NYC Is Trying To Make The Subway More Polite — But Will It Really Work?

Photo: Frances Roberts/Alamy
When it comes to riding the subways in New York, we’ve all got a weird story to tell about a ride gone awry, whether it’s full-on attacks and violent harassment or that time someone just couldn’t stop staring at you from across the car.
Yet more often than not, it’s the daily grind and general rudeness that gets us down. Wading through crowds of aggro strangers while unidentified smells smack you in the face is enough to send anyone over the edge. What’s a passenger to do?
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According to New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the answer is pretty simple: be nicer to our fellow riders. So in an effort to promote good behavior, the MTA has rolled out an initiative to make the needs of passengers more transparent to their fellow riders.
Pregnant women or riders with disabilities can now request a free button from the MTA’s website. For now, two options are available: Baby On Board, Courtesy Counts and Please Offer Me A Seat, Courtesy Counts. For anyone who’s ever desperately needed a seat, these buttons are a much more chill way to make passengers aware.
“Pregnant riders, seniors and those with disabilities often need seats more than others but their condition may not always be visible,” said MTA’s interim executive director Ronnie Hakim in a statement. "We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first.
This new pilot program is a better alternative to what most passengers do now: hope someone notices they need a seat. Or, for the more brazen personality, stare angrily into the souls of inconsiderate passengers until they feel guilty enough to rise and offer you their seat.
According to The New York Times, in 2005 a similar program rolled out in London, and while it was met with praise, many passengers claimed that people simply ignore the buttons. One passenger even reported that she was asked to prove that she was pregnant.
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So while buttons may reminded passengers of such mindful courtesies, some people are just inherently flawed.
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