How Not to be a Transit Jerk in 2017
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How Not to be a Transit Jerk in 2017

A list of New Year's resolutions to make everyone's transit experience better

Photo by asianz from the Torontoist the Flickr.

Photo by asianz from the Torontoist the Flickr.

Whether you walk, cycle, drive or ride transit, resolve to be a better transit citizen for the new year.

There is a lot to do to improve transit in this city. A lot of the heavy lifting has to come from those with executive authority and control of the purse strings: the province, the Mayor’s office, city councillors, Metrolinx, and the TTC top the list.

There is also a role for ordinary people to play to make taking transit the better way and a better experience for others. Deep down, we (mostly) know we should be more considerate, but sometimes it helps to have a refresher. I’ve tailored these suggestions for regular riders and those who aren’t, so that there’s something for everyone.

For regular transit riders:

First and foremost: Don’t abuse transit workers. The number of offences against TTC staff was higher in 2016 than 2015. That’s inexcusable. The number should be zero.

Transit workers are the frontline of a challenged system. If you have spent five minutes working in retail, you know that dealing with the public all day long can be exhausting. What if you had to deal with grumpy customers AND Toronto traffic? C’mon, you know this city is full of terrible, selfish drivers. Have some respect for anyone who can deal with that on an endless loop and not lose their temper.

It’s not the fault of frontline workers that the subway is down, or the weather is bad, or that there aren’t enough buses. There is nothing wrong with making a complaint against inadequate service, but the best place to do that is through this link.

If you want to say something, don’t raise your voice, and keep your language polite and focused on the problem. On the better days, try to remember that TTC workers already get their fair share of grumpiness from customers, and make a new habit of thanking them and wishing them a nice day.

Harassment of your fellow riders is not okay either. Don’t let it go unnoticed. It’s best not to confront a bully directly, but instead, reach out to the target. Say hello, introduce yourself, ask if they’re okay, talk about the weather.

Be a considerate rider. Keep your feet off the seats. Don’t hog extra seats with your bags if there are people standing. Don’t litter on public transit vehicles or in the stations. Take off your backpack and rest it on your lap or feet. Turn down the volume on your headphones. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Keep your conversation volume down, and watch your content and language. Many kids find adults’ swearing unnerving. The details of your medical history might make other people feel sick. And not everyone wants to know about your love life.

Don’t bother other passengers. Don’t talk to anyone who clearly doesn’t want a conversation. This goes double if you are drunk.

When you get on a vehicle, keep moving. Don’t stop in the doorway, wondering where you should sit. Same goes for getting off vehicles, elevators, and escalators.

Give up your seat to anyone who looks like they need it more than you—but of course, if you need it, keep it!

If you are able to, look for anyone who needs assistance and offer it. (Ask; don’t assume.) Many vehicles and stations are not accessible for everyone. Hold the door. Offer to carry the bottom end of the stroller to the top of the stairs. Don’t rush someone who needs a bit more time.

Along the same lines: stand right and walk left on the escalator, and don’t take the elevator if you don’t need it.

For drivers and not-so-regular riders:

Buy some tokens and resolve to take transit a little more instead of driving the car. If you never take transit, start with a plan for once or twice a month. Having tokens in your pocket will increase the likelihood of doing this. Plan for times where it would actually be a bit easier to take transit: times when the roads are bad, you might want to drink, or parking will be a hassle.

Taking transit occasionally can play a part in your resolutions to do other things. You can get a lot of reading, knitting, game-playing, and/or sleeping done on transit that isn’t possible when you’re driving.

Some people incorporate transit into a New Year’s fitness plan. Taking transit once a week helps to counterbalance the sedentary nature of many jobs and time in the classroom. Take the stairs!

When you’re driving, pay attention to passengers disembarking from vehicles, especially streetcars. It’s the law that you must stop behind the open doors of a streetcar. Sometimes buses are not able to pull over all the way to the curb, and passengers have to get off in the road. Always be especially careful if you are driving beside a transit vehicle as you approach an intersection, where most stops are located.

(Cyclists, this goes for you, too.)

It’s also the law to give buses the right of way. Do it.

If you’re driving in bad weather, don’t be one of those speedboats that zips along the curb and splashes people waiting for the bus. Slow down.

When you’re stuck behind a transit vehicle that is slowing you down, take a deep breath and remember that it’s still better than being behind 15 cars. Or 60.

One last thing for everyone:

If you have a sidewalk or driveway for which you are responsible, either at home or at a place of business, keep it clear. People using walkers or wheelchairs, pushing strollers, or wearing a pair of the 90 per cent of boots that don’t grip ice in winter need a safe surface. Failure to clear all the way to the curb can make it impossible for Wheel-Trans passengers to disembark at their exact destination.

None of this is intended to shift responsibility or to let the big fish off the hook. I hope you will also pressure decision-makers (if you don’t already) to invest in transit and to do so wisely. In the meanwhile, these are a few of the little things ordinary people can do that will make life easier and happier across the city.

Please share other suggestions in the comments. Happy New Year, Toronto.