Top 5 Pet Peeves on Public Transit, According to Parisians

by  Zoë Mintz | Aug 7, 2012
Train in Paris
Train in Paris / encrier/iStock

Public transit is a cesspool of bad behavior. A cacophony of headphone music, overheard conversations, and bodily odors that invade our senses. Recently, RATP, Paris’ public transportation company, launched a courtesy campaign to end everyday rudeness in their metro. Images of cartoon donkeys, warthogs, chicken, frogs and even a sloth – each with their own quirky message highlighting mass transit nuisances like loud-talkers, line stallers, litterers, and door holders.

“It’s a cute campaign,” says Karen Fawcett, a 24-year Paris transplant and president of Bonjour Paris, an online guide to the French capital. “Do I think it will change people’s behavior? No.” The RATP conducted a poll to illustrate the need for such a campaign. According to the RATP survey results here are the habits that bothered Parisian commuters the most:

1. Loud cell phone users
Listening to a stranger’s disastrous date, in-law problems, or business woes is not the most pleasant way to start or end your day. Eighty-six percent of the survey participants deemed this to be the worst disruption on the metro. They’re not alone. Several cities like New York, Chicago, Sydney and Stockholm have introduced “quiet cars” to their transit system, where cell phones must be silenced. In Tokyo, cell phone usage in the subway is considered a social taboo. But, even they aren’t safe from the ill-mannered world that technology brings. Recently, Tokyo’s transit authority re-launched a courtesy campaign with posters of their own.

2. Seat hogs
It’s never pleasant to see bare feet in the subway – especially when they’re taking up a seat. The same goes for bags, jackets, or any other item that takes precedence over another person’s behind. Eighty percent of French commuters agree – although they limit their annoyance to those that leave their newspapers on their seats after they hop off. Unsurprisingly, seat hogging is a universal annoyance. The website says it all.

3. Eaters
Much like those who contribute to the seat hogs website, people have taken to the Internet expressing their discontent for “train pigs.” Whether someone’s snacking on a nacho beside you or your hand gets bound to the pole due to an unknown sticky substance, eating in close quarters can push passengers' limits. For 73 percent of those surveyed, dining should be an above ground experience. In New York, the debate has become political. State Senator Bill Perkins proposed a bill banning food in the subway that would impose $250 fines on violators. Last year, an MTA board member also brought up the issue, citing the growing rat population, overall cleanliness in the cars, and train delays due to fires from trash on the tracks. Zurich has taken the completely opposite approach. The city’s trams offer dedicated cheese fondue and sushi rides.

4. Pushers
Like all modes of transportation there’s a predetermined “right of way.” It’s common knowledge to let those on the train get off before you get on. But in rush hour, packed trains and platforms create panic, and any sense of civility is subsequently lost. This was one of the largest frustrations for French travelers – 78 percent are fed up. These traffic jams are felt worldwide. To ease the flow, the Hong Kong metro has arrows on its platform floors to direct traffic when trains arrive.

5. Line stallers
Traffic flow issues aren’t limited to the platforms. Escalators and stairs are rife with commuters that walk slowly or stand stationary on the left-hand side of these steps This irks 75 percent of those surveyed. This unwritten rule even stands in London, where traffic is on the “wrong side” of the road. A recent story warns Olympic tourists traveling in the tube to stand on the right side and walk on the left.

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