Monday, December 08, 2008

Valid complaints from a regular BART commuter

I received this email from J.A.B., a regular BART commuter and completely relate to his reaction to such annoying and inexplicable behavior from fellow riders. Honestly, I think there are 3 types of riders: the first are people who just get it and always know to move efficiently and considerably, the second are people who are just plain clueless and are unaware they get in other's way, and the third are people who just don't give a **** what they do and what others think.

J.A.B. brings up some very valid points in his rant below! Tell me if you relate or not! I certainly do! Even though I've been on maternity leave for over 2 months now, reading these scenarios still brought out some sighs and chuckles!

I have to vent about a couple things I observe and experience way too frequently on BART that I consider serious breaches of the etiquette of the daily commute. (For the proper definition of ‘etiquette’ in the rush-hour commute environment please see me in person during 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. on most weekday mornings.) These breaches are annoying to me every time I see them happen or experience them, so I should label them offenses, because that is what they are. They have no redeeming social value whatsoever and on my best days they annoy me. I wonder if others have noticed and experience them too, and what your reactions and thoughts are.

The first is the inexplicable pausing near the top of the up escalator by the walking traffic line. If you haven’t experienced this just simply get in the line that walks up the escalator, the one on the left. If it’s not completely packed you will find yourself going up at a certain pace then, depending on the length of the line, you will halt. This could happen 3-4 times as you go up. When you get close enough to the top you will see the cause: people pausing significantly or stopping altogether as they near the top of the escalator. Why, people? Why? You’re walking up the escalator, which are pretty big steps, bigger than the actual stairs and those in your home or where you work. Then, just as the steps get smaller as the escalator reaches the top, you stop or slow way down. Why? You’ve already done the hard part, you walked up the steep high steps. Now you get to the top, where the steps get smaller and smaller until it’s flat and you slow way down or stop. Why? It is actually getting easier at that point but you all pause or stop like you have to jump that last 5 feet.

I note that some women are wearing what I consider difficult shoes and I understand why they need to tread cautiously. But I also notice that frequently those women don’t slow down as much as the real offenders. They get it. Probably because they’re 4-inch heels taught them how to negotiate that part. But the rest of you: Why? If someone who does this has an answer I’d love to hear it. If you’ve never thought about this, perhaps you should pay attention at that moment of your commute and ask yourself why you’re doing it. (I also note that this seems to be less of a problem on the down escalators. For some reason folks seem to be able to handle this particular problem a little easier going down.) And this happens every single day, without exception.

The second issue is what I call the “I want/am going to occupy the space where you’re standing,” regardless of whether the train is stopped or moving. When this happens while the train is moving it is especially egregious. Either way it is an offense. This one happens in different ways but a typical one is like this: I will be standing (because I ALWAYS have to stand, which I generally don’t mind, BTW). I will be standing in my spot, wherever that may be, and someone will come up and say, “Excuse me.” By their words you might think they want to go past. In some cases I know it is impossible for them to, either because I’m standing right next to the door or there are just too many people on the other side of me. Whichever, they’ll come up and say “Excuse me” indicating they wish to pass. But they don’t: instead, they want to occupy the place where I’m standing. Sometimes I know this as soon as it happens (see above); sometimes I don’t realize it until after it has occurred. This morning, e.g., I experienced the latter. I got on a car where all the seats were taken and there were a handful of people (4-5) standing in various spots. The middle of the car was unoccupied with standers so I went there, as did one other commuter. The other 10 or so standers were either gathered around the doors or spread out in different spots, none of them near where I was in the middle, except for the one guy, about 2 feet away. At the next stop about a dozen or so commuters got into the car. One came up behind me, said “Excuse me” and when I leaned over as far as I could to let her pass, she simply stopped where I was. Now, there was no reason for this kind of proximity, this doubling up of standers in the aisle, given the available space in the car. BTW, I have experienced that kind of crowded conditions but that is when there are about 50 people standing in the car, which was nowhere near the case this time. The only thing I could imagine was her motivation was to be next to one of those handles that are on the seats (not the poles or the overhead bar). Essentially what she wanted was to occupy the space where I was standing.

Another frequent example is I’ll be standing and the train is still moving but someone, overeager to exit the train, gets up from his/her seat and seeks to stand where I am standing. This one bugs me even more for a number of reasons, (1) it’s a safety hazard to make some move while the train is moving, (2) it assumes I cannot move out of the way when the train stops and people are exiting, and (3) it is basically you telling someone to “get out of my way,” which your mothers should have taught you is rude.

Now, half (maybe a little less) of the time I would be willing to relinquish my space. But I want people to be honest about it. I want them to say, “Excuse me, I want to stand where you’re standing. Would you accommodate me?” If you don’t realize you’re doing this, please be a little more mindful of your actions and others. If you want pole position at the door to be the first off, go there and stand there, like the rest of us do when we want pole position, or make the move when the train has stopped. But don’t ask someone to move so you can have his or her space just because you want it and without a good reason, especially when the train is still moving. That is rude, plain and simple. And rudeness in the commute is no good for anybody. Thank you for listening.


Anonymous said...

Add on to the escalator peeving the people who ride all the way to the top, step off... and just stand there. Hello, hi, yeah, there are people behind you and the steps we're standing on are still moving which means you're either going to get upset because people are shouting at you to keep moving or because you've been shoved out of the way so the rest of us don't fall down the stairs.

The worst offenders for this seem to be people at the Dublin/Pleasanton station. Can't figure out why.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the same thing on escalators everywhere, and also on the moving-walkways in large airports.

My guess is that the people aren't coordinated enough to handle the speed discontinuity while walking: they're afraid they'd end up with too much forward momentum and stumble.

Anonymous said...

Who made up these rules anyway? Let people be at their own pace! Goodness gracious!

Bill Dailey said...

Behavior on the escalators is definitely the most annoying part of my daily commute. I too have seem people completely stop at the top or bottom of escalator, causing the people behind them to run into each other (which could be very dangerous). Not sure what can be done about it since the people who do that seem to be oblivious to the world around them.

bartmusings said...

Good to know that there are others out there who find the escalator behavior annoying too. I totally agree with JAB and other commenters. Please people, just keep walking..did you forget how to walk on flat surface suddenly? This makes me glad that I'm on maternity leave and don't have to deal with these people for quite some time!

Anonymous said...

The elevator thing is the most pervasive and the most dangerous problem I see on a regular basis. Some people cause this by trying to extend the handles on their rolling bags or otherwise futz with those things. I've had many occasions where I was forced to simply bump into people standing right in front of the elevators.

Another common issue that's not mentioned here is clueless people with backpacks. Hello people, if you're wearing a backpack then you're usually a good foot deeper than you think you are, try paying attention to what it's hitting, or better yet, take if off and hold it by your feet!

And to the person that said "let people go at their own pace" they can, they can use the standing line. If they're using the walking line then they need to go and not hold up the line. And with either line, don't stop! The people behind you can't pause the elevator....

Anonymous said...

Anon@121pm: It's an escalator, not a rocket-powered people launcher, and if one doesn't have the coordination to handle that mode of lift, then perhaps one should use the non-moving stairs or the elevator. And it does tend to happen at Dublin/Pleasanton more than other BART stations, but I think it's more of an affect of people who infrequently use BART still stuck in the me-bubble of private transportation and not having the proper situational awareness.

Anon@501pm: Figuring out your own pace is, indeed, a very important part of using the shared resource of public transit. Expecting the 98 percent of the people who use that shared resource to adapt to your limitations or social attitude is selfish and inconsiderate. But I think you already know that.

Anonymous said...

I don't have as much objection to the pace or stopping at the end as opposed to people who don't know left=walk, right=stand. I am sick and tired of people who stand on the left and continue to do so despite other people moving past them. One girl on an escalator down to Civic Center told me her luggage was too heavy to move when she barely tugged on it to move aside. Another woman going up another escalator said to her companion "You're not going to get there any faster" when I said "Excuse me."

I'm not entirely sure about the standing in the space someone is occyping. Unless you're in the very middle, people will want to stand in your space for various reasons (they don't want to move in too far because they get off in 2-3 stops, they want to snag the seat when someone else gets off in 2-3 stops) If someone is just standing in the aisle people will either move past you or gradually cause you to move in towards the middle the more crowded it gets.

Anonymous said...

Another issue is the people on the platform who immediately try to enter the car when the doors open, seemingly (or perhaps actually) unaware of those exiting. This seems to happen quite a bit with Bay Area elevators, too.

Many of the points made seem reasonable, but I disagree with the one about not moving when the train is moving. For me, one should be ready to exit the train when it arrives at one's station. This may mean waiting behind others who will also exit the train, but it might mean letting them know you will need to exit so they can accommodate you. Perhaps this difference of opinion is due to BART's quasi-hybrid status as part regional train system, part subway. On the subway, you are ready to exit. On a regional train system (albeit not in Switzerland or Germany), you may have a little more time.