Train Etiquette: 10 Rules of Riding the Rails

Being wedged close to strangers on a train means etiquette is more important than ever. Brent Winebrenner/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

If you ride a train at least sometimes, you know that you often get a show included for free. Someone might try to sell you something, preach to you, sing a song or carry on a very loud (and juicy) conversation. A lot of people don't seem to know or care that all these things are disturbing to other rail passengers. And etiquette counts for a lot more when you're jammed up close with total strangers.

This issue isn't new. A 1956 poster from the New York Transit Museum's archives features a woman whacking a man in the head with her purse. The man is standing in front of the car door and the text reads, "Hit him again, Lady! We don't like door-blockers either." In 1962, the city's transit authority unveiled "Etti-Cat," a manners mascot. The black-and-white feline appeared on numerous posters, gently urging polite behavior. Said Etti-Cat, in era-appropriate language, "It was real wild scribbling all over the subway walls and cars but ... I feel real dopey about it. I'm sorry and will never do it again" [source: Carlson]. The city's latest good-subway-behavior campaign was rolled out in January 2015 under the heading "Courtesy Counts" [source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority]. Alas, no cute animals or cartoons were included.

Of course, rude train travelers are found everywhere, not just in New York City, which is why most other transportation authorities have similar etiquette campaigns. But even without a campaign, there are a lot of things you can do to make the journey more pleasant for yourself and others. The first rule is for men only.