The chances of getting a peaceful ride aboard Metro buses and trains are similar to that of winning the lottery. And on that rare occasion that you do get that enjoyable experience riding in a quiet car, do savor it as there’s bound to be someone at the next stop who’ll decide to ruin the ride for everyone else.
There is a serious lack of public transportation etiquette throughout the Los Angeles metro system. Every time I hop on a train or bus, someone’s spreading across a row of seats, another is blasting their music for everyone to hear, and one more is jabbering away loudly at how their day was on their cell phone. Oh, and there’s also the occasional fist fight that makes for some great entertainment if you’re into that sort of thing.
The stations themselves aren’t much better either. There’s always that one person without any sense of consideration who decides to sit right on the stairs even as hundreds of transit users pour through the station. Once, I even had some woman glare at me, as if I were the one doing something wrong, when I simply said “excuse me” and asked if she could move to the right side of the escalator so I, and the other people behind me, could get through by walking up the left side of the escalator — a transit etiquette totally common in other cities around the world.
Maybe we could learn some manners from other transit-oriented cities that have their act together?
When I’ve visited family in Taiwan, the general attitude there is completely different. An elderly person gets on a bus? Someone will instantly give up their seat, even if it’s not priority seating for handicapped or elderly people. Eating or talking loudly on the Metro? Other passengers will actually glare at you and some will even ask you to stop. There’s minimal talking, and fellow riders police one another to make sure the journey is as smooth as possible for everyone. And after a hard day’s work, a peaceful journey home really helps you wind down for the night.
Compared to Taipei’s metro, metro rail in Los Angeles is more like a boisterous circus, as businessmen chat loudly on the phone, teenagers blast music from their phones (many putting their feet on the seat), and a few others attempt to sell snacks to passengers. Why can’t we all just get along — and follow some form of etiquette that helps make the transit experience smoother, more enjoyable for everyone?
Is this LA Metro’s fault? Not entirely. This kind of culture is seemingly embedded within American society: we’re more individualistic than other countries in the world and less willing to give up “ourselves” for the common good. A public awareness campaign could help though. In Taiwan, posters detailing transportation etiquette, such as 1) waiting for people to exit the train before boarding, 2) standing on the right hand side of the escalator so others can pass on the left or 3) giving pregnant women priority seating, are plastered throughout stations and trains.
Besides helping other riders maintain peace of mind, improved transit courtesy could even increase efficiency system wide. Passengers often hover closely near doors, making it difficult for others to board the bus, especially during rush hour. As a result, buses bunch up and serious delays occur, deterring others (mainly discretionary riders) from taking public transit. Given that some lines, such as the 720, are late 30% of the time, a reduction of just a few seconds at each stop could help improve on-time performance.
While I’ve grown used to dealing with rather tactless people (noise cancelling earbuds are amazing), this lack of courtesy may be a complete turnoff for many riders after their first few rides on Metro. Some of the most common reasons against taking public transit I hear are that people think it’s dirty (click here to read about Metro’s dirty seats), don’t feel safe on it or dislike the people riding it. And this lack of courtesy on buses and trains is something Metro absolutely needs to address if it realistically wants to encourage more Angelenos to ditch the cars and ride the rails. We’re all in this together, so we should do our best to make sure our commute is enjoyable for everyone. LA has a long track ahead before it catches up with the rest of the civilized transit world.
— Benjamin Dunn