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Metro Launches Campaign on Priority Seats

The type of letter I get most frequently on a transit topic: The problem of eating or drinking on board Metro trains. The second most frequent: The problem of making the priority seats available to people who are elderly or disabled.

On the latter issue, There are new, more visible signs highlighting the priority seats at the centers of the cars. There were signs above those seats already, but these new ones are in a lower, more attention-getting position.

Metro says it also is placing ads inside the train cars and the stations and making announcements about the need to give these seats to elderly or disabled people. (We don't have to wait for them to ask. Some are reluctant to do that. Some tell me that when they do, the seated person will look them up and down before deciding whether they qualify for the seat.)

At some downtown stations today, riders will see Metro staff handing out brochures with tips about being courteous to fellow passengers and the use of the priority seats. Doesn't seem like we should need that, but experience suggests we do. Here's an online version of that brochure. You can see the new signs in a picture, too.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 18, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Good Luck getting people in this town to actually be courteous!

Posted by: amr2 | May 18, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Some how I don't think better signs are the solution. Unfortunately I don't believe there is any solution.

Posted by: chibbs2000 | May 18, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

It would be extremely worthwhile to expand the signage campaign to the Metro buses. As a daily rider, I see the need for such reminders, particularly among teenage and young adult riders.

Posted by: DCresident17 | May 18, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with giving the seating up to the disabled and seniors; but not those you choice to be's not my problem.

Posted by: shadon1 | May 18, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the other posters. Starting an ad campaign or giving out brochures is not the answer. I also agree with chibbs that there may not be a solution at all.

Some of these young kids or adults I see only care about themselves. They certainly aren't going to give up their seat.

Posted by: stewarthaas1439 | May 18, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Let us not bash only the young. My nine-months-pregnant self has been studiously ignored by middle-aged professionals in priority or aisle seats, who keep their eyes steadily trained on their reading material despite packed train conditions that should prompt everyone to assess whether a needier rider is at hand. What's more, I even watched K Streeters clad in tasteful business suits STEP OVER a rider in the middle of a grand mal seizure at a Farragut stop.

Courtesy is a universal problem at rush hour, folks. Let's all try to set the example that we want to see of others. And let's help out those who need the extra hand: I've asked other riders to give up their seat when an obviously disabled person has entered the car and I've been standing. The public shaming has always worked.

Posted by: OneSockOn | May 18, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, you can't legislate morality, and you honestly can't *make* people act courteously with any lasting effect. It has to come from within and unfortunately a lot of people around here (young, old, in-between) have adapted the mindset of many politicians and bureaucrats that says that their comfort/time/etc. is more important than anyone else's because they do Important Work, even if that consists of paper-pushing (don't give me that look, that's my job too).

That said, it is a nice gesture on Metro's part, even if it is a rather futile one.

(I do offer up my seat when I see it's necessary; I've been refused before, but I still offer.)

Posted by: | May 18, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I'll believe this latest campaign will make as much of a difference as when they claimed to start greater enforcement of the no eating/drinking rule. Then maybe they can address the newest problem - people blaring music on various mobile devices without headphones.

Posted by: mcljphillips | May 18, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm young. I have no obvious disability. When I can, I don't sit down at all, or take the out-of-the-way seats.

But sometimes, my knees/ankles/feet are legitimately a problem, and I can barely walk. Since I rarely use crutches on the metro, you can't tell. So just because I'm young and sitting down doesn't mean I'm guilty.

Posted by: CosetTheTable | May 18, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Not everyones disability is visually apparent. I sometimes have to wear a brace on my knees to get around. Will I have to wear shorts in mid-Jan, just to comply with the METRO priority seating? I DONT think so.

So before METRO chases me out of those priority seats, remember than everyones disability isnt always visual, and I'm gonna sit where I can, and I WILL NOT MOVE. And don't expect me to show the brace. My word is good enough to comply with the priority seating signs.

(Would WMATA mind, if I drink my soda & eat my chips, in these seats as I ride to my destination? I bought these items at the kisoks inside METRO Center & its a long ride going to where I get off.)

Posted by: Robbnitafl | May 19, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The key is compromise on all parts. As suggested when Lena Sun hosted Dr. G's chat yesterday, riders who are sitting in the reserve seats should look up when they arrive at a stop or ask "Does anyone need this seat?" Riders who are pregnant or have a disability should ask "I need one of the reserved seats, would anyone be willing to let me sit?" In each case, it is a one-to-many question rather than a one-to-one.

And if everyone respects the questions as intended, I think it can all work out for everyone. Those who need, can get to sit and those who don't get up. If everyone is respectful, the system could work. Additionally, we need to encourage this so that the questions become common place and people see how it works. Once people get comfortable with hearing the questions, they'll start using them. The problem here is that too many people riding the Metro are self-engrossed and won't look outside their personal space.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | May 19, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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