We are a one car household. Fortunately for us, we live in a city where you can get away with having just one car because we have a decent public transportation system.
Our transportation system, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, also has a policy that permits bikes. This allows me the daily privilege of riding my bike to the trolley station, than taking my bike on the trolley with me, than riding the rest of the way to work.
But riding public transportation definitely has some rules. Social norms that make the experience much more pleasant.
- Always wear headphones. Even if your headphones don’t connect to anything but your pocket, always wear headphones.
- Don’t stare. Look at your phone, look out the window, or stare at the floor. Just don’t look at anyone unless you want to talk. Making eye contact is an invitation to conversation.
- Don’t eat. It may seem like an efficient thing to do. But you never know when you’ll see something gross, smell something really gross, or have the awkward opportunity to eat in front of someone who clearly hasn’t eaten recently. Just don’t eat.
- Help people who are obviously lost. This is the joy of living in a tourist town. I never mind helping someone who is genuinely lost. They all have “the lost look.” example: My home station is San Diego State University. The funny part about helping people from there is that they have to really listen to understand why I am telling them to go a certain way. If they are going downtown it might make sense to go two stops further away downtown and transfer to a different trolley line. When you look on the map it looks further and the wrong direction. (It is) But it is actually significantly faster because the other line goes directly where they want to go with fewer transfers. Riding the trolley isn’t like driving. You want the fastest route, not the shortest.
- Be aware of what is going on. I’ve taken public transportation both in San Diego and Chicago frequently enough to know that there are sometimes dangers to be avoided. The general rule of thumb is, “If it feels bad, it probably is bad.” The good news in San Diego is that they have closed circuit cameras everywhere. If something did happen (I’ve never seen anything truly bad happen) there is a good chance it got caught on camera.
- Discretely take pictures or video to giggle at later. Oh, I know this is probably a social faux pax to mention. But I have seen it all on the trolley and sometimes people don’t believe me.
- If you ride regularly get to know your riding partners. The funny thing about this is that you “know” people but you might not know their names. But you know that one person gets on at this stop and reads a book every day. And another gets on and always sits near you. Or one lady is always in a hurry but is claustrophobic so won’t ride the first elevator because it is too full. You may not “know” these people, but regular riding partners will make you feel more secure.
- Know your schedule. If you ride for a while you get a sixth sense about when your bus or trolley runs. I know if I leave my house at 7:58 I have a good chance of catching an earlier trolley. Or if I don’t leave right at 5:00 PM from work, I might as well hang out another 10 minutes.
- Keep smiling. Sometimes the trolley drives me nuts. But any time I’m a little delayed or stressed out by a minor inconvenience (like a person dying on the trolley and delaying it 2 hours) I just remember that I don’t have the expense of a second car and I’m not sitting in traffic thinking about my next oil change. Taking public transportation has limited stress in my life– and for that, it’s awesome!