Top Violations of SEPTA Passenger Etiquette | Philly Views
March 22, 2018

Top Violations of SEPTA Passenger Etiquette

Written by Bernie Rodgers

It’s safe to say that everyone in Philly has a love-hate relationship with SEPTA. While it’s extremely convenient to have a functional transportation system in a huge city, there’s endless annoyances that comes with being a rider.

If you’ve ever waited for the 12 bus on 28th and Grays Ferry on a Saturday night, fearing for your life that even one of the pigeons will murk you, then you understand the frustrations of SEPTA.

Aside from the irritation of a schedule that is constantly running late, there’s an entire list of irritations just from other riders themselves.

Philadelphians have a reputation for rudeness, and apparently, being the ugliest people in the world. Don’t be one of those people.

If you want to know how to avoid being a horrible SEPTA patron, then here’s your guide. Dovetailing our Most Annoying Philadelphians feature, this focuses on things you should just never do while riding SEPTA.

These are violations of SEPTA Passenger Etiquette

Crotch Shot

We all know that some days are busier than others. For example, at 6 am on a Monday morning, you might get to kick back and enjoy an empty bus to yourself while dramatically listening to music. Yet, there are days that it feels like everyone and their grandma are suddenly packed into the bus. On these kind of days, there’s one major rule you need to remember.

If you’re standing in the middle aisle, gripping the handrail so you don’t tumble over and crush a toddler, remember this: Don’t stand with your crotch facing someone sitting down. There’s no worse feeling than peacefully listening to Lana Del Rey, scrolling through Instagram, then looking up to meet someone’s drawers at eye level.

There are alternatives to this standing position. You could face the front of the bus with your hip towards the person seated, or you could wiggle your way to the back door and hide out in that nook. Just literally do anything besides putting your junk in some poor cosmopolitan’s face.

Smelly Eating

We all get hungry, it’s just a part of being a living organism. We also all love some foods that might be a little fragrant. Personally, I could eat forty buffalo wings drenched in stinky blue cheese dressing everyday and be content. However, my roommates might have an issue with needing to seek shelter in their bedrooms while the living room reeks of buffalo burp and chicken grease.

The same issue applies to SEPTA. Scent is one of the most powerful senses and you feel that fact most when a passenger is mercilessly devouring a box of Popeye’s beside you on the El. No matter how much your stomach is grumbling, just wait until you get off the bus to eat your food. Believe it or not, nobody wants to smell cajun cooking at 8 am on their way to work.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, take it straight from the top. SEPTA made this video in 2011 to explain some passenger food etiquette.


In my mind, the optimal bus ride is one where there’s a seat for everyone, no one has to stand, and everyone is silent and respectful of others’ space. Hopefully, it’s the same for you. But it might not be. You might be dying to hear your favorite banger that just popped into your head. Yet, there’s no need to pull out your gigantic headphones and blast it so loud that the squirrels on the street can hear it.

I love A$AP Ferg like any millennial that was alive in 2013, but I can tell you without a doubt that Auntie Jane sitting in the handicap section isn’t going to enjoy hearing “PUT IN WORK, UGH YEAH, PUT HIM INNA DIRT” at 11 am. Just keep your music at a reasonable volume with both earbuds in and you should be ready to ride.

Blocking Exits

More often than not, some people are forced to stand on the bus. Aside from avoiding toppling over and crushing an elderly rider, it’s pretty easy to do this. However, some people manage to ruin it.

If you know that you’re approaching a busy stop and tons of people are going to leave the bus, why would you stand directly in front of the door? You’re not the person that has to handle a nagging boss making snide comments over being five minutes late, are you? Nope, you’re just that dude who chose to block an exit and add an extra minute to someone’s commute.

P.D.A. Policy

In the words of Rihanna, love is great, love is fine. Especially when you’re young, it’s easy to tumble head over heels into an overly-gushy romantic affair. Yet, before you run off into a candle-lit gondola ride over the canals of Venice at midnight, you should learn how to handle your love in public.

A quick kiss? Cute. Some light hand-holding? Heart-warming. Playing footsies under the bus seats? Now we’re walking a fine line. Trust and believe me, you might think that everyone should be just as excited as you over your love interest, but take off the rose-colored glasses.

Nobody wants to watch you wrestle tongues while wrapped in a suffocating embrace in the back of the El. Just last out the extra ten minutes for your stop until the explosion of affection starts.

Seat Saver

This is an issue I see everywhere. There’s five people standing, but one lady feels audacious enough to prop her bag onto her neighboring seat. This is fine if you need to run through your pockets and need space, but if you just don’t want the inconvenience of a stranger beside you, then it’s a problem.

If you graduated kindergarten, then you know how to share. It’s not that hard to sit beside someone new. Hey, maybe you could even make a friend.

General Drama

Now, this a pretty broad rule, but Philly has a pretty wide variety of common public hysteria. I mean, I completely get it. You woke up late, have shaving cream behind your ear, and forgot to brush your teeth.

Any decent person could become irritated by this. However, while you might feel like it’s not your fault, it’s definitely not the bus driver’s or any passenger’s fault.

Don’t start a fight with anyone on the bus. Not only is this incredibly immature and embarrassing, but it’s extremely violating and predatory. A transportation system is meant to be a resource for citizens, not twenty-five minutes spent in fear of getting jumped.

Other kinds of more casual drama include loud phone conversations and other types of verbal diarrhea. Nobody wants to hear you recount last night’s frat party to your bro, especially not at a screaming volume. Also, nobody wants a polite “hello” to turn into a twenty minute venting spree about your recent breakup, either.

While this might not outright seem like bad behavior, it’s rude to take advantage of someone’s kindness to interject your soapbox monologue.

Subway Casanova

In my opinion, this one shouldn’t even have to be a rule. It’s 2018, we respect women and give them their space and privacy. There’s no reason why anyone should feel entitled to hurl creepy compliments and bitter remarks at women while on the subway.

You might think that you’re cheering her day up, but really you’re just making a random girl uncomfortable that a man is trying to publicly satisfy his ego on the morning commute. Keep your comments to yourself and evaluate why you even have this need in the first place.


Similar to general drama, this is another umbrella rule. It applies to the guy that smells like fermented B.O. sitting at the back of the bus. It applies to the old man blatantly drunk in front of everyone at 1 pm. Also, it applies to the girl lowkey splitting open a blunt and dumping all the guts onto the floor. If you’re old enough to ride the bus again, then you’re old enough to learn how to properly be a neat person that’s in control of their body and all of its accompanying scents.

Also, while we’re talking about controlling our physical beings, don’t touch anyone! It’s not really any more complicated than that, just don’t do it.

Just don’t be the worst. It’s really not that difficult.

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