Standing up for passengers

In a crowded train the other day (caused by a cancellation), both I and another bloke got up at the same time to offer an old lady senior citizen of the female persuasion a seat. He caught her eye first, but as it happens another lady in need of a seat got on at the next station.

It seems to me there is general acceptance that offering a seat to the elderly is the right thing to do. (Though a third lady was apparently unnoticed by others nearby to her.)

Pregnant women or people on crutches or who otherwise are likely to have problems standing are other obvious contenders who should get a seat, and I’ve certainly seen it happen (last week two pregnant ladies, friends, got offered two seats on the train I was on), though letters into MX would suggest it’s not 100%. It’s worth noting that it is in fact legislated:

A person with special needs or another person on that person’s behalf or an authorised person (conduct) may request an occupant to vacate his or her seat to enable it to be occupied by the person with special needs. It goes on to clarify that it’s referring to a seat that has been designated as a seat for use by a person with special needs.

Crowded train, Frankston line (due to delays)

It also mentions that special needs refers to: a person who, because of age, disability, illness or pregnancy has a special need to travel in a seat.

It doesn’t appear that, these days, men will generally offer their seats to a lady who is of a similar age and has no particular need to sit. But then I’m not sure I recall that was ever the case.

There is a widespread belief that students are legally required to give up their seats to adult passengers. Back in the day, there was that condition for holders of a Student Pass, and this was actually specified on the ticket. It isn’t anymore, not since the replacement of paper tickets with Metcards about 12 years ago.

I assumed that meant the requirement is no longer there, though looking through the legislation, it includes:

An authorised person (conduct) may request a primary or secondary school student who is using a concession ticket to vacate a seat on a rail vehicle or a road vehicle to enable the seat to be occupied by a person other than a primary or secondary school student if there are no empty seats on the vehicle to which the person has reasonable access.

Interesting — unlike for people with special needs, it’s limited to a request from “authorised persons”, eg staff, police, Authorised Officers, so it’s not as though any punter can order a student to stand up for them.

Of course, it’d be a lot easier to stand if more trains had handles all the way along to hang onto.

Update: The rules have changed a bit. The new legislation is here.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

28 replies on “Standing up for passengers”

Of course, it’d be a lot easier to stand if more trains had handles all the way along to hang onto.

It’d also be handy if the trains with handles, didn’t have them inconveniently above the seats, and rather had them above the people that needed them!

In my childhood, it used to be standard practice in Britain for children to give up seats if adults were standing. Not only did this appear in bus operators’ conditions of carriage; it was also rigorously enforced by parents, mine included.

Today, here, that is just a distant memory. No parent would **dream** of their child being deprived of a seat for an adult.

That said, I once took a large group of senior citizens from the North of England on a short tube journey in Central London (long story!) and was pleasantly surprised when the very full train pulled in and we boarded that everyone stood up to allow the older passengers to have a seat. I was surprised, they were delighted and they were still talking about it when I took them back to London a year later!

Pregnancy is an interesting one… Often women most need a seat in the first 3 months when suffering from morning sickness, etc, yet they don’t look pregnant or are just a bit tubby looking so people are reluctant to offer for fear of getting it wrong. So then the onus is on the woman to ask. I know I am fearful of being accidentally offensive! But I am totally happy to give up my seat if asked.

It really does annoy me though when a train is packed and students are taking up seats, I still believe they should offer their seats to full fare paying customers. Don’t they notice the death stares they are getting from all the standing commuters???

Heh! It’s amazing how much this issue gets everyone going! I believe the key to the issue is:

may request an occupant to vacate his or her seat to enable it to be occupied by the person with special needs”

The amount of times I’ve watched pregnant or elderly people stand there waiting to be noticed when all they have to do is ask. If the person with special needs asks then we get rid of all the other problems like offending people by assuming they are pregnant or old or sick. Plus sometimes people need a special needs seat for a condition you can’t see.

I was on crutches in August and to save any fuss, as soon as I got onto the train I just said ” I need a special needs seat please” – I didn’t eyeball anyone in particular but someone always jumped up for me. Never a problem.

Interesting that the student thing is still in legislation – I feel like they have a right to a seat as much as I do.

“There is a widespread belief that students are legally required to give up their seats to adult passengers. Back in the day, there was that condition for holders of a Student Pass, and this was actually specified on the ticket. It isn’t anymore, not since the replacement of paper tickets with Metcards about 12 years ago.”

– Actualy it still is but it is on the back of the concesion ID card.

