Typically narcissistic blogging.

PSA: How to Ride BART

Okay. I’ve already suggested that you think before you speak, that you be generally aware of other people’s insecurities and that, for fuck’s sake, you tip your bartenders. If you thought I was done asking for some personal accountability in our everyday interactions, you were being hilariously optimistic.

This post is primarily geared toward patrons of Bay Area Rapid Transit. And in essence what it asks from those patrons is that they:

  1. Be more aware of the people around them;
  2. Be more considerate of the people around them; and
  3. Stop being douchebags.

Now, for the fun part.


  • Have your tickets or Clipper cards out by the time you get to the turnstile. I don’t want to wait for you to put your phone or iPod down and rifle through your purse or pockets to get in or out, and I certainly don’t want to miss my train because you are disorganized. Neither does anybody else.
  • To the extent that you can actually read it or remember: know how much money you have left on  your ticket. Don’t be that person holding up and then pushing back through the line because you couldn’t glance at the numbers or keep track of what you had on the ticket.


  • Escalators are 2 lanes. There is a standing lane and a walking lane.

The Standing Lane

  • If you do not want to walk up the escalator, stand to the right. All the way over to the right. If you are riding up with friends, you all still need to stand on the right. It’s okay if for the next minute or so you are not standing right next to each other. Your friends will still be your friends at the top of the escalator unless something really interesting has happened on the ride up.
  • If you do not want people to run into you as you stand on the right, do not stand with arms akimbo, do not lean so that either your upper or lower body are further to the left. Stand upright. The ride up the escalator is not so long that this should be an issue, and unless you are having a photo shoot, nobody gives a fuck how “cool” you look as you ride up.
  • Keep your bags and stuff in front of you on the escalator, not at your side.

The Walking Lane: On the way up.

  • The walking lane is on the left.
  • Once you have committed to the walking lane, keep walking. Especially during commute hours, when there are probably a hundred people right behind you. Do not stop to find music on your ipod. Do not stop just before the top of the escalator. KEEP WALKING until you are completely clear of the escalator and out of the way of people who are heading out of the station.
  • There is no stop-n-go on the left hand side. If you must stop, find an open space on the right. There are usually such spaces to slide into.

The Walking Lane: On the way down.

  • The walking lane is still on the left.
  • Do not dawdle. Do not mosey. Do not stroll. People are trying to catch trains, and just because you don’t have anywhere to be in a hurry it does not mean the people behind you feel similarly relaxed about things.
  • You don’t need to run down the stairs most of the time, but if there is a train clearly waiting at the platform, there’s guaranteed to be people behind you running to catch it. Don’t want to be pushed out of the way? Then get out of the way.

ETA: Then again, you might just want to take the stairs.

Before Boarding

  • This is BART, not the NY subway, not the London Underground. That is to say, if you are there in time and paying attention at all, the train is not actually going to leave without you. With that in mind:
  • You don’t need to line up in such a way that people on the train cannot get off the train. Give them some space. The worst thing that happens is some asshole cuts in front of you and takes the very last skanky seat in the car. Guess what, folks: that might actually be a blessing.
  • You don’t need to line up for trains you aren’t boarding. Waiting for Fremont? When the Richmond train comes along, stand to the side so that the people who want to board don’t have to walk into you or around you to get on.

On the Train


  • Let’s start with a big one. I gladly relinquish my seat for passengers of the following sort:
    • People with disabilities or injuries
    • People with small children
    • Elderly people

If you aren’t relinquishing your seats for these people, what the hell is wrong with you? Is it really so important that you sit on the absolutely disgusting seats on the train that you cannot get up for people who plainly need them more than you do? I don’t care how long my day has been or how tired I am. It’s always possible to stand for a few minutes longer.

