How to Use Public Transportation Efficiently

7 easy tips