How to Ride Public Transportation and Not Annoy Everyone Else

If you are new here, we need to clear a few things up.



These escalators are too narrow for passing on the left. Just'll get there soon enough.


Rule #1 x 1000. I guess it might surprise people to know that folks walking around transportation hubs might be trying to get somewhere on a fixed schedule.


@Azzam Counterpoint: Be polite, and don't decide for yourself what timetable other people are on. ;)


Oh, man. Cholly! 'Twould be a bright and glorious day if everybody everywhere were more considerate of other people, but a lot of people in America just ain't brought up that way. You see public civility in the UK and in Canada (a lot!) where civic pride is hard-wired into its citizens. But here in America we celebrate the rugged individual who proudly states, "Fuck you if you'd like to sit down. Who cares if you are tired?"

A relative of mine (who I am through arguing with) won't be caught dead on public transportation because it services the "scourge of humanity." I can vouch that if you take public transportation every day, twice a day, you are sooner or later going to encounter some unsettling or frightening scenes. You have to learn to joke about the guy on the train masturbating.

I only owned one car in my life back in the 70s when I worked far from home. I was never in the income bracket where I didn't feel the pain of a car payment and insurance (which for a young man costs mucho). I took public transportation a lot when I lived in cities that had it, but I've known many people who'd live on popcorn and Kool-aid to make a car payment rather than give up the headache of owning a car. And they have a good argument when they can get all their Saturday chores going here and there done in 2 hours where it would take all day on the bus or half the day on the train. So, I think the answer now is not to get people out of their cars. I've kinda given up on that. But rather, somehow reduce the carbon footprint of automobiles with alternative fuels.

Thanks though for the reminder to mind your manners.


THANK YOU FOR THIS!! Except point 2. I see nothing wrong with having a quiet conversation on the phone as long as that conversation isn't drama filled, dealing with bodily issues (surgical, sexual, etc) or loud as fuck.

And if you think the escalators are too narrow, you're riding them wrong.


Sure, no bags on a seat. But where else on a metro bus are you supposed to put your bag (here I'm thinking "small suitcase", as when you're headed to the airport or train station) that doesn't block an aisle or a door? They're not designed for people wheeling bags on board...maybe on the seat is the lesser inconvenience for the other riders?


Don't forget save your meal for when you're off the transit. It's a posted rule, we don't want to see you stuffing your hole.


And for the love of god, when talking to your friend, learn what an “indoor voice” is and how to fucking use it. Nobody cares about your loudmouth ass’s silly dramafests.


@6 - Between your feet.


Exit the rear door. So boarding goes faster at the front.


Dogs do not go on seats either. This is actual a Metro rule not followed. Another recommendation if you take the bus and wear a backpack: get your backpack off your back. You will avoid hitting people when you turn and allow more people to fit on the bus since your backpack is taking up space.


@5 No, you're annoying everyone around you. The "no talking on your cellphone" is the most important rule on the list. You don't think you're that loud. But you are. Everyone is thinking bad things about you, and they will talk about you the instant you get off. And soon, you're going to get confronted by someone who will ask you politely not to talk on the phone, or not so politely will grab your phone.


Another thing that I would add. If you have to stand during the trip, please take your backpack off and hold it in front of you. You can easily hit the people standing or sitting around you if you wear it on your back while moving around.


If the bus/train is empty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your bag on the seat. In that case putting it on the floor is actually a bigger inconvenience to those who need to walk by. Put it on your lap, if you must, but don't take up floor space.


Also, you forgot: No drinking. No barfing because you violated the previous rule. No smelling as though you have not bathed in months. No peeing in the aisle. No spitting on the seat or the floor. And despite @4's admirably tolerant attitude, no masturbating.


Here are a few more: cover your cough, keep your fingers out of your nose (and ears), and for the love of God don't clip your nails.

A little man- or woman-spreading is fine if the bus or train car isn't crowded (you'd look ridiculous sitting at attention like a little soldier in a vast empty space), but be prepared to snap to and gather up your things the moment seats start filling up. If you are traveling solo, take the window seat in an empty row of two (unless it has something wet or nasty on it). If you don't, then don't grumble if someone asks for the empty seat. Don't wait to be asked to give up your seat if you are in the senior/disabled section. And as someone else mentioned, keep your dog off the seats (better yet, consider leaving your dog at home for once). Thank you.


What MarciaX said, especially about not waiting to give up your seat if you're in the senior/disabled section. I'd add that a very pregnant woman, or a parent with a small child, should also be given priority for those seats. And for heaven's sake, if you see someone who qualifies for that section, don't wait for "the other person" to do the right thing first. PS: not everyone who needs a senior/disabled seat will look as if they require it - just assume if they ask to sit down that they qualify and don't be a jerk about it.


I mostly ride light rail but when it's raining (or I'm running late) I'll also take the bus from my home in Rainier View to the Rainier Beach light rail station instead of walking.

I don't see this much (fortunately) but, when I do, I'm always baffled. Is the person that clueless? (my guess is yes) It's the same sort of cluelessness that leads Seattle-area (and other Washington) drivers to cruise along in the left-hand lane, which should be used for passing.
Unless a person is talking loud, this one doesn't bother me,
I see this a fair amount but, with a very few self-centered belligerent exceptions, the person always promptly moves their bag when someone indicates they want to sit down. What I find far more annoying are people who leave their backpacks on, instead of putting them by their feet.
I agree that people shouldn't sprawl across the empty seat next to them but it's something I very rarely see.
Perhaps this is fairly common on a but I've only seen it happen once. And in the three and a half years I've been riding light rail to work, I've only seen altercations between passengers three times (in one case, from the moment he walked on, the "tough guy" just looked like he was spoiling for a fight.)

One of my main pet peeves is with light rail drivers. So many of them drive the trains in a herky-jerky fashion. I've never experienced that kind of driving when riding Muni in San Francisco or the subway in New York & Washington, D.C.


Never in the history of any metro bus has "quietly re-pulling the stop cord" or "waving to the driver" gotten the back door opened. You have to speak the fuck up LOUDLY or you get ignored. No need to have a fit about it, just speak up. Perhaps number 5 should read "don't be easily upset by people shouting 'BACK DOOR' because they're just doing what's necessary."


@17 I heartily concur. Pregnant women should be included along with seniors and people with disabilities on the signage for the accessible seats.

@19 Good point. I've never understood why bus back doors don't open automatically whenever the driver opens the front door. That should be the default setting, with manual override for the rare instances when safety considerations dictate front-door exit only. No one should ever have to yell "BACK DOOR!" but right now it's usually the only thing that works.


I may be old fashioned, but if you're young and strong, I firmly believe that you should stand unless there are plenty of seats open for others.

If you see the bus or train is filling up, you should get up and offer your seat to someone less young and strong than you are. Especially if that person is elderly or struggling in some way.


Most of this is good advice, but Charles got the escalator info wrong. Research has shown that escalators move more people if everyone stands still.

Instead of standing on the right, stand to the left of someone on the same step. If everyone does this, it doubles the escalator real estate, moving more people at once.

The Guardian and Slate reported on this in 2016, and the NYT reported on it in 2017. This isn't the first time Charles has misinformed the Stranger audience about it. Catch up, Charles.


@21: You know you're getting old when a cute millennial offers their seat.

@5: No cell phone - period. Even with a soft voice, some techie trying to show he's hot shit on a silver platter will ramble on "..yeah, we got to convince the client that our hybrid solution is the best..". Put it away guys!

And no eating (except small pastries and candy) - nobody wants to smell or look at it.


@22, yes. It is akin to the zipper merge (which Seattle-ites also seem to struggle to grasp).

I trained elderly and disabled persons how to utilize transit for years. It was interesting to people watch. I think there could likely be a 20 point list. But hands down, the biggest offender was the purse on seat.


Don't stand in the aisle with your face buried in your phone, especially if a seat is available. Nobody cares how young and strong you are.

And that "stand on both sides of the escalator" business looks fine on paper, it just doesn't work in the wild. TfL trialed that one a few years ago at an escalator at Holborn tube stop (the really long fucker that comes up from the Piccadilly Line), and most people kept sprinting up the left side.


If possible, don't wear Patchouli oil. It stinks to the heavens.

If an able bodied parent and a small kid who can stand on his own two feet get on a crowded bus, let them continue to stand like everybody else, like I did as a small kid on public transportation back east.


Take your backpacks off when you board. @18 already said it, but it's worth repeating.

@22 Those studies all measure the efficiency of the escalator (i.e. maximize capacity), not the speed in which the walkers exit the station. Leaving a free lane to walk is the way of the world.


"BACK DOOR, PLEASE" goes a long way on the politeness meter



@28, That's not true. It was linked and discussed in the NYT article, but you can also read a blog post about the speed in which people leave the station in the link below.

The short version: 60 percent of people (the standers, a majority of people) would spend 79 seconds less lining up for and travelling up the escalator if everyone were to stand. The walkers (the other 40 percent) would lose 13 seconds, on average, if everyone were to stand.

It doesn't make sense to delay the majority of people by over a minute so that a minority of people can gain 13 seconds. And if Charles wants to use his platform to promote good transit etiquette, he should note this.


@31 I see your point but I think it's safe to assume that people who intend to stand still all the way up a long escalator aren't in any big hurry, so I don't see what's wrong with having them wait a bit so those who need to get somewhere quickly can walk up. There's no "right" way to ride an escalator (or People Mover) but my observation, at least here in fitness-conscious Seattle, is that most passengers do at least some walking on escalators, especially long ones, even if they don't pass others. Our local unwritten rule of stand on right, walk on left seems to me to strike a good balance.


@32 Agree.


Agree with all of them. Would add like the others to please take your backpack off and keep it at your feet. Also, you're standing at the bus stop, you've been standing for minutes. Why don't you have your cash or bus pass ready to go when you board? Don't hold everyone up searching through your purse for cash/bus pass; have that shit ready.


Am I alone in thinking that "use deodorant" and "wipe properly" should also be included in the list?


I used to stand for older/pregnant/otherwise-abled people. I rarely get offered a seat now that it is my turn to be old. I confess I am beginning to question the whole Karma thing. Thankfully I live in a weed-legal state. My advice: vape a bowl before you leave the house/office and have your Orca attached to your person so you don't lose the dang thing. Then watch the human comedy unfold from safe behind your stoner eyes.


@36 It does seem rare these days for an older person (I'm 61) with no outward signs of impairment to be offered a seat. Perhaps that's not a bad thing. I don't resent it. In fact I still give up my seat for the obviously physically challenged (including the heavily pregnant and those walking with an assistive device), and will keep doing so as long as I'm able.


22/kitschnsync: "Most of this is good advice, but Charles got the escalator info wrong. Research has shown that escalators move more people if everyone stands still. Instead of standing on the right, stand to the left of someone on the same step. If everyone does this, it doubles the escalator real estate, moving more people at once."

That's actually the third most efficient way. The most efficient way would be for both lines of people -- on the left side and ride side -- to walk up the escalator. The second most efficient way would be for a continuous line of people walking on the left, with a continuous line of people standing on the right.


@38, Not everyone who uses any given escalator is physically able to walk up it as if it were stairs (which is kind of the point of an escalator).


@35- Please let me assure you that you will never walk alone in such sentiments.


No meltdowns?? That’s the best part about riding the bus.


39/kitschnsync, in that case the second most efficient way would apply. People who are unable to walk up an escalator could join those who don't want to walk up an escalator on the right side, while leaving the the left side free for a continuous line of people walking up the escalator. The point is that, as long as you have a continuous line of people, having at least one side available for walkers is more efficient than everyone standing still.