  • Move out of the way for people in wheelchairs. Sure, the train might be full. You might have to move somewhere you don’t like. You might have to stand. SO WHAT? You think that they are in wheelchairs just to get some attention, maybe? You think they are rolling around in these chairs specifically to inconvenience you, or because they are lazy? No. They are in those chairs because they need to be, and they need to get around just like you do.
  • Perfume/Cologne/Aftershave. Did you bathe in it? Then bathe again. People have allergies and sensitive noses. This isn’t the Elizabethan era. Don’t forget your laundry detergent, deodorant, cosmetics, and hair products are often scented, as well. Nobody wants to be nose-assaulted with your manufactured stink.


There are not enough BART trains for the sheer number of people commuting between San Francisco and the East Bay. So the trains get pretty packed. However, that’s no excuse for some of the ridiculous behavior I have witnessed on trains. It would be amazing if Bay Area riders would remember that they are a part of a community, no matter how inconvenient or annoying things might get. For example:

  • If you are on a packed or even moderately full car, people still need to get on and off the train. If you are in the middle of the boarding area (between the doors) on the train, you have to remember that and be aware that people must move past you. Sometimes you don’t have anywhere to move–that’s understandable. But if you do have somewhere to move, then fucking move.
  • On the flip side of that, sometimes people trying to get off the train forget that people are coming from all angles. The people remaining on the train will sometimes not be able to move out of your way immediately because they are busy letting people out from two other directions. Consider that before you get impatient and push through them.
  • If you are standing by the doors of a packed train, step off to let other people out. You will effectively be first in line to reboard the train and again—the train ain’t leavin’ without you.
  • If somebody needs help out, help them out. I was once on a packed train back from SFO, and this woman had a single, very large piece of luggage with her. At her stop, not only could nobody be fucked helping her out, but they wouldn’t even move out of her way. I was the one person on the train willing to pick up the other end of her bag and essentially bulldoze our way off the train through all of the inconsiderate and passive-aggressive douchebags on the train with us. That shouldn’t have been necessary. It should never be necessary. I don’t know what people think they are going to lose by moving, or helping, but it can’t be that major. It really can’t.


Bicycles on trains are annoying, inconvenient, and bulky. You know why? Because BART can’t be bothered providing proper space for them and their riders. As somebody who has been a bike/BART commuter and who has been grossly inconvenienced by other people and their bicycles, I see both sides of the issue for BART patrons. However, I have noticed a couple of changes that could really improve the situation.

  • Non-cyclists: instead of being all put-out and pissy that somebody has brought a bicycle on the train, look around. There are a number of places on trains that are ideal for bikes, and if you can be the person who moves out of one of those places to let the bike in, the ride could be far more comfortable for everybody on the train. This might require some skill with human Tetris, but rather than forcing the cyclist to keep his or her vehicle in the middle of a main train thoroughfare, you could allow them to get out of your—and everybody’s—way.
  • Cyclists: please be careful with your bikes. Be aware of how much space you are taking up, and the possibility for injury. I’ve gotten scraped up pretty badly by your pedals, for example, and bruised by handlebars. This is not necessary. Keep control of your vehicle, please.
  • Cyclists: keep your fucking bikes off of the escalators. If you are too lazy to use the stairs, use the elevators. Be considerate, and stop giving more responsible cyclists a bad name.

Bay Area, I love you. Time to start acting like the people around you matter—even if it’s just for the brief time when you are surrounded by them on a hot, dirty, stinky, cranky, tired, overwhelmed BART train. In fact, if you can’t pull out the best of yourselves in that situation, I worry for all of us when the Zombie Apocalypse lands on our doorsteps.

18 responses

  1. Well said. My only comment (because it was a source of anxiety for me when I rode BART regularly) is that not everyone with an injury/disability looks like they are injured/disabled. So be a little careful judging on that.

    March 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    • True, and I am aware of that. However, for the purposes of a PSA, that’s on the nitpicky side. At some point, I have to hope people can make their own judgment calls there.

      March 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      • Peter H. Coffin

        Additionally, this is about what you, the reader, should be doing. It isn’t about what Other People are/should be doing.

