– Transit users with bad manners will be fined

TORONTO

The Star.com

Transit authorities are on right track with fines, says an etiquette expert

People who put their bags on empty seats. Riders who talk loudly on a cellphone on a crowded bus. The pungent odour of someone else’s Big Mac on a packed train. These transit transgressions aren’t exactly the end of civilization but they do point to a decline in North American civility, says a Toronto etiquette expert.

Linda Allan thinks the TTC did the right thing this week by imposing tougher fines on people who smoke on TTC property and commit other inconsiderate acts, such as putting their feet on the seats (either will now cost you $195).

The new bylaw is based on the practices of other transit systems, including Montreal’s, most of which use humour and subtle messages to encourage courtesy.

Apparently the time has come to put some teeth into the message, said Allan.

“The big push now, in a lot of metropolitan areas, is to get the framework for civility in place so everybody knows on a broader basis this isn’t one-on-one, this is human interaction on a much larger level,” she said.

“Ignorance has no bounds,” said Roman Muetz, the TTC’s customer information director. “It’s not (just) a TTC problem. People don’t have the same manners they had 20, 30 years ago.”

GO Transit has bylaws with provisions most of us would think don’t even need to be stated: No urinating or defecating, except in washrooms; no fighting; no using obscene language. But no one at GO Tuesday could recall the last time a ticket was issued for any of those violations. GO did, however, write 40 tickets for smoking on outdoor platforms last year.

It’s the small stuff that bugs transit riders.

George Brown College student Jennifer Pacinelli admits she sometimes takes phone calls while riding GO to Port Credit. But on the train, she prefers to text.

“I try not to make phone calls, because if someone’s having a loud conversation that does bother me. And if some people are reading anyways that’s very distracting,” she said.

Nurse Nadine Wright, who takes the TTC and GO daily, hasn’t noticed a decline in manners but says people shouldn’t put their feet on the seats – a temptation on trains because they’re set up so riders face one another in groups of four.

“In the wintertime, we don’t know what you’ve stepped in,” she said.

And rush hour on the subway can be a combat zone with backpacks as the weapon of choice: “You’re trying to come out and people are trying to come on. … That’s one of the other things that really bothers me,” she said.

Complaints about fellow passengers actually dropped a bit this year – from 6.6 per cent of all complaints to 5.8 per cent – said Mary Proc, GO vice-president of customer service.

If you encounter rudeness, Allan suggests using uncommon courtesy and asking – in the nicest possible way – if the offender would move his or her feet or bag.

But GO and TTC experts say confronting someone is a judgment call. If you sense there’s potential for a violent response, walk away and contact transit staff.

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