4.2 min readBy Published On: July 15th, 2014Categories: Features28 Comments on Bus Etiquette

I started a new job in September, and for the first time since the MBTA shuttle to Boston Latin School, I’m regularly taking public transportation.  And here’s the crazy part: I don’t hate it. Honestly, it’s not that terrible.  

I get about 15 minutes each way completely to myself.  I can read, meditate, nap, listen to music, practice The Secret, and really do whatever I want to do for 15 beautiful minutes.  As with anything in life, it’s not all bliss all the time.  There’s always going to a doofus or two who don’t know how to behave and ruin what would have otherwise been a perfectly relaxing bus ride.  Are you the aforementioned doofus?  Then read this.  Know a doofus?  Read this and then send it to them.  Even if you think you are in no way shape or form a doofus or know any doofuses (doofi?), you should still read this, because maybe everyone thinks you’re a doofus, I don’t know.

Remember you’re on a bus.  Sounds simple, right?  I mean how could you forget you’re on a bus?  You paid to get on, you’re sitting on a plastic seat surrounded by strangers dressed for work, where the hell else would you be?  Well if it’s so obvious you’re on a bus why are so many dopes yapping on their phones like they’re in their living room?

Guess what, no one on the #7 cares that you got smashed at STATS, they found a bed for your cousin, or your last one-night stand stole all your jewelry.  You may think you’re using your indoor voice but we can all hear you, so why don’t you wait till you get home to call your boyfriend and tell him you’re two weeks late, cool?

You get one seat and one seat only.  You have one ass, so you get one seat.  It’s simple math.  I know the seats are narrow and we have all sorts of crap with us to survive the day, but you only get one seat.  It’s so damn selfish, get over yourself!  Put your bags on your lap and let someone sit next to you.  I know it sucks if you have a lot of stuff (I always have at least my big work bag and my big lunch bag, so I get it) but you don’t get to take up two seats.  And while I’m talking about bags, don’t put your giant backpack on the floor blocking the isle; put that sucker on your lap.

Remember your old-school manners.  Most of the people on the bus in the morning appear to be youngish and perfectly healthy, and I find it pretty gross when someone elderly or pregnant gets on the bus and people pretend to not see them.  You see them, I know you do, and instead of looking all around or pretending to be suddenly engrossed in your phone, stand up and say: “Please, have a seat.”  And I’m talking both men and women here, offer your seat (or at least sit all the way at the back so you’ll never be put in the position, not that that’s what I do, at all).  And feminism be damned, there is nothing cuter than a gentleman offering a chick his seat; you really should do it more often.

Hygiene.  Another should-be no-brainer, but it has to be said.  Some buses are packed like sardines, and we owe it to the people we are crammed up next do to do everything in our power to not smell like hot garbage.  If you work out before you jump on the bus, please shower.  If you ate something stinky, please brush your teeth, twice.  If you boozed your face off the night before have the decency to sweat all of it out before taking any public transportation.  And last but not least, take a Q-tip and clean out your ears.  Years ago I sat behind a woman who had the grossest, waxiest ears I have ever seen; it still haunts me to this day.  Oh, and the other end of the spectrum, take it easy on the perfume and cologne; your Axe body spray makes me want to vomit.

So that’s it, for today.  Sure I could have gone into more detail, split hairs about things like iPod volume, loudly spoiling a show I DVR-ed the night before, or letting your annoying kid push the next stop thingy the whole ride, but I think I hit the big four.  If we can just get everyone to follow these basic rules, I think we’ll all be sitting pretty. Remember: the T had to take out ads to remind people to cover their mouths when they sneezed. Clearly, work needs to be done.  And with the MBTA being in the news for increasing fares and cutting service, maybe they want to read this and make it their official commuter policy.  People might be less upset about paying an extra twenty-five cents if they know they won’t be gagging on Designer Imposters body spray for their entire commute.


  1. b April 18, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Another thing that should be added is to always thank your bus driver!

  2. george m April 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    You forgot to mention the boobs who get on and stand right at the front of the bus. Move down and let others on. Also when your at the back of the bus sit in the open seat this will also let others on. Thanks

  3. Lauren B April 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Heather,

    Great post as always!  I’ve been wanting to write up something like this to submit to you guys for weeks so I’m glad bus etiquette is getting some press.

    All of your points are valid, but I think a comment on bus stop etiquette is also needed.  So if I may…

    I catch the #7 at the corner of L Street and E. 4th which as everyone knows is an extremely popular stop and crowds usually form between bus pick ups.  Well, while most considerate people queue up like people should (you see a line and you go and take your place in the back)there are are always a handful of people who just walk up to the stop and take their place in the front of the line as though it is not there.  Come on people.  You know there’s a line.  You know that it is common social etiquette that when you see a line you go to the back of it because those people in the line have been waiting longer than you and therefore deserve to get on before you.  I just don’t get it.  

  4. Karen (Aunt Mary's friend) April 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Fantastic article, couldn’t have said it better myself. Have been riding the numbers 9 and 11 for 30 years and have witnessed the worst bus etiquette ever over the past few years. Everyone is either disengaged listening to their IPods (probably to drown out the extra loud cell phone conversations), looking at their IPads or IPhones or their Kindles, etc. so when the old, handicapped, or pregnant passengers get on the bus, they become invisible! I try to say a Hail Mary when the obnoxious cell phone blabbers get on the bus, otherwise I have visions of getting up out of my seat and slapping them until they hang up!

    Let’s also not forget the crazy and strange passengers who like to scream passages from the Bible to everyone on the bus or smell like they crawled out of a sewer and pick you to sit next to.

