New campaign confronts the five etiquette breaches that drive GO commuters crazy about their fellow riders.
The stink eye, the hairy eyeball, the death stare. Call it what you will, that look of disgust is probably a commuter’s best weapon when facing the kind of etiquette transgressions that can make a trip memorable for all the wrong reasons.
But GO Transit is trying to expand customers’ artillery with a new courtesy campaign that discourages self-absorbed riders from the kind of rude conduct their fellow passengers find most irksome.
From loud talking to dirty feet on the seats, these lapses in decorum were the ones mentioned most in an open-ended, online survey of more than 1,000 GO riders last fall.
“It’s amazing how important the etiquette stuff is,” said Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins.
“If people aren’t following etiquette rules, it makes the trip memorable. (Riders) don’t want it to be memorable,” she said.
Even a little fun can rub some commuters the wrong way.
“We have some very humourous customer service associates and we get complaints about it. During March Break people will complain about noisy kids in the Quiet Zone,” said Aikins.
Although they fell outside the top five beefs, commuters also sniffed at fellow passengers who eat stinky food on transit and those who wear too much perfume.
The courtesy campaign kicks off next week and will roll out over the next year with posters on GO vehicles and stations, videos and social media messaging including the hashtag #etiquettefail. Its cheeky approach is in the vein of an award-winning anti-smoking promotion called, “Quit the Denial.” Instead of focusing on the health dangers of cigarettes, the ads equated smoking with other socially unacceptable behaviours — things like digging out ear wax.
“We’re really using it to spark a conversation with people. The marketing world proves that the conversation (an ad) sparks is more successful in changing behaviour,” said Aikins.
Most of the offences identified by GO riders won’t get you a ticket even if an enforcement officer comes through your train, although littering and putting your feet on the seat are punishable by a fine.
What do you do when you’re confronted by tactless behaviour? Aikins advises against open confrontation that can escalate.
She’s been known to shush people when they’re talking too loudly on their phones but admits that it’s not very effective. They just return the stink eye, she said.
“You have to really decide what you’re comfortable with,” said Aikins.
“We’re hoping this campaign will make it easier for people to talk to you about it by pointing to the sign. If you’re with friends and they do it, I encourage you to talk to them about it.”
Top 5 etiquette violations
The lapses most frequently identified by more than 1,000 GO riders in an online survey last fall:
Feet on seats
A GO transit rider stretches out on seats while riding the Lakeshore West GO train.
You wouldn’t do it at home, so why would people want to sit where you’ve rested your muddy boots or dirty bare feet? The train is not your living room, and forgetting it can cost you a $75 fine since this courtesy violation was enshrined in GO’s bylaw last year. As well as being gross, it costs money. The seats rip and need repairing more often. Who pays? You do, the riders and taxpayers who fund GO.
Loud talking on phones
Loud cellphone talking bothered 60 per cent of GO riders who took part in a survey.
Commuters adore the Quiet Zones in effect on the upper level of GO trains during rush periods. But they’re also a source of some angst because occasional GO users often don’t know the no-talking rules and GO staff can’t enforce them. There are no limits to talking or phone use in the off-rush and on other parts of the train. Point to the Quiet Zone signs or one of the new campaign posters to signal your displeasure with loud, gabby riders. Sometimes they’ll take the hint.
Litter bothered 56% GO transit riders who took part in a survey.
Leaving a neatly folded newspaper on the seat is actually a way of recycling, as long as it’s today’s news. But beverage containers can spill and stain the seats or make the floor sticky or slippery. GO doesn’t have cup holders on the trains because they don’t prevent spills and they actually encourage people to leave their used receptacles behind instead of throwing them out. As for food wrappers and other debris — really?
Bags on seats
Fifty-four per cent of GO riders in a survey said they were bothered by bags being left on seats.
There are no luggage racks or overhead bins on GO trains. You’re expected to hold your bag on your lap or tuck it under the seat. But sometimes GO is part of a longer trip requiring airport-dimension luggage. It doesn’t always fit under the seat. If the train isn’t full, people don’t mind if you have to put a bag on the seat. But as it fills up, be aware that you need to move it. If your luggage is too large for a packed rush-hour train, consider planning the trip to avoid the peak crowds.
Platform crowding bothered 52 per cent of GO riders who took part in a survey.
These three drew the same level of ire from the surveyed GO riders. You can shush loud talkers, although transit officials advise against being so confrontational that the situation escalates. If you’re on a crowded train that stops to let people off, step down and leave them room to exit and then get back on when there’s more breathing room. The message around crowded platforms is really to look out for everybody’s safety. Don’t rush people down the stairs or step onto the track or into the path of danger yourself.
GO Transit, through Metrolinx, already has fines for most of the behaviour complained about by the passengers that participated in the survey above. The Go Transit fines were all updated on November 5, 2015 (see chart below listing all of the items). Here are some examples:
Feet on Seats – Set Fine of $75.00 (see item 60.1 of the chart below)
Littering – There are two Set Fines for this behaviour – $125 for “Litter Corporation Property” (see item 49 of the chart below) and $150 for “Deposit Waste on Corporation Property” (see item 50 fo the chart below)
Bags on Seats – Set Fine of $75 (see item 60.2 of the chart below)
GO Transit Fines Updated November 5, 2015
Metrolinx Part I – Last Updated: November 5, 2015
Metrolinx Part I – Provincial Offences Act By-law No. 2: Regulation of Regional Transit System (Metrolinx)
Column 1 Short Form Wording
Column 2 Offence creating provision or Defining Offence
Column 3 Set Fine
Alter, change, recreate ticket
Travel with altered, changed, recreated ticket
Attempt to travel with altered, changed, recreated ticket