Public transetiquette

As a person who is vertically challenged, I often find myself in the armpit of society. I mean this literally, not figuratively.

Due to global warming, traffic, economy, and a variety of other reasons, more and more people have been opting to get from point A to point B using Montreal’s public transit system, currently in its 151st year of existence. Although it has been around for a long time, the number of people riding trains and buses in Montreal is greater than ever, according to the Société du Transport de Montréal. Last year, the ridership hit 404.8 million, a 4.2 per cent increase from the year prior.

In the past few months we’ve seen a lot of media attention given to the city’s public transit workers and their customer relations – but what about our own civility? It seems almost every regular public transit user has a story about etiquette.

“One time when I was standing on the bus, there was a guy next to me who was also standing,” said Chana Myschkowski, a third-year therapeutic recreation student at Concordia University. “A lady was getting off the bus, and as she got off, she dropped something on the ground. As she bent down to pick it up, the guy grabbed her butt and then just got off the bus. It was really weird.”

Alexandra Huard Nicholls, who just began her first year of human relations studies at the university, was recently riding a crowded bus when a woman boarded with a stroller. Naturally, she presumed that there was a child inside. Instead, she had to do a double take. “It was a little dog in the stroller. She was blocking the whole aisle of the bus, and everyone was looking at her like, ‘Are you serious? You really bring your dog around in a stroller?’ It was ridiculous.”

Although these specific incidences are isolated events, other riders have shared feelings about the lack of etiquette on public transit.

Not long ago, CBC News posted the results of a poll listing the top 10 public transit etiquette rules where the number one rule was “When a parent with a small child, a pregnant woman, and elderly person, or someone with a physical disability is boarding, give up your seat!” Other notable behaviours that made the list include covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, minimizing conversational obscenities, and not sitting beside someone else if a free seat is available.

The STM has taken notice, too.

“We use public awareness campaigns to remind people that they have to be polite,” said Marianne Rouette, an STM spokesperson.  There are postings in the metro and on buses that remind people of things they can do to make transport a better experience for everyone, such as carrying a backpack in your hands, rather than on your back, which can be dangerous for other passengers, especially when metro cars and buses are full of people.

“We analyze the situation, and then we prioritize,” said Rouette. “We like to keep our awareness campaigns positive.”

This summer I was riding at the back of the 162 bus going down Monkland Avenue when an elderly woman with a walker boarded the bus. She walked halfway through the bus before a boy of no more than eight-years-old got up to offer her his seat. Maybe we should all learn from this kid and have a little bit more awareness when it comes to “public transetiquette.”

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.


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