How Is Your Public Transportation Etiquette?

Aug 27, 2021

If you frequently ride mass transit, whether a MARTA bus, streetcar or train, you’re likely familiar with good and bad rider etiquette.

MARTA has an official Code of Conduct that they’ve tried to communicate to Atlanta riders with their “Ride with Respect” campaign. If you read the code of conduct, you’ll notice quite a few things missing.

Many of the rules listed in the code of conduct are related to actions that could cause injuries and potentially leave the government and MARTA open to liability. Riding norms of etiquette are more about common courtesy than injury risks, which is why they aren’t codified in such an official manner.

Adhering to mass transit etiquette and the official code of conduct makes using public transportation a lot easier and more pleasant for thousands of MARTA riders every day. The rules also help prevent bus injuries, train injuries and streetcar injuries in Atlanta.

The Official Code of Conduct

The code of conduct outlined in MARTA’s Ride with Respect campaign include:

  • Exercising basic civility
  • Not spitting or littering on public transportation or at stations or stops
  • No roller blading or roller skating
  • No indecent exposure
  • No stealing or damaging MARTA property
  • No disorderly conduct
  • Small pets that can be carried are allowed on MARTA vehicles, but no other animals (other than service dogs) are allowed
  • Selling any kind of product is prohibited on MARTA vehicles or at stops and stations
  • No smoking or vaping
  • You have to pay the fare – no skipping terminals
  • No firearms, explosives, weapons or dangerous objects (without proper documentation)
  • Music is only allowed with earbuds or headphones
  • No food or drink is allowed unless it’s in a resealable plastic container
  • Every rider must exit the bus or train once it reaches the end of its route

Many of those rules aren’t unique to MARTA. Stealing and damaging property, indecent exposure, illegal possession of firearms and disorderly conduct are illegal everywhere, even if you’re not on a MARTA vehicle.

Is There Standing Room Only?

Riding a bus, train or streetcar during rush hour is a completely different experience than riding when there are only a handful of other passengers. The norms of etiquette are a little different in those scenarios:

  • Don’t put your bag in the seat next to you if that means other passengers will be forced to stand
  • Don’t monopolize pole space by leaning against it when other people need to use it too
  • Keep your carry-on out of the aisle
  • Try not to block doors, especially if your stop isn’t coming up

The Unspoken Rule of Priority Seating

It’s not surprising that seating priority isn’t covered in MARTA’s official code of conduct. There are many norms regarding decorum and respect that are difficult to legally enforce in a free society.

Choosing to stand so someone who needs to sit can have your seat is one of those norms. A young person isn’t legally required to give up their seat to an older person who is struggling to stand on a crowded bus or train, but they should.

If you’re healthy and perfectly capable of standing on a packed bus, streetcar or train, you should give up your seat to:

  • The elderly
  • People with disabilities that make standing difficult
  • Pregnant women

Embarking and Disembarking

Most people in the United States are relatively well trained when it comes to the rules of disembarking and boarding things. Let people get off before you board.

The etiquette for escalators and moving walkways is far more frequently violated. If you’re standing on the escalator, you should be staying to the right so people who want to climb can pass you on the left. It’s not dissimilar from driving where people going faster should be able to pass on the left.

Riding Etiquette in the Times of COVID-19

We’ve likely seen a semi-permanent shift in the way people think about communicable diseases, especially when it comes to crowded spaces. It’s possible that even after COVID-19 is in the rearview some people will still want to wear masks during flu season or will be more paranoid about people coughing and sneezing near them.

Respecting the personal space of other riders is always important, but that’s especially true when you’re sick. If you can, avoid taking mass transit when you’re contagious with anything that’s transmissible through airborne droplets.

For the time being masks are still required on all MARTA vehicles. Failure to wear a mask can potentially result in a 12-hour suspension from MARTA transportation.

Have You Been Injured in a Mass Transit Accident?

Injuries can happen on mass transit vehicles, especially when embarking or disembarking. In some of these cases the mass transit provider or the city might be liable for your injuries. If you’ve suffered an injury on a bus, train or streetcar in Atlanta, contact the Dressie Law Firm at 770-756-6333 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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