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How other transit systems are "Rubbing out rudeness"

The travel columnist on msnbc.com on Thursday took up a much-discussed topic here: rudeness on public transit systems.

Transit_ads_2 (And a big CTA Tattler welcome to msnbc.com readers directed here from that column.)

Of course, Well-Mannered Traveler  columnist Harriet Baskas turned to the Tattler to find myriad examples of Breaches of Etiquette.

But she also found a few transit systems that are making concerted efforts to combat rudeness -- such as New Jersey Transit. They have started an ad campaign urging passengers in a fun way to be kind and more thoughtful toward other passengers. From the column:

For example, one poster shows a woman screaming in frustration and a printed message that reads: “Please stow your stuff.”

And in our nation's capitol, Metrorail officials show zero tolerance to riders who eat or drink on the system, Baskas reports:

In one case the offending food was a French fry; in another it was the last bites of a candy bar. Clearly, Metro riders have taken the “no eating” rule to heart: On my last visit to Washington, D.C., a woman leaned over and hissed, “Hey, tourist lady — ditch the biscuit” as we approached the fare box. “They’ll ticket you in a heartbeat.”

I'm thinking we could use a little bit of that same approach here in Chicago.


On my last visit to Oslo, the trains (more like the metro than the el) had videos playing that showed how not to be rude.

Now in no way do I mean this in a racist way, but my biggest problem are the people who speak loudly on their phone in another language. Not only is it loud and obnoxious, but the fact that my brain registers they are words but cannot translate them really messes with my concentration. Try to write, or do a crossword or sudoku, or watch an iPod video and you won't be able to concentrate (or at least I can't). Please, either keep it short and sweet or text them.

For me it's the folks listening to MP3 players loud enough, so that even with headphones, I can easily sing along with the tune. Of course, most of the offenders' choice of music sounds more like it should be played in torture chambers at Gitmo, IMHO.

Actually, I'd like it if the Spanish speakers talked louder. I don't get that many opportunities to brush up on my listening comprehension, and most latinos on the trains and buses mumble and whisper.

Oh, wait. Maybe they don't want me eavesdropping ... ;)

Strangely, I'm actually the opposite, Ed. I prefer the foreign languages being spoken louder than English. When people are shouting into their phones in English, I feel compelled to listen, but if it's another language, there's no way I'll understand, so I'm able to ignore it better. But shouting into a phone in any language is still rude.

I was on the Red Line on Monday during rush hour with a woman who was eating a cheese steak with onions. She had it unwrapped and spread out on her lap. I was starving and it smelled delicious, but her rush-hour timing was terrible.

When my dad was a child, riding the streetcar (what they used to have before buses), he would hear women gossiping to each other in German (a major immigrant group back in the day), assuming no one would understand. But he had picked up the language from his grandfather and could pretty much follow what was being said. Presumably they weren't shouting and didn't have phones. But you still never know who might be listening.

In no particular order:
People who leave their bags on the seat during rush hour (pretend you're reading your paper all you want, we know you are aware that the bus/train is getting crowded).

People who stand directly in the doorway of a train/bus when there's plenty of room away from the door (If you explain that you're getting off at the next stop, I can sorta understand, but if you're going to the end of the line you need to bed bitchslapped).

People sitting sideways on a seat with their feet sticking out in the aisles or just stretching their feet across the aisles with no intention of moving them (I'm about thisfar from sitting on their fucking knees and breaking their legs and/or kicking their feet out of the way).

Loud cell phone talkers (85 percent of the time their conversation is about bullshit..."What? She said what? And what did he say? What? He did?") P.S. to cellphone talkers: I could rob your house if I wanted to. I know you're going out tonight, I know where? i know what time, I have an idea how long and sometimes I know if you have a roommate or a dog or something. all I have to do is get off the train when you do and follow you home to see where you live. Think about it.

People who eat hot food on the train. It could be lobster thermidor or saffron rice and for some reason it will always stink. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the fact that it's out of context.

I can see the CTA making some cute signs about not eating. Enforcing it is a different story.

I was on the Lawrence bus this morning and literally everyone sitting down was sitting on the aisle seat with an empty seat next to them. The few who were approached moved so that the other person could get the inside seat, but refused to give up the aisle seat. To which I can only say: WTF?!

Adam, I know what you mean. I always sit on the window seat even if it means leaving myself vulnerable to every nut who gets on the bus (they always seem to find me).

The flipside are the people who do the seat-twist when the person near the window wants to get out. If there's room and you're not super-elderly or disabled, GET THE FUCK UP. And I have compassion for the larger people of our society but, seriously, this twist to the side thing ain't working. But, hey, if you want my ass in your face...

Women doing their entire makeup routine on the train, especially with a bottle of liquid foundation that could get all over the place. I do mine before I leave the house, so can you.

I got yelled at once by another passenger for drinking water on the DC Metro. You know the Metro cops arrested a federal judge 3 or 4 years for eating a candy bar (or similar food)on the escalator down to the station? Clean trains, though.

Funny thing is, people are apparently allowed to eat on the trains (and in the stations) in Barcelona, but the trains are super clean. So, are Catalonians cleaner than us, or does the Barcelona Metro have a bigger train-cleaning budget?

A legitimate reason for offering someone the window seat is if you are getting off soon, but don't want to block the aisle or risk falling down in the meantime. That spares the other person having to get up for you, especially if they get out their newspaper, book or laptop and settle in for a long ride.

I hate those damn red eye readers in the morning. Everyday I have to sit next to someone reading it all spread out and they continue to do so even after I sit down. Your not reading both pages at the same time - fold that thing over.

Then theres the guys with gigantic balls syndrome which forces them to keep their legs open very wide. Bastids!
Can I get more than half a butt cheek on this seat please?

I also cringe everytime I hear someone say "COMING OUT!" at Lake as if they are the only ones leaving.

Adam, I wasn't on your bus, but I have to say: I've got these weird proportions where I'm 6'1" but it's all torso; my legs are pretty short. I can sit comfortably in airplane seats -- *that's* how short my legs are. But many busses have so little legroom that, yes, sometimes I have to stick my legs out into the aisle. And it varies considerably: On the articulated busses that run express routes, I can't squeeze into the seat immediately behind the rear door at all, but the seat across the aisle from that has generous legroom.

I'm obviously not saying that every person you saw in an aisle seat on that bus has my proportions. But that's just one reason people might prefer the aisle seat. I'm not going to try to second-guess others. But people deserve their preferences.

The CTA used to have the Jack signs, addressing noise, eating, and rude passengers. They were quite funny...I haven't seen them in a few years though:

The "huge balls" guys are awful.

Bob S., I assure you that all twenty of the aisle-insisters on this bus were not of your proportions.

A few tips:

1) For the seat twisters, make it a point to NOT worry about your bag hitting them as you sit down. After a few good swipes with a heavy messenger bag or purse, they get the hint and MOVE.

2) For the ones who take up more than their share of the seat, don't be afraid to let your leg touch theirs. This works especially well if the perpetrator is male and so are you...

3) Be aggressive about asking people to move their crap off the seat. They didn't pay two fares - they don't get two seats. If they refuse, sit on their stuff, turn and stare crazily at them for the entire trip. Grin wide-eyed, and lick lips often.

4a) Crazy works wonders with loud cellphone talkers. Start talking to your imaginary friend (who happens to be standing right in front of the loud cellphone talker - imagine that!), and maintain eye contact with the rude jackass the entire time.

4b) Start repeating everything the loud cellphone talker says...word for word. They're exercising their free speech rights, and so can you!


Milwaukee County Transit posts "Passenger Rights and Responsibilities" in every bus. It's unlikely that everyone riding a CTA vehicle would bother to read, absorb and respond appropriately to such information, but it might be a good idea to have something in writing. Here are some of the passenger responsibilities that broadly address problems often mentioned in the Tattler:

3. Respecting other passengers and the bus operator.
4. Helping keep the bus clean and free of trash, spills and graffiti.
5. Yielding designated seats to elderly and disabled passengers.

This one would probably be CTA's favorite:

6. Understanding that service delays may result from circumstances that are beyond the control of the operator such as traffic delays or inclement weather.

The full list, plus the Rights, which could be even more problematic, are available at:

I lived in DC for two years, and the thing is, you can have food on the Metro. Obviously you can, or no one could take the Metro to get take-out or go grocery shopping. People just go ballistic if you try to consume it, and this distinction is enforced vigilante-style. For example, I had an iced coffee with a straw and lid on the train after work once, and everything was fine, but as soon as I absent-mindedly took a sip, some grumpy guy had his finger in my face. And frankly, that was kind of rude. And if you think about it, there's equal risk that I'm going to spill something whether I'm actually drinking from a straw, or whether I'm just holding it. And I'm allowed to hold it. So what's the deal, grumpy guy?

The moral of this story is: let us not fight rudeness with rudeness. Excuse me, an adult, from drinking from a straw on the train. I would not have been so irate afterwards if the guy had simply said, "Please do not drink here," rather than jabbing his index finger at my nose and sputtering, "No drinking on the train!"

