Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
The CTA’s new courtesy campaign points out all of the ways you’re being a jerk in transit.
It’s no secret that packing into a lurching, overcrowded train brings out our basest, most obnoxious qualities. If you ride the subway often enough, you’re bound to see all sorts of disgusting stuff, from public urination to puddles of vomit and discarded nail clippings—not to mention people sprawled out across a number of seats. (As we’ve previously noted, manspreading is a plague.)
Chicago is the latest city to launch a campaign intended to curb our bad transit behavior.
In contrast to New York’s MTA campaign entitled “Courtesy Counts, Manners Make a Better Ride,” the CTA initiative, launched on Wednesday, isn’t pulling any punches. The MTA characterized their placards as “gentle, but firm reminders pointing out common courtesies.” The CTA posters take it up a notch with snarky tag lines. Take, for instance, “Your maid doesn’t work here. Please don’t leave your crap behind.”
On the other hand, the cartoon figures that populate the MTA’s world get off with little more than a light slap on the wrist. The ad below is essentially equivalent to asking, “Excuse me, sir, would you mind removing your knapsack?”
The CTA ads seem to be full of vitriol gurgling just below the surface. They throw serious shade at people gabbing on their phones. Look at the scathing side-eyed glances this wild-eyed lady is receiving from her fellow riders.
One contender that gives Chicago’s campaign a run for its money: this series of courtesy ads unleashed in Paris in 2012. They compare riders to wild animals, like this buffalo charging in the door, barreling through a throng of other passengers. (Translation: “If you jostle people while boarding, you still won’t leave any faster.”)
Are we rude on the subway? Sure. (In fact, 63 percent of Parisians admitted to the kinds of behaviors that were lambasted in the ads.) But sometimes it seems that the punishments for insensitive behavior go too far. Recently, manspreading has led to the arrest of two Latino men in NYC, Gothamist reported. (The trumped-up, broken windows-style charges were dismissed in court.) Other etiquette issues—such as slumping with feet up on seats—have also resulted in arrests. Hopefully this good-natured public shaming will pay off, and these ads will help us be a little less annoying on trains without inspiring a rash of prosecutions.