with Respect)

Be Kind, Be Courteous


This post was originally going to be a part of my overall Transit 101 series. However, I thought it would be best to make it a completely separate post so that I can emphasize how important it is to not only have a peaceful bus or train ride, but to also ensure that others on board have that same level of peace as well.


The basics

My fictional character Nick is a police officer. He boards transit buses & trains often to help make sure that things are as peaceful & orderly as possible. Nick knows what he should & should not do while using public transit & does his best to make sure that the rules of the road & rail are enforced at all times. Keep in mind though, just because there may not be an authority figure like a police officer on board your transit vehicle – doesn’t mean you can go about making your transit ride miserable for yourself & others.

While some transit agencies may have specific rules & regulations regarding fare collection, pets & bicycles on transit vehicles, & other matters, the following is a relatively universal list of do’s & don’ts while using public transit.

Do’s

Don’ts

  • Have your fare media ready for immediate use & inspection before boarding a transit vehicle or entering a station turnstile. If you are qualified to pay reduced fares, please have appropriate accompanying ID ready as well.
  • Dress appropriately. While this doesn’t necessarily mean dress up in your Sunday’s best each time you use transit, please be thoughtful in what you wear because you are in a public place. Virtually all transit agencies require you to wear a shirt, appropriate bottoms, & shoes at all times.
  • Remain seated at all times. If standing due to capacity issues, please do not stand in prohibited areas of the transit vehicle – which are clearly marked.
  • If bringing a folding cart, please make sure that the cart is folded & not blocking aisles.
  • You are welcome to listen to music or otherwise use your portable media device or smartphone while on board transit vehicles. However, you are asked to use headphones when playing any sort of media.
  • If taking a cell phone call while on board, please keep conversations as quiet as possible & to a minimum.
  • Always dispose of trash & recyclables into their respective receptacles.
  • Do not talk to the transit operator while he or she is driving the transit vehicle.
  • Do not eat or drink while on board the transit vehicle (note that bottled water & baby formula are typically considered exceptions – assuming that the container can be easily sealed closed.
  • Do not bring alcoholic beverages on board the transit vehicle – these are strictly prohibited in most jurisdictions.
  • Do not smoke while on board the transit vehicle (this includes electronic cigarettes & the like – transit agencies are taking notice & are banning such devices accordingly)
  • Do not bring other unsafe electronic/mobility devices on board the transit vehicle (things like hoverboards & motorized gas bikes).
  • Do not bring flammable or otherwise hazardous chemicals & such on board the transit vehicle.
  • Do not lean against, hold open, or block exit doors.
  • Do not travel in between moving train cars – unless a provision exists to do so – such as articulated gangways.
  • Do not solicit products or services while on board the transit vehicle. Many transit agencies prohibit solicitation while on board a transit vehicle or at a transit facility.

Some additional don’ts…

  • Do not commit any act of violence against anyone on board the transit vehicle – including transit employees.
  • Do not commit any act of vandalism to a transit vehicle or other piece of transit agency property.
  • Do not engage in any other disruptive, aggressive, disturbing, or otherwise discourteous behavior towards others – including transit employees.
  • Do not litter – especially at rail stations, where trash can easily fall onto the tracks & result in track fires.
  • Roller skating, roller, blading, and skate boarding are not allowed.

Bus specifics

Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a transit bus.

If standing while inside the bus, your feet should not be in front of the yellow safety line, as depicted here.
  • Yellow Safety Line
    • When the bus becomes standing room only, it’s important not to step forward of the yellow safety line that is located just behind the operator’s seat. This is so you’re not encroaching upon the operator’s field of vision – especially if he or she needs to look towards the right for any reason. Additionally, you risk violating the operator’s personal space if you do. Also, you don’t want to be in the way of the wheelchair ramp if it needs to be activated.
  • Windows
    • Some buses have opening windows in the passenger area. Unless instructed by the operator, you should not open the windows.
  • Wheelchair boarding
    • When boarding the bus, if at all possible, allow the customer using the mobility device to board first. Or, if that individual is boarding after the fact, board and remain clear of the “Priority Seating” area towards the front of the bus so that the individual can board & be secured. When exiting, please use the rear door if one is present, or allow the individual using the mobility device to exit first.
    • Never inhibit the operator’s duties to ensure that the mobility device is properly secured!!!
Credit: Palm Tran.

Rail Specifics

Below are some additional, but specific things to keep in mind while on board a passenger rail train.

  • Yellow Safety Line
    • While I’ve discussed the subject of the yellow safety line on board the transit bus, it takes on a slightly different context when relating to passenger rail networks. Here, the safety line is to indicate the edge of the elevated platform so that you don’t accidentally fall onto the tracks. While many systems indicate the platform edge via a yellow line, some may indicate this via a blue, orange, or red line. In order to comply with accessibility laws, these platform edge markers are often comprised of ribbed surfaces so that those with visual impairments can be alerted.
  • Emergency Brakes
    • Too often, I hear of situations where a passenger rail train – especially a subway train – being stopped suddenly because someone has pulled the emergency brake handles. This is not only heavily inconvenient for those on board the train, but it’s also a major safety implication for the entire rail network because transit agency staff have to reset all of the necessary mechanisms to get the train moving again, which also in-turn, leads to system-wide delays. Thus, pulling the emergency brakes should only be done in an actual emergency.
  • Dangers of walking between trains
    • Another thing I hear of too often, especially in the realm of the subways, is people traveling in between railcars. Unless a provision exists – such as an interconnecting gangway that allows for safe passage between train cars, you should never try to travel between train cars unless instructed to by transit agency staff. Doing so can lead to serious injury or even death if you wind up getting thrown off the train.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Priority Seating
    • The seats closest to the operator on board buses & select areas on board (subway/metro & commuter rail) trains are often marked as “Priority Seating”, meaning that you should always offer these seats to those who need them – including the elderly, persons with disabilities, & expectant mothers. But also, these are the areas that are often designated for those who use mobility devices – such as wheelchairs. If a customer boards using a mobility device, you will need to immediately vacate your seat & allow space for the customer’s mobility device to be secured.
  • Pets on Transit
    • Some transit agencies allow small pets to travel on board vehicles, but only if they are in a carrier & is not blocking any aisles. Please check with your respective transit agency for details.
  • Allow arriving customers to exit the vehicle first before boarding
    • As a courtesy, you should always allow arriving customers to exit the bus or train first before boarding.
  • Treating the transit operator with respect
    • Whether you’re riding a bus or a train, it’s important to treat the operator & other transit agency staff members with the utmost respect. They have a very tough job to do & the pay & benefits may not be as good as you may think they are, so please…be kind, courteous, & respectful to them.

With all of the above said, please have a safe & wonderful transit journey!


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