Since moving here, I've kind of gotten used to enjoying my coffee on the train (with a lid!) unmolested in the morning. It's the detritus from food that's a problem, not the eating and drinking themselves. I don't give a crap if people want to eat a sandwich- just don't leave your wrapper and your bread crust when you go.

Yeah, Adam, I thought I did a pretty good job of ensuring that it was clear I understood that but was just providing an example, but apparently not, from the looks of it. My point was that people prefer whatever seats they prefer for whatever reasons they have, and why have an attitude about it?

I hate it when people bring coffee on the bus/train. A couple months ago a woman dropped one of those plastic cups with lid and straw on the red line close to me and coffee went spraying everywhere. I think it was that iced coffee as well with a bunch of cream and sugar in it. Anyways, about 5 people got sprayed including myself. I glare at people when they bring drinks on the train now. I really wish the no eating or drinking rule would be enforced. However, I don't really want to enforce it myself, I'm not a vigilante...yet.

I'm going to start photographing people eating and drinking on the train and posting the pictures to the Flickr pool. I will also put an embarrassing caption or title on the picture. I am sick and tired of people who think that the rules do not apply to them.

It’s funny that someone mentioned MCTS—I’m in Milwaukee right now, and I’d have to that “Passanger Right & Responsibility #6” is much less applicable in Milwaukee than in Chicago—on average I’d have to say bus service is more reliable in Milwaukee, although it’s a smaller city so the comparison’s not really fair.

Milwaukee’s buses also have videos, like the Oslo Metro mentioned in the first reply, but they’re incredibly annoying and I wouldn’t recommend them as a way to improve transit manners. In fact, some even suggested the MCTS bus videos were keeping freeway flyer (i. e. people who would otherwise take their cars) ridership from being higher.

Bob S., If the bus is relatively empty, that's fine. But if the bus is getting full, just scoot over or make some kind of welcoming gesture for someone else to sit on the inner seat. It's called "living in society."

I agree with Tecki about the Spanish speakers needing to speak louder :) Also Madrid is the same way: super clean stations and trains but idk if there is a food ban there. I mean take out isn't really common in Spain because everyone's not "go go go" like they are here. But that's just a broad generalization of course.

I can't stand the people who insist on sitting in the aisle seat and then block the remaining seat with their stuff. It's like, move your crap so someone can sit down. (The only person I can see making an exception for is someone on crutches, who needs to access the aisles more readily). Otherwise, scoot your ass in so someone else can sit down.

****"I hate it when people bring coffee on the bus/train."

Agreed. I even have the luxury of riding the Metra to work now, where food and drinks are allowed, and I *still* get nervous when the person next to me has a coffee in their hands in the morning. A couple of days ago, the guy sitting next to me took the top off of his piping hot coffee to let it cool down as he sipped it on the way downtown...and with every bump and twist in the rails, I had to watch nervously to see if it was going to splash around and get me. He seemed oblivious to the entire prospect of his coffee spilling..

And, whoever mentioned the food on the trains -- why is it that someone else's food, no matter how good it actually might be, always smells way worse than it should? Anytime someone brings food onto the train, it always seems really unappetizing, even if it's something I actually like..

Food, especially fast food, in enclosed spaces, usually smells horrible, especially as it cools down.

For this reason, I categorically refuse to get on an airplane with McDonalds or some other airport food, because it's going to stink up the plane for the entire flight, and I don't want to be that guy. So, if you ever see a guy hurriedly stuffing his face in the gate area while everyone's boarding, that's me, lol.

I hate the following people:

1. The person who assumes that because I'm somewhat small, I don't mind getting only half a seat. I paid for 1 full seat, and so did you. Move your GD ass.

2. Same for "Big Balls" guy. Wear loser pants if you're that uncomfortable, asshole.

3. LP Trixie on the phone. Your voice is ANNOYING - that damn nasal Trixie accent combined with that "out drinking late every night" raspiness and every other word out of your mouth being "like" and "ohmigod" - and your conversation subtracts IQ points from those around you.

4. The rude eaters. I make a distinction here. I've at times seen older kids on the train or sometimes adults who need to take a quick bite of something either due to medical issues or just being really hungry, but they'll typically get it done so quickly and neatly that it's barely noticeable, and it's never smelly or noisy food - usually more like a few peanuts or something. The rude eaters are, of course, the chicken-bone people, the sunflower seed people, the anything-still-steaming people.

5. The aisle sitters. Next time you don't get up when you can (i.e., the train is not crowded or you're not impaired in some other way) to let me by, I'm farting directly in your face. I actually look forward to it.

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