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The rules of the rail

The Metro Red Line’s increase from 124,358 riders a day to 141,659 would go unnoticed in a city like New York or London, where millions ride the subways every day. But here in Los Angeles, a gain of not even 20,000 riders could be the catalyst for a revolution, the dawn of a newfound courtesy on the rails.

At least that’s what I found myself hoping last Monday as I watched a herd of noisy teenagers shove their way into an unusually crowded rush-hour train. Just minutes before, I had missed an earlier train because exiting commuters walking up the left side of the stairs blocked my way down to the platform.

Now that our trains and buses are packed, I wished, maybe we’ll develop a culture of mass-transit ridership in this driving city and really make commuting work. Rules of the road, meet the rules of the rail.

Just as using your blinkers and yielding the right of way can make driving more pleasant and efficient, adhering to bus and subway etiquette can make public transportation run more smoothly. On the Metro escalators -- especially the super-long escalators in some Red Line stations -- stand on the right and let pressed-for-time walkers pass on the left. When a bus or train arrives, stand to the side so riders can get off before you get on. Blocking the doors doesn’t help anyone.

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Once you’re on a standing-room-only bus, move to the back. Once you’re on a train, move away from the doors. Don’t block access to seats. Don’t put your feet on seats. Don’t put your bags on seats. Don’t shove. Don’t shout. Don’t wait until the last possible nanosecond to request your stop on the bus. If you carry a big purse or backpack, don’t swing it around. Offer your seat to older riders, disabled riders, tired-looking pregnant women and children.

Such precepts may seem anathema in Los Angeles, accustomed as we are to commuting alone. Enforcing the rules will feel awkward -- it’s a lot easier to curse a rude driver from the cocoon of your car than it is to approach a clique of high school students and ask them to let you exit.

But we might -- just might -- be coming around. I wasn’t the only one on the Red Line on Monday who took note of those kids. When the shoving started, many responded with the utmost courtesy, making room for their fellow riders in a way that was clearly meant to teach a lesson. When the kids blocked the doors, some riders protested -- meekly, but aloud. And when the kids finally stepped off the train at Metro Center, the rest of us exchanged knowing glances, shook our heads and smiled.

It was a bonding event, a moment of solidarity. Recognizing the rules of courtesy isn’t the same as enforcing them, of course. But as a first step, I’ll take it.

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-- Eryn Brown


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