Article clipped from San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, January 3, 2015
Spread the word — stop it!
Frequent public transit riders will tell you that the biggest headache of their commute isn’t always the unreliable service (if they take San Francisco’s Muni), the filthy seats (if they take BART, which is finally finishing its replacement seat project) or even the infrequent service (if they use most any other transit system in the Bay Area). Often, the worst thing about being a transit rider is the other riders. They slam into others with their overstuffed backpacks. They eat far-too-fragrant food in the enclosed space. They refuse to give up their seats for struggling pregnant women or the elderly, or — worst of all — they spread their legs wide open, preventing anyone from taking a seat next to them at all. Here’s the good news: Some transit agencies have noticed, too.
New York City just launched a campaign called “Courtesy Counts, Manners Make a Better Ride” to educate its ever-growing number of transit riders about the basic etiquette required for living in an urban environment. The posters are simple and blunt. “Dude ... Stop the Spread, Please,” is a favorite, clearly aimed at the gentlemen riders who feel entitled to take up as much space as they possibly can. (Some men have complained that MTA wasn’t gender-neutral with this poster, but how could it? Women just don’t do this.) “Keep the Sound Down,” “Don’t Be a Pole Hog” — these posters (http://bit.ly/1va9XHl) encapsulate all of the things that the other riders are already thinking.
Which brings us to our own humble request: Will Bay Area transit agencies launch a similar campaign?
“Oh, we’re on it,” said Paul Rose, spokesman for San Francisco’s Muni. Muni has etiquette tips (like the one about giving up your seat for the elderly and disabled) posted throughout the system, but Rose said that this year it plans to survey riders about their concerns for an expanded campaign.
BART, meanwhile, released a “Crowded Car Survival Guide” on its YouTube channel last year.
Go to http://bit.ly/1BryY5m to check out the actors politely suggesting that you choose a less-crowded car and advising riders to place their backpacks on the floor.
All of the information is there, but what’s missing is a little ... urgency. The vociferous public response to New York’s campaign was because the posters leave no room for polite disagreement. They accurately reflect the fact that some people don’t know how to behave themselves considerately in public, and that the rest of us have had it.
It’s possible that the Bay Area, which embraces a tolerant, laid-back culture, just isn’t surly enough to do what New York has done. We urge the transit agencies to give it some thought. So many riders would appreciate it. Sometimes it takes a little rudeness to bring back civility.