I too agree with Shell.
I’m a student and I travel on a Student Yearly, and the reverse of my concession card states that I’m also supposed to give up my seat to full-fare paying passengers if there are no more seats left.
I will admit that often, I do take the last few seats left on a bus, however, as a law-abiding citizen, I will more than happily give up my seat if someone asks for it – NOT offend me by giving me a death stare. This society uses spoken communication, in the language known as English, not visual communication consisting of death stares!
And in my life of using public transport, only ONE person has ever asked me to vacate my seat, which was an elderly woman on a packed 96 tram a couple of years ago – and of course, I gave my seat up without hesitation.

The ignorance of some people wanting a seat but not requesting it drives me nuts! When I was in Sydney, there was an elderly man who got on our bus (around 9am weekday, so the bus was full), and he just started going wild because we didn’t give up our seat as he got on the bus. I would’ve happily given up my seat if he’d asked, rather than looking around with a mean nasty look!

Like they say, a little bit of communication goes a long way.

Also, the reverse of the 2010 concession card, under ‘Conditions of Use’ reads:
-The holder of this card shall not occupy a seat if there are no seats for full-fare paying passengers and must not cause inconvenience for other passengers by placing bags or personal belongings in passageways or on seats.

IMHO, the last bit about bags and personal belongings being an obstruction should apply to everyone…

Maybe it’d be nice if everybody asked, but as far as I’m concerned, if it’s obvious that someone deserves a seat more than I, such as seeing them wobble just walking onto the train, they shouldn’t have to ask.

What’s the exact wording on the concession card? Does it say “on request”, or not?

That’s the exact wording on the concession card. I’d assume on request, because it’s not always obvious who is a full fare paying passenger. Although if a person made it obvious, I suppose that would mean you have to?

@Ronnie, sorry, I didn’t spot where you quoted it. I’ll add emphasis to your earlier comment. Thanks.

You’re right – it’s not always easy to tell who is a full fare paying passenger. But my reading is that it is not “on request”.

It’d also be handy if the straps were lower down. I’m short and generally can’t reach the straps hanging from the ceiling so if I can’t get to one of the vertical rails then I’m stuffed i.e. reliant on other people to catch me if/when I fall. Having said that I was offered a seat recently, I was quite amused as I’m not that old but I do look pregnant.

I think Ronnie like most students lacks common courtesy and needs to be asked to show some manners.

I guess things have changed over the years, I offer my seat to anyone who looks like they need it whether they ask or not.

When I was commuting on the train to work every day I was in the time slot where the train was full of school kids, I’d often tell them to get up and give a paying passenger a seat, trouble is you would have to sit with all their mates rough housing.

IMHO, I think manners and courtesy elevates us as human beings, it’s sometimes cultural but it’s good for our community and our society.

Generally I’d agree with you – most people are considerate – but I recall one inexplicable exception.

When I was heavily pregnant – one of the times, they all blur in together a bit I’m afraid! – I got onto a packed train at Newport Station and couldn’t see a seat. Both the special needs seats were occupied by very frail-looking elderly ladies with walking frames (I wasn’t about to oust a nonagerian so I could take a load off my massive calves!) So I said clearly and politely, “Could I have a seat, please?”

No-one stood up. NOT ONE PERSON.

There were no obvious students on the train – no-one in uniform or with a schoolbag – it was pretty much all businesspeople in suits and work attire, mostly talking on phones or listening to IPods. I got a rueful grimace from a guy on crutches who was seated, and a sympathetic smile from another preggo lady (also seated). No-one else made eye contact with me.

I got off the train at Footscray, boarded the next carriage, and was instantly offered no less than 4 different seats by people who sprang to attention as the enormously pregnant person lumbered onto the train.

To this day, I do not know how I struck the one railway carriage in Melbourne entirely filled with arseholes.

I’m not (yet) a senior citizen or a special needs passenger. I’m a little arthritic, but so what? – so are a lot of people my age, and it’s not a big deal.

So I don’t expect anyone to stand up for me, and I usually politely decline when it’s offered (and I *always* thank them for offering). But very occasionally, when the day has been long and my arthritic knee is playing up more than usual, I’ll gratefully accept the offer of a seat. Maybe my tiredness shows in my face or something.

Having said that, I get a little disgruntled when the tram is crowded and all seats are full, but one of those seats is taken by a young child sitting next to an adult. Can’t the child sit on the lap of the adult in charge of them? When I used to take children on the tram (many years ago now), I always sat the smallest child on my lap as soon as the tram began to fill up. It’s not just common courtesy, it’s common sense.