        March 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      • Elusis

        (threaded reply not available)

        Well, one thing You, the Reader shouldn’t be doing is leaping to conclusions about who deserves to be accommodated with seating and etc. and then glaring daggers at people who look unworthy.

        March 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      • Elusis

        Just putting in my 3 cents (thanks to inflation) that the “remember, people have invisible disabilities” thing is the important flip side of the “damn, let people who need those seats have them” etiquette pointer. Both contribute to a civil society.

        I was a dumbass about the invis/dis thing for a long time even though one of my best friends was a classic case – chronic pain, fatigue, cardiopulmonary problems, arthritis, you name it she had it, but she looked like a cute goth girl. Now I’ve got my own; fortunately it doesn’t keep me from making way for others too often.

        (I suppose it’s a thing with me after a campus diversity survey turned up a very hostile, ranting comment about “people who don’t need the handicapped stall in the bathroom” and I was like “uh, like you know who has an ostomy, a replacement hip, who wears Depends or has claustrophobia or has arthritis and needs the grabby-bar…”)

        I swear to god it ought to be legal to shiv people who don’t observe “Walk Left; Stand Right” though. (Transit systems who fail to post this missive should have to pay fines to the taxpayers.)

        March 6, 2011 at 2:18 am

        • True, but again, I am going to leave that up to personal judgment and learning. People need to figure out for themselves how to gauge the situation and I refuse to be the arbiter of that. Hence not mentioning it in post.

          March 6, 2011 at 2:52 am

  2. Latemodel

    Awesome, and thank you for writing this! Very accurate, very even handed. These really are the rules that every regular commuter knows, and qt rush hour things move beautifully despite standing-room-only crowds because everyone is on the same page.

    One thing I can think of to add for infrequent riders is that the train doors usually stop right at the black stripes on the platform edge. The trains are run by computers, and they usually hit their mark within 12″.

    Because you didn’t mention it, I’m curious to know what you think of the board-from-the-side method. That is, people waiting to board line up to the sides of the entrance, leaving the middle open for passengers exiting the train. They have signs on the ground indicating this at Embarcadero, and during commute hours riders generally follow this pattern everywhere. But weekends and game days, dear god it’s a scrum.

    March 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    • Yeah, I thought about that and have more or less come to the conclusion that people are gonna line up pretty much randomly outside of commute hours (during commute hours the possibility of some tired angry FiDi deskworker pulling a shiv for line cutters has crossed my mind). I am hoping that if there is enough of a focus on remembering to let everybody off and everybody on, the lines will sort themselves out.
      In short, I am avoiding that issue entirely.

      March 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm

  3. membrane

    Excellent post! My only addition would be “For the love of science, don’t drown yourself in cologne or perfume before you get on BART.”

    March 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

  4. Anna

    This is just for you.


    March 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

    • Yeah, the article I linked to in my post is the more comprehensive version of that. 🙂

      March 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

  5. jonstarbuck

    You missed out “Don’t push your kid’s stroller under my feat as you enter the train while I am exiting, not if you don’t want me to fall on your kid and shout at you anyway”.

    May 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm

  6. jonstarbuck


    May 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm

  7. This is in no way limited to BART, but any public transportation or space, really: listening to music? Use headphones! Using headphones? Keep it at a “to-yourself” level. Most of us don’t enjoy whateverthefuck you are listening to while making our way home (even if I might enjoy it on my own time), and inflicting your tastes on others nonconsensually is just a dick move. I guarantee I am not thinking to myself “that guy is fucking cool”.

    April 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

  8. Wow this takes me back. I used to take the BART from Pleasanton to SFO and back five days a week when I lived there. I have to say that this seems to be the case for public transportation everywhere. I live in NJ now, and I don’t know how many times I see someone looking for change for a 20 when they get on the bus outside the bus terminal where you can buy a ticket to hand the bus driver.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:56 am

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