What’s the most irritating thing about riding transportation?

February 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

A while ago I wrote a quick post about enjoyable encounters on public transportation, because not all encounters on the train or bus are really that awful, and I think in some cases the opportunity to talk to strangers is a great feature of riding the train. Sometimes, though, one person can ruin it for everyone around them.

I’ve been reading a lot about Paris lately (not at all because I want to move back, of course), and stumbled again across the Restons Civils campaign on the Métro/RER. Here’s what’s most annoying to Parisian riders:

  1. 86% of riders say they saw someone speaking too loudly on their phone
  2. 83% saw someone jump over the turnstile to avoid the fare
  3. 80% saw someone leave a newspaper on their seat
  4. 78% saw someone enter the bus/train before letting departing passengers off first
  5. 75% saw someone standing on the left side of an escalator/moving walkway
  6. 75% saw someone not validate their ticket on the bus or tram (bus passengers can enter at the rear if they don’t have to pay in cash)
  7. 73% saw someone eating
  8. 73% had someone follow closely behind them at the turnstile (two for the price of one!)
  9. 71% were pushed/shoved without hearing “excuse me” (when boarding/exiting)
  10. 69% saw someone sitting in a fold-down seat during a peak travel period

I’m assuming that these are similar annoyances in many other cities. Personally, I am annoyed by people talking too loudly on the trains, period (not just on their phones). A bigger problem, somewhat unique to Chicago, is that people tend to crowd around the doors without “filling in” the rest of the space on the train. Probably because there isn’t much to begin with.

CTA 5000-series/RATP MP 05

It bears repeating: The CTA car is wider, yet it always feels more cramped.
Left: CTA 5000-series car (Credit: Steven Takaki/Chicago-L.org)
Right: Paris Métro MP 05 car (Credit: Wikipedia)

I couldn’t find a nice graphic like the one RATP has, but through Google searches and stumbling across some Yelp forums I’ve found these to be the most-cited annoyances (in addition to the Top 10 on the RATP):

  • People with large bags blocking the doors/aisles
  • Tourists
  • Begging
  • People (mainly men) spreading their legs wide to take up two seats

  • “Pole leaners,” or people that lean against the entire poll, rendering it useless to anyone else
  • People stopping on the stairs/escalator/in front of the turnstile
  • Body odor (and to break the stereotype, I have never experienced this problem in France)
  • Ill-preparedness, or waiting until the doors open to emerge from your seat at the end of the car to decide to get up
  • And just for Chicago summers, Cubs fans (I had to say it!)

I don’t think any one of these is reason enough to not ride the train or bus, but you can bring these issues to light through a nice public civility campaign like the RATP did. The CTA did put up these announcements about strollers recently:

CTA tried. Credit: CTA Tattler.

The problem with things like this is that it’s all words. Nobody is going to read that. I like the public civility campaigns that focus on images and short, simple messages:

Tokyo Metro public civility campaign. Credit: The Verge.

The Tokyo notices are simple and image-heavy. I don’t know exactly what it says in Japanese. Maybe it rhymes?

“Pay the fee, travel with ease” is probably the best English translation. Literally, this says “He who validates [his ticket] travels without worry”

And some smaller stickers to remind stone-faced Parisians to smile:

“2 strangers’s smiles lasts for a while” is a good way to translate this, otherwise literally “Exchanging 2 smiles lights up 1 day.”

I haven’t come across any surveys regarding the most annoying habits here in our cities, but I don’t think we need them to create more awareness of how to behave properly on public transportation. There seems to already be a consensus about the most annoying occurrences.

What do you find the most annoying part of riding public transportation, and what do you do about it? Have you seen any other public civility campaigns around the world? Leave it in the comments or tweet @transitized.