I get similarly irked by people who dump their bag on the seat next to them, and leave it there despite the fact that the vehicle is rapidly filling up and there are few empty seats left. One shouldn’t have to ask them to move their bag. It’s OK for them to put their bag on the seat if the tram or train is practically empty – I do it myself – but it’s plain rude to do it when all the other seats are gone and people are now forced to stand.

@Kathy, you must have boarded the designated arsehole carriage.

@Bonnie, if a train/tram/bus is filling up, I sometimes actively seek out the seat with the bag on it. I’ll say excuse me, and make it clear I have every intention of sitting down whether the bag is moved or not. It always gets moved — nobody wants their bag squashed.

Similarly, I don’t try and walk around people who are barging their way aboard before people have finished alighting. Usually (but not always) they stand aside when they realise I’m coming straight at them.

Metro had an etiquette campaign ready to go last month when it got canned by the (then) government. Hopefully it’ll run soon.

I get up for people with Special needs… but I do not consider being a woman “Special Needs”. If a seemingly healthy woman asks for my seat, I say yes… if she will show me her Metcard. Every single one has refused. I do NOT offer seats to fare evaders. If they didn’t buy a ticket, I do NOT feel bad for them stabding, no matter how indignant they get. If they refuse to show me a validated Metcard because they get in a huff, I still don’t feel bad. If they cannot even prove they HAVE a Metcard on them… I stay seated. If they’d rather stand for 15 minutes with a scowl on their face instead of going through the *gasp* horrific indignity and humniliation of touching their Metcard and showing it to another person, that is THEIR choice.

@Jagger, if you’re so keen to act as an honorary ticket inspector, what are you going to do now that myki is operational on all modes of transport in Melbourne? Even if they show you a myki card, how can you possibly know whether they’ve touched on or not? Will you only be giving up your seat to “seemingly healthy women” who have the good fortune to still be using an old-style Metcard?

I’ll never forget being on a train last month with a class of primary school kids – looked about 10 on average? Anyway every single kid was sitting on a seat… and the doorways & aisles were filled with standing adults. Pretty much the only adults sitting were the teachers! Ack.

@Suzie … I agree, I’m super short too and it’s impossible for me to hold onto the bars/straps without my feet almost getting off the floor! There’s nothing more frustrating than getting into a packed carriage where the only place to stand is in the middle of people squished in the doorway, because it almost guarantees I’ll be falling onto people all the way into work :(

@Daniel Doesn’t matter if there’s a bagless seat, if the train’s packed I make a point of beelining to the bag and giving the daggers to the hapless owner. Just not on the Frankston line at night ;)

@Carly – as a fully grown and fit adult, I would much rather I stand than a ten-year old child. I am much less likely to fall over, and they fit 4 to a three-person seat.

@Suzie & Carly

I agree the straps should perhaps hang a bit lower, but lowering the bars would be dangerous. I witnessed two very tall blokes getting on the train the other day and both whack their heads pretty much simultaneously. They shared a knowing glance and smile, but it made me realise that there must be quite a few people that just miss their heads on the bars and any lower and that sort of occurrence would greatly increase.

Gotta agree with Julian, being 200cm tall…

the bars above the doorways areas are bloody painful – especially as only some trains have them, so I often forget to look for them.

Perhaps the central stalactite arrangement on Sydney trains would work better?

Having the advantage of size, if somebody tries to barge on to the train while I’m getting off I just aim for them and they usually end up at the back of the queue :-)

I recall Connex claiming they had set the crossbar height on the Comeng trains to be low enough that all but the shortest people could reach them, and high enough that all but the tallest wouldn’t collide with them. (In fact they set up a publicity stunt with a short and a tall person to illustrate it.)

I often bump into those green handle things, particular on the Citadis trams. I’m 6’3″ and the height of the bars etc in the comeng’s are okay. The new circular handles in he new Xtrapolis trains are a bit lower though (not to mention, they very stupidly block the view of the Passenger Information Display to most people in the carriage!).

@Julian Wearne/archi I witnessed a very tall school student whose head touched the ceiling (of a ComEng). The mind boggles.

Yes I like the central stalactite in the Sydney trains, provided the wheelchairs can manoeuvre under it (they couldn’t go right through under it, but they can go right up to it with the legs and armrests able to clear it/swivel under it).

I remember an entry in the mX Vent section claiming if they put bars all the way down the carriage, that people would swing on them and bust out the windows (it was a reply to an earlier Vent). What gives? I’m a James Bond junkie, and even I don’t have those fantasies!

Comments are closed.