How To Be Polite And Respectful On Public Transit

April 5, 2016


Since the dawn of public transit, there have been incidences of rudeness. Recently theĀ GO service, a public rail transit service in Toronto created a video to help ridersĀ understand the proper etiquette of riding their rail line.

Although the video is humorous, it does tackle some serious issues that riders face on transit on a daily basis.

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for how to be polite on public transit.

1. Take up only the space YOU need
With the emphasis on the YOU! That means as one person you take up one seat. Bags
should be held on your lap or rest on the floor. That also applies to priority seating. If you
do not require priority seating, do not sit there, even if it’s available. If you do take a priority seat that you do not need and you see someone enter the train who clearly could use the space, vacate and offer it to them immediately, they shouldn’t have to ask. Finally, seats are designed for your seat, so please keep your feet down.

2. Remove bags that can bump
There’s nothing worse than getting whacked in the face by a backpack or a large purse swinging around when someone turns quickly on transit. It’s typically not intentional but nonetheless to avoid the situation, large bags that could hit others should be removed and held if standing to avoid hitting others and to create more room in the cabin.

3. Avoid noise, personal care and dining
Every rider has their own agenda on transit, the most important one being to get where
they are going, and the best way to allow those to exist in harmony is to avoid disrupting others. Cell phone conversations, if reception is available, should be kept brief and quiet. Personal care such as full makeup application and grooming should be avoided. Dining, with the exception of transit friendly foods such as spill proof drink containers or a contained snack like an apple, granola bar or muffin, should be avoided. Transit etiquette is about creating the environment that allows the most number of people to be in the space in a comfortable way to get to their destination.

4. Do not push or block doors
Doorways can be extremely dangerous on transit if people are not mindful of others. In
order for everyone to get on and off safely, make sure to stand clear of the doors when
entering the train or car as others are exiting to allow them room to unload. When riding,
do not block doors or corridors so that other passengers can move easily to the doors to
exit. In the end this small courtesy keeps everyone safer and moving more quickly to their

5. Help others
Whether it’s helping a new mom with her stroller and bags or if it’s giving up a seat to someone who looks like they might need it more than you do, being helpful to others is all part of being a good public transit citizen. As cities grow and public transit continues to become a bigger part of how we move around, I think the best way to think about your fellow riders is as an extension of your neighbourhood community. That kind of helpful attitude definitely paid off for this fellow in Perth who didn’t “mind the gap” and found
himself stuck and was freed thanks to his fellow passengers and some quick thinking
transit professionals.

Now you might be saying to yourself, this is all well and good but WHY do I have to be polite on public transit? If the great feeling you get from being a good person isn’t enough of an incentive, please remember that creating a transit environment and community that you want to be a part of starts with you. Finally, a quick reminder that thanks to the virtues of social media, images and videos of those caught offending others are easily captured and tagged for the whole world to see.