Courtesy vs. crowding - Metro US

Courtesy vs. crowding

Commuting in the GTA is going to be more crowded over the next year, especially on the TTC and GO Transit.

Does common courtesy have to suffer just because it’s harder to find a seat — or even a good spot to stand? Will we see more people squeezing onto subway trains while other riders are still exiting? This phenomenon, along with more patrons blocking doorways, may increase as too many people try to fit on too few vehicles.

So we adapt — whether to trains that seem full later into the evening, or to low-floor buses that require awkward new dances as you make your way to the door with bag in hand.

While customs vary around the world, it’s human nature to maintain some individual space — to buffer oneself from the stress of being packed in close. Alas, tuning out others can morph into plain discourtesy. Yes, it’s nice to sit down — but someone nearby might need the seat more. And sure, it’s smart to stay near the door if you’re two or three stops away from exiting, but others may need to get in or out before that.

Maintaining courtesy in crowded conditions is trickier when people are tired or a delay happens. Yet, commuters seem to keep their cool better when stuck shoulder-to-shoulder than bumper-to-bumper. Many Canadian drivers admit to losing it and swearing at their peers — something that occurs infrequently among transit patrons.

I imagine most readers of this column are usually courteous, but we all have lapses. And then there’s the downside of paying too much attention to one’s fellow riders: Irritation at those who forget their etiquette.

Why doesn’t that guy offer his seat to the senior citizen? Is that woman going to leave her garbage on the floor like that? How dare he put his feet on the seat! No matter how justified one feels, there’s almost no conflict-free way to point out another’s transgressions.

When my train or bus gets too crowded, I just try to keep out of the way, if possible — and not get aggravated by those who aren’t doing the same. And yet I notice how the scarcity of personal space can bring out a degree of ruthlessness.

Speaking of etiquette, there’s been an ongoing debate among Metro readers about offering a seat to an elder or pregnant woman.

Here’s my latest approach. Without making it obvious — some people simply prefer to stand, or don’t like being labelled as needy — I wait until they’re close and then just get up. No words, no eye contact, no worries.


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