    The only good thing is my “bus friends” — same people you see day in and day out that you strike up a conversation with which makes the ride go faster.

  5. Anonymous April 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I ride the #7 too and I feel like I could have written this response — way to go!!!!!

  6. Lorraine X April 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I am a mother too, but I think these big cadillac strollers are a real safety hazard on the bus.  I think only two should be allowed on the bus in the handicap space only.  One day, unfortunately there is going to be an accident and someone is going to gety seriously injured becasue one of those strollers or more is going to be in the middle of the isle and people are not going to be able to get off the bus.  If there is no room in the handicap space than they need to put them up…. 

  7. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    agree with ALL of this :) especially thanking the bus driver!

  8. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    agree with ALL of this :) especially thanking the bus driver!

  9. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I am 8 months pregnant and the only time I have ever been offered a seat on the T is by a very eldery lady with an oxygen tank- she probably has to deal with this all the time as well.  I have gotten stuck at the front of the number 9 with the entire handicapped section filled with young healthy people and had to try to push my stomach out of the way so people could get off the bus.  Unbelieveable!!!  Great article.

  10. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    There is one thing that should be added.  The people who stand up and have their big bag slung over their shoulder, which hits the person who is sitting in the face.

  11. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    There is one thing that should be added.  The people who stand up and have their big bag slung over their shoulder, which hits the person who is sitting in the face.

  12. Heather April 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    You’re so right!  Every day I make it a point to say ‘hello/good’ morning and ‘thanks you’.  Its amazing how many people don’t!

  13. Kristine April 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Totally agree with everything!  It kills me to see young healthy people sitting in the front seats and totally ignore the elderly riders who need the seat! 

  14. Tom January 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    And feminism be damned, there is nothing cuter than a gentleman offering a chick his seat; you really should do it more often.


    THIS… 100 times over.   How do guys expect to impress women on saturday night if they don’t respect them the other days of the week.

  15. Stephen January 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Load your Charlie Card before you get on the bus, and for the one’s who put in coins come on your killing me. I love it when I see old time Southie people on the 7 and we start chatting about the good old days and you can tell the yuppies are listening in wishing they knew what we were talking about. Thanks Heather.

  16. Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    And for the love of God, if you don’t have a loaded Charlie Card, please be considerate and let others on first.  Nothing bugs me more than when you see someone pushing to get on the bus at a busy stop and then have everyone else waiting behind them in line (and everyone else on the bus waiting for them) while they try to figure out how to load money onto their card.  Just get on last or load that baby up before your morning commute. 

  17. Mary January 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Was anyone of you on the #11 last Friday when the Bus Driver Mr. Jones on bus number 2180 was rude to an elderly lady and we all had to get off the bus and stand in the cold and get on a crowded bus.

  18. Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm
    I work at a hospital but I am more stressed riding the no. 9 home. People sitting on the outside seat not letting anyone sit with them. The bus is full and people keep their bags on the seat anyway. Grown men sitting in the handicap seats when a elderly person get on!!! It makes me crazy!! And of course I can’t keep my mouth shut. So I’ve been in many arguments. The MBTA needs to do something about this.
  19. Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I want to thank the “invalid” bus riders who drive to the starting point of the #7, #9, etc. bus route, park their cars, and get on the bus to go to work. The residents in this neighborhood cannot find parking spots because of these young people who leave their cars here all day just because they don’t want to stand up on on the bus.  Get on the bus in your own neighborhood !

  20. Jami January 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Can we add SMALL CHILDREN to the list of people who should get preferential treatment for seats on the bus?  Little kids get thrown . . . literally THROWN if they are not sitting down.  There is nowhere for them to hold on.  It’s amazing to me that I can’t drive down the street without my toddler securely anchored in a car seat, but I can take him on a city bus and have him standing with no seat, nevermind a seat belt.

    We all need to look up from our cell phones and iPads and Kindles and acknowledge each other.  Who needs the seat more than you do?  Pay it forward — it’s good karma.

    So glad someone finally wrote this article.  THANK YOU!

  21. BS January 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm
    Why thank the bus driver when most of them alternate between putting the pedal to the medal, or smashing the brakes as hard as possible. No, I’m not going to thank them for being paid to do their job poorly. If they are the 10% that dont drive the bus like it is a roller coaster, and do bother to obtain fares from everyone else that gets on, then yes, yes Ill consider thanking them
  22. Anonymous January 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Probably the same inconsiderate, ill-mannered people who won’t give up their seat for elderly passengers.

  23. Anonymous January 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Everyday me and my 4 yr old daughter walk down 4th st. to St. Bridgets. And everyday, at either M or N streets we are forced to walk in the street because people are too rude to make room on the side walk. After walking her to school I also get on the bus and it really is not that difficult to stand against the building while waiting OR MOVING for people walking by. But I guess when you don’t grow up in the city and driven to school everyday it’s hard to understand the correct way to act while waiting for and riding the bus.

  24. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm
    I always offer my seat up when I can (sometimes I’m too far back and on the inside when someone gets on the bus). It kills me when people don’t even offer their seats.

    Also people who are standing, especially near the doors,step off the bus so people can get off. Hate having to squeeze by people because no one wants to step off the bus for 2 seconds. I mean they let you back on people

  25. I love Sobo August 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    a bunch of YUPPIES!

  26. Jay August 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm
    Don’t forget those people who cut their fingernails on the bus….
  27. Chris July 18, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Etiquuette is extremely important, WE need to show simple acts of kindness. Let a person in a grocery store line go ahead of you. Each day show some simple act of kindness. I am a Catholic Christian. I focus on this Our culture is now so selfish.

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