15 etiquette rules when taking public transit

In this column, Louise Fox, founder of the Etiquette Ladies, answers all your questions about modern manners.

Bus stop

Photo, iStock.

Dear Louise,

I regularly take public transportation and the subway. This biggest problem is not waiting for a train or bus it’s the rude people using them. Aren’t there some rules of etiquette for people to follow?

The subway may be below ground, but that doesn’t mean you’re below the radar if your bad manners are showing. People do notice, they talk about it and they remember. Yes it’s true you have some anonymity, they may not know your name, but bad manners in public spaces, especially confined spaces shows you have very little respect for yourself. Not a great message to send to the world.

Here a few tips for those of you who may need a little reminding:

1. Let those trying to exit the train get off before you board
2. Say, “Excuse me,” when passing in front of others
3. Take only one seat and put packages and belongings at your feet
4. Take care you don’t knock others off their feet when trying to maneuver into a crowded train wearing your backpack. Take it off and put it at your feet or on your knees
5. If you see a pregnant woman, elderly or disabled person or someone with a bunch of packages, get up and give them your seat. And when you do it, others will as well
6. Use the “fold” when reading a newspaper. And clean up after yourself; dispose of trash or newspapers in the receptacles provided on the platforms
7. Practice good personal hygiene
8. Curb your phone calls and lower your voice in conversations
9. Avoid eating and drinking, but if you absolutely must, avoid smelly food, don’t make a mess of yourself, and take your garbage with you
10. Turn your music down. It’s a personal music player, not a boom box (hence, the earphones)
11. Don’t place your wet umbrella on the seat.
12. Do your grooming at home or in a rest room. That includes everything from flossing your teeth, clipping your nails, to shaving your legs (yes it’s been reported) and combing your hair
13. Don’t talk over or reach across people
14. Keep your knees no more than six inches apart. Maybe you do have more than your share of the family jewels but we don’t want to see them
15. Be patient. Trains may be late, but taking it out on fellow passengers or train employees is not the answer and does not solve the problem

Have a question for Louise? Email

Louise Fox, recognized as Canada’s Etiquette Expert, is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies and She has over 20 years experience in hospitality and special-event-planning industries, and is Director of Eastern Operations of Civility Experts Worldwide and Certification Panelist and Master Trainer for the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium. She is a frequent guest on Breakfast Television, Entertainment Tonight, MTV, Business News Network, Global News and many others.

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