Is it just me, or is there a serious lack of etiquette from passengers on the light rail?

Zoya Patel 14 December 2020 96
Light rail

Does etiquette go out the window when people step aboard light rail? Photo: Region Media.

For the first time since its launch, I’ve started travelling on the light rail each day, zipping down Northbourne from Watson to the city for work.

I have to admit that as one of the lucky Canberrans for whom the light rail is in my local area, I’m quite enjoying the convenience of the tram (although I still have to drive to the nearest tram stop as it’s painful to get from my house to the stop by bus, and my partner, who works in Barton, would have to do the tedious bus-tram-bus routine, so he still drives). But the intricacies of the tram as a public transport solution is a topic for another day!

On each of my journeys, I’ve noticed a frustrating lack of etiquette from a portion of my fellow passengers.

Every morning, without fail, I watch people deliberately sit on the aisle seat, blocking the empty window seat beside them, or carelessly dumping their things on the seat next to them and then staring at their phones, ignoring the people trying to find somewhere to sit. I’ve also watched people play videos loudly on their phones without headphones, refuse to step further into the tram when there’s standing room only to allow other passengers to board, and generally behave in antisocial ways that seem unnecessarily selfish.

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I’m not the kind of person who usually polices social etiquette. I’m a firm believer in common sense, and it usually prevails. It goes without saying (though I’ll still say it to ward off the outraged comments) that not all light rail passengers are rude. I have observed one person to date offer their seat to an elderly passenger (though they refused it, and seemed a little offended at the implication that they couldn’t stand, so I guess you win some you lose some). This suggests that there are nice people out there, who remember the lessons of childhood in respect and kindness for others.

It has been pointed out to me that the reluctance to allow a fellow Canberran a seat could be down to people wanting to socially distance with COVID-19 still lurking as a threat.

I would be more sympathetic to this if it wasn’t for the fact that the entire time I’ve been using the light rail I’ve seen passengers wearing masks a total of two times. And arguably, forcing people to stand over you, breathing down your neck is more likely to spread infection than if they sat beside you. Not to mention the fact that by hogging two seats, you’re selfishly consigning more passengers to having to stand clustered together – ripe for the spread of the virus!

Yesterday morning, I watched a woman dressed in the gear of an office worker sitting on an aisle seat, an empty seat beside her, looking each new passenger in the eyes as they boarded as if to challenge them to sit next to her. No one did. She smiled smugly (I checked several times to make sure I wasn’t mistaken) and triumphantly stared out the window for the rest of the journey, while people stumbled and swayed in the aisle. Opposite her, another woman sat with her handbag on the seat next to her, resolutely staring at her phone and ignoring the multiple people who tried to get her attention to ask her to move her things. Across the aisle, a man watched loud music videos on his phone, filling the carriage with an annoying tinny whistle, seemingly oblivious to how rude it was to dominate a public space like that.

Yes, if I find the behaviour so bothersome, I could always ask the offenders to turn their music down or move over. I personally have no problem with tapping people on the shoulder when I need a seat and asking them to free up the one next to them, or clambering over people’s knees to get to the seat I have my eye on – but it’s a bit sad that I have to. When did common courtesy die?

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I’ve lived overseas in a city where public transport is the primary means of getting around (buses in this case, in Edinburgh), and people were so automatically polite and obliging. Seats always went to the elderly, pregnant or less mobile, and everyone filled up seats from the window first to allow others to find somewhere to rest. Even when I lived in Melbourne, I never noticed the regular rudeness I’m seeing on the light rail.

Are Canberrans just not used to public transport and therefore oblivious to basic polite passenger behaviour? Am I just travelling with a particularly obnoxious crowd? Or is it time for me to put my headphones in, stare out the window, and join the majority in ignoring my fellow light rail users?

What's Your Opinion?

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96 Responses to Is it just me, or is there a serious lack of etiquette from passengers on the light rail?
Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:23 pm 15 Dec 20

This is hilarious because anyone who has ever been on a tram anywhere gets the same experience and the downside of “sardine class” travel that trams are designed for was pointed out repeatedly when the introduction of light rail was being debated, yet you all voted for it.

Pity it wasn’t announced before the “tram election” that the light rail was about urban renewal and not public transport.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:15 pm 13 Dec 20

“This suggests that there are nice people out there, who remember the lessons of childhood in respect and kindness for others.”

Part of the problem may be that too many people have grown up (so to speak) without those good lessons and without understanding, or caring about, the difference between self-confidence and selfishness.

If they did, in fact, have any genuine lessons in manners and consideration for others as children, those lessons may have been lost in other misguided messages about assertiveness and looking out for No 1.

The sorts of behaviours described by Zoya are quite common in public generally, not just in the confined spaces of public transport – any shopping mall or other place where there are people in numbers there’ll be the same games of bluff and self-absorbed indifference (often involving a phone) to others.

Irene Hazel Irene Hazel 7:06 pm 13 Dec 20

It's the same behaviour as any public transport really...

Tony O'Sullivan Tony O'Sullivan 10:59 am 13 Dec 20

Made my day thanks for the image😂😂

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 7:24 am 13 Dec 20

I don’t use light rail often, I find it changes depending on time of day. Off-peak, fine. Peak time, horrible. Someone did once offer me a seat, but as she looked like a cancer sufferer, I wouldn’t take it. I couldn’t fight my way through the crowd to seats for older/disabled. Everyone else crowded together, no room to move, no eye contact. I try to avoid.

