Subway etiquette

In New York we waited for the doors to open to the left and right of the opening. When we got on, we generally moved in to the middle of the car. If it was crowded, we stepped off of the car to let those exiting get out, then got back on the car (very similar to being on an elevator). Sure, things were a bit hectic in the thick of rush hour, but in general people were pretty damned polite and traffic flowed.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent the past year living in DC. The rule of thumb here seems to be that one waits just to the inside of the opening doors, making those exiting have to leave through an opening narrower than the doors. And people on the inside (those not getting off at that stop) just stand there. Just…stand there. They leave it to the people getting on and off to find room to quickly squeeze by before the doors close on their head. And they pack into the area close to the doors, leaving lots of unused (but in many cases unreachable) space in the middle of the car. Ugh.

I think there are two factors that go farthest in creating this situation. First, there are the hoards of bovine tourists stumbling about unawares. Second, the layout of the cars themselves. The doors are a little narrower to begin with and the seats in the car make the aisle somewhat small. The tradition of maintaining the status quo keeps this ungodly situation perpetuated.

Has anyone in the DC / NYC area noticed the same difference?

What about other cities? How does Boston etiquette compare? London? Anyone else lived in two different subwayed cities and have any comments?

Once in a while you can get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right…

I took the Los Angeles subway a couple of times. The etiquette is that
you keep 10 feet between you and your neighbour. :slight_smile:

The times I’ve used the L.A. subway there was plenty of room.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

The Underground escalators in London have ‘Stand on the right’ signs. Commuters can then walk up (or down) on the left. It’s pretty frequent to meet a tourist standing on the left, but a polite ‘excuse me’ usually works.

Platforms have regular announcements ‘Let the passengers off first’. They don’t add that you should stand to the side of the doors. In rush hours there is only a small gap left (say the middle third). People usually look embarrassed when they get in your way, but it’s too late then.

Once on the train, the guard exhorts you to ‘move right down inside the car’, but alas few do.

I think us English are rather nervous about invading other people’s ‘body space’, so we tend to switch off and not think much.

Incidentally over here, of course, the bovine tourists are American - only kidding! Keep coming, spend those lovely dollars, see the historic buildings and see the places your places are named after…

In the bathtub of history, the truth is harder to hold than the soap… (Pratchett)

I’ve taken both, and you’re right.

Not only is D.C. overrun with clueless tourists (NY is similarly afflicted, but we scared ‘em off the subway years ago), but a not small number of the commuters are itinerants. They turn over with the Congress, and they don’t know how the trains work any better than the tourists.

But the biggest problem is that D.C. commuters are a bunch of wimps. They’re afraid that if they step off the train they won’t be able to get back on if the door closes too quickly. They are also afraid of being stuck in the middle of the car, unable to get off at the intended stop. Here in NY little old ladies will deck a Hell’s Angel if necessary to get out and even the youngest child is completely capable of keeping the door open with one hand. So there is no cost to the off-and-on and similar courtesies.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Yeah, DC has a tourist-friendly metro. Which means it is a commuter-unfriendly metro. I found I was way too polite to do anything right on the metro when I used it to commute; folks (dopey tourists) would get on before anyone had gotten off, which usually forced me back into the aisle, requiring me to thrust my way past people. I had to grab a closing door a couple of times.

Anyway, I’ve also been a tourist in NY and found the subway not too hard to deal with, but definitely less indulgent of clueless strangers.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

In Chicago there is two forms of subway ettiquette. One for rush hour and one for off peak. I step out of the car and let the people exit in non peak, but not in rush hour. I have done this and have not been able to get back on the train. Thus making me late. The red line is really bad. The people are jammed and the blue line is much more friendly.

Yeah to London. I found that level of politeness so refreshing that I kept my American tourist yap shut. Likewise in a crowd at a parade where I was embarrased by some of my fellow yanks. One of the few times I’ve identified with locals was on a London underground car but that’s off the subject.

Yeah to Chicago. I don’t envy you the next few weeks of sharing the cars with Christmas shoppers. I don’t miss that at all.

One thing I have found there and in Boston (as a tourist) is that it’s an advantage to being a guy, a guy who looks like he knows what he’s doing and does not smile much. People yield to me. It’s unfair but there it is.

Currently being in DC, I have noticed what you are saying, Rhythmdvl. To make things worse, I was on an escalator when someone was standing on the left side and a group of black girls yelled at him because he wasn’t walking and pushed him straight down the escalators. He didn’t get hurt or anything, but was pretty shaken. (He was a tourist, obviously.) Other than that, DC is a tourist friendly subway system. There is not much etiquette. I have thrown the doors straight open when I almost missed a train and also crowded into many morning/afternoon rush trains. I think tourists flock to the DC subway because it is so clean, compared to NYC. Also, tourists seem to like significantly more space around them than the average city person.

Well, my $0.02.

Gasoline: As an accompaniement to cereal it made a refreshing change. Glen Baxter

Also on DC Metro system, I’ve heard the stand-to-the-right-walk-to-the-left rule for escalators. Some people say is written at the ends of them, but I haven’t seen it.

There is a pictograph sign telling parents to hold on to children’s hands. The way it’s pictured, it indicates that adult and child should stand across the full width of the escalator, contrary to the unwritten STTRWTTL rule.

In my experience in Chicago, the trains come every 5 miutes during rush hour, so as long as you are not crowded out of several trains in a row, you won’t be significantly delayed.
Marxxx, it’s impolite not to step off the train if you’re in someone’s way. If you step just outside the train so that you’re the first one back in, there should be room for you (created by the departing passenger). In 20 years of taking the CTA, I have never witnessed a person stepping off the train to allow people out, and then being unable to get back on. I don’t doubt that it happened to you once, but I don’t think it’s a justification to be rude.

I have noticed that the density is always higher near the doors, no matter how crowded the train is. But I have never witnessed a person who wanted to get off, who was unable to (except in cases of a broken door, when people didn’t realize it was broken). So please, Chicago subway riders, move toward the center of the cars if you are able.

In Montreal, metro riders will fill all available seats or stand according to personal preference first. Then those who have to stand fill the areas away from the doors first. The usual pattern is, people fill up the amidships first so they can hang onto the pole; then the side of the train away from the doors. When the train approaches a stop, people who are going to get off the train move toward the door. They get off and then people waiting to get on do so. Persons who shove through the door at the wrong time are looked down upon. Cries of 'Scusez! will dislodge people who are in the train and blocking access to the doors but who are not getting off at the station. It is considered polite to hold the door for someone running to catch the train, even if the driver yells at you over the PA at you and you delay a trainful of passengers. Doubly so if the person running has small children or packages. Backpacks should be held onto or placed at the feet. On the escalators, anything goes, to the cry of 'Scusez!, which may be supplemented with the occasional irate Pousse-toé!

Unfortunately I have been passed up, unable to get on the red line up to 4 times at Fullerton. It is even worse at Clark/Division. There is no space by then.

Half the time I would get sick of waiting for the red and take the brown line downtown and catch a $5.00 cab from there.

Aww… quit your whining… You think you’ve got it bad? In Japan they have rail system employees whose primary job function is to insure that as many people as possible get on the trains in the shortest possible time… They are known as “pushers” and that’s exactly what they do. I’ve seen old women nearly trampled because they were pushed into the throng in a haphazard way. Even I, a strong ex-wrestler, was overwhelmed the first time I got pushed onto a train. It’s not uncommon for people who are not well positioned to exit quickly to get trapped on the train and have to catch a train in the reverse direction at the next stop…

I dunno, maybe I’m getting crabbier with age, but it seems to me that in Chicago, passengers waiting to get on buses and trains used to stand slightly off to the side and let folks off before trying to cram on. Today, as every day, when I get off the L, I stand in the doorway, the train pulls into the station, the passengers waiting on the platform stand right in front of the door, and when it opens, we run face-first into each other.

The “bubble in the back of the bus” is a long-standing tradition (all puns intended), already well-entrenched when I was taking the 85 Central bus to high school back in the '70s.

I, of course, am always the model of polite behavior… :slight_smile: