23 public transit etiquette rules you should know and follow
While public transit agencies are responsible for running the trains, buses, and ferries, much of your outlook on your transit experience depends on the behavior you encounter from other transit riders.
This list is meant to help promote courteous behavior on public transit, as even the simplest actions can help ensure that everyone, including yourself, has a more enjoyable and positive transit experience.
Taking transit means sharing a small space, so it is important that all riders treat each other with courtesy and respect.
Here are some etiquettes you need to follow while riding transit:
1. Stand on your right, walk on the left. When walking along a station building passageway/hallway, or using the escalators and stairs, always stand on your right side. Allow people who are quicker to pass on your left. It is no different from the rules of the road.
2. Form an orderly line when boarding, and let passengers exit first. When the doors to a bus, train, or ferry open, always let the passengers inside exit first before attempting to board yourself. Stand on either side of the doors to let passengers exit – do not block their way and do not attempt to board the vehicle until everyone that needs to get off has done so.
3. Do not block the doors. This can disrupt the ingress and egress flow of passengers. If you are in an overcrowded train or bus and you happen to be standing at the doorway and people also need to get out, step out of the vehicle to let passengers out and then step back.
4. Stand clear of doorways while inside a train so that doors can properly and fully close the first time. Door holding is not only dangerous but it can also cause delays to the train or streetcar system.
5. Pay your fare; don’t fare evade; don’t tailgate another passenger through a fare gate. You are stealing from everyone if you do not pay your transit fare and give yourself a free ride. Not cool.
6. Have your fare ready before you walk towards a fare gate or a bus door. If you cannot find it right away, do not hold up other passengers. Step to the side and let others board first. Help make transit become more efficient.
7. One seat per person is common etiquette, especially when nearly all of the seats are occupied.
8. Seats are for your bottoms only. Keep your dirty shoes away from the seats – do not rest your feet on them.
9. Mind your hygiene. Or at least try to use ample amounts of deodorant, especially in summer.
10. Refrain from having loud conversations; talk softly and quietly. Not just with your friends and fellow passengers, but this also means no loud conversations on your mobile phone.
11. Abstain from bringing anything onboard that occupies a lot of space. Transit is for people first; don’t move your entire life on transit. Consider a cab, car share, or rideshare (if there’s rideshare in your city). If you must take transit with a ton of belongings, avoid the crowded peak hours, especially in the peak direction. Some train systems also have policies that ban bikes during peak hours.
12. No food and drinks; do not eat onboard transit. Things can get messy…fast. Save that meal until you get off the train or bus.
13. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and aim away from people whenever possible. The common practice is to sneeze and cough inside your elbow – not into your hand.
14. If you are listening to music from your earphones, turn down your music as it can be audible to other passengers (not to mention that this cannot be good for your eardrums).
15. Give up your seat to the people who really need it if no other seat is available to them. This means young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Try to be attentive and courteous with those who are in need of a seat.
16. If you see something, say something. While it’s not always a good idea to confront rude passengers for personal safety reasons, be sure to report concerning incidents to transit authorities or security.
17. Hold onto the handrails when standing inside a transit vehicle. This will largely prevent any unbalancing falls, for your own sake and the safety of others around you. Tip: stand parallel to the length of the vehicle to avoid falling.
18. Remove your backpack inside a crowded vehicle. Also, think about how your belongings may obstruct someone. Do not place bags or packages in the middle of an aisle.
19. Respect your driver and other transit staff and remember to tell them “thank you.” In addition, refrain from carrying out long questions or even entire social conversations with a bus driver if it means holding up a bus from moving. Don’t distract your driver’s attention from the road and efficiently operating the vehicle. And remember, saying thank you goes a long way.
20. Nobody likes to get left behind, so move to the rear of the bus or train. We all have places we need to be and want to go in a timely manner. Sometimes, transit vehicles can be packed and this means some passengers will be left to wait for another vehicle to come. However, not everyone has to wait for the second or even third bus or train if you are able to make more space.
21. Do not litter. Anything you bring onto public transit also leaves with you as you exit. Bring your trash with you and dispose of it properly into a trash or recycling bin.
22. Do not vandalize any transit property. Everything from scratching windows, destroying seats, graffiti, and even peeling off information and directional stickers with your fidgety fingers… What is wrong with you?!!
23. No smoking on any transit vehicle, station and bus stop. It’s 2020.
This is an updated version of an article originally published in August 2013.