Matt Thomas Matt Thomas 8:29 pm 12 Dec 20

Zebedee Mahoney Too many drunks onboard 👀

    Zebedee Mahoney Zebedee Mahoney 9:29 pm 12 Dec 20

    Matt Thomas nah not sure what you’re talking about 😉

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 9:48 pm 11 Dec 20

There are so many social issues here in Canberra and probably in many other places in this country. Respect, courtesy, manners seem to have gone out the windows. There definitely is a decline in community spirit. Theft, malicious damage and the list goes on. It's all about me. Yet there are still significant numbers of people who demonstrate the nicer attitudes. Hats off to them.

Petar Stosic Petar Stosic 10:42 pm 10 Dec 20

People are stupid

Petar Stosic Petar Stosic 10:41 pm 10 Dec 20

Its Canberra

Chris Sherlock Chris Sherlock 8:55 pm 10 Dec 20

Move your bag or I’ll move it for you.

Patricia McKibbin Patricia McKibbin 8:22 pm 10 Dec 20

I’ve had the opposite experience! I’ve travelled multiple times with a toddler and my bike (at the same time). I’ve had so many offers of help and I’m always offered a seat if it is busy so my son can sit on my lap. I’ve travelled heavily pregnant in other cities and not offered a seat. I don’t travel during peak hour though which might explain the difference in my experience.

Jess Cheers Jess Cheers 8:18 pm 10 Dec 20

Its not just the light rail. It's the buses too. School kids putting backpacks on thr empty hair next to them or sitting in the aisle seat and not caring that people are standing. I find it frustrating that when you get of the tram in say Civic that the people waiting to board stand right near the doors not allowing room for the people on board to depart. Same as buses in civic too. There's no room to step off and I usually have to push through the crowd waiting to board the bus. Yes I know people are in a hurry to get on so they don't miss it but give people room to get off for goodness sake.

    Daniella Kat Loyer Daniella Kat Loyer 8:34 pm 10 Dec 20

    Jess Cheers No manners. Get your elbows and arms ready to push through the crowd. First come first serve.

    Jess Cheers Jess Cheers 8:34 pm 10 Dec 20

    Daniella Kat Loyer exactly, so frustrating

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 9:50 pm 10 Dec 20

    Jess Cheers Sometimes my potentially heavy bag might accidentally bump a few people as I attempt to get through the waiting horde.

    May Mac May Mac 12:17 pm 12 Dec 20

    Same with elevators. I've had to squeeze through the incoming avalanche to get out on the ground floor. Don't they realise if they just wait a moment their own progress will be easier?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:28 pm 12 Dec 20

    Fortunately I have little trouble when I catch a bus. Yes, kids get on and are noisy, but that's just kids; they are usually like that. Anyone who thinks otherwise, has never had to catch a country school bus to school, when they were a child. That's not unique to our local buses. Outside of when school kids use the bus, I find very little trouble. In fact right now, I can't think of an incident. As for getting off a bus and someone tries boarding at the same time (I find this a rare occurrence), don't be timid, just say, excuse me please, and get off.

Marissa Booth Marissa Booth 7:50 pm 10 Dec 20

If you go in off peak, there's none of these issues with plenty of seats. I'm on at 7:30 am and then again at 2:45 pm .... No issues and tickets are cheaper.

Another point - not everyone is on the phone for entertainment. I usually am on work emails as we're all working harder due to lack of staff!

Tony Basilisco Tony Basilisco 7:07 pm 10 Dec 20

I love the light rail however I don’t agree with Zoya Patel my problem is that when I use the light rail more often than not there seems to be someone intoxicated. Just yesterday morning someone was drinking alcohol on the civic station.

Kerry Mulgrue Kerry Mulgrue 6:59 pm 10 Dec 20

Couldn't tell you. Doesn't go any near my home or work.

Warren Ross Warren Ross 6:19 pm 10 Dec 20

I saw an older operator drinking beer at 8am near me on the tram one morning. He didn’t even offer me a sip. Clearly he needs to work on his etiquette although it was Coopers Sparkling so I would have declined anyway

Jessie Teresa Bryant Jessie Teresa Bryant 6:14 pm 10 Dec 20

Obviously this is a blanket statement and won't apply to everyone but I find most public servants in ACT to be extremely rude especially to people they deem to be 'under' them like retail and hospitality workers... I can totally see the same attitude when on public transport. Just my two cents 🤷‍♀️

Farheena Rahman Farheena Rahman 5:34 pm 10 Dec 20

Through both my pregnancies I experienced this. People would when I was visibly far along in my pregnancy and struggling to stand with my things or while holding a toddler not move. So many times I had to as the heavily pregnant tired person give my seat for someone who needed it more than me because people refused to look up from their phones and notice someone else's need. I could write an essay about the lack courtesy and obliviousness of passengers on Canberra public transport.

Anne Berriman Anne Berriman 5:24 pm 10 Dec 20

Wouldn't know, it hasn't come south and I'm not going to Civic to catch it to know where

Garry Dodds Garry Dodds 3:48 pm 10 Dec 20

Are Buses any different?

    Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 7:18 am 13 Dec 20

    I would say, yes. Buses are different (in my experience). I use buses constantly and it’s fine.

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