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Virginia Association of Railway Patrons
Modern Transportation for the Virginias

Crowded Trains Require Courtesy

From VARP’s On Track newsletter, summer 2008

By VARP board member and executive vice president Jim Churchill

On a recent trip down the Hudson, the Amtrak train was packed, as many them are even when gas isn’t $4. The crowding can only get worse.

Not just on this train, but others, buses, and subways, I see an increasing number of people who seem to think they have the right to occupy up to as many as five seats to accommodate themselves.

On this trip, there were several people in the cafe car who apparently saw no problem with placing their luggage in a seat beside or across from them and spreading a laptop, handbag, and feet on the seats or holding an aisle seat next to a vacant window seat. Meanwhile, the revenue seat they bought remained unoccupied.

I see it on buses and the subway as well.

An understanding of conduct should become a way of life, I hope more successful than the no-drinking, no-eating, no-loud-radio taboos so often flouted on American transportation.

Here are some reminders:

  1. When you buy a ticket, you’ve bought one seat.
  2. We should be able to freely use unoccupied and amenity space when it’s available, but, when we are fortunate enough to have convenience space, recognize that it is to be shared by all.
  3. On any conveyance, as passengers already on board, it is our responsibility to make space available to boarding or entering passengers without their having to utter a word or otherwise signal that they would like to sit down.

As more Americans take to our already inadequate rail and other public transportation systems, such courtesy, generosity, and common sense will make life a bit more pleasant and mobility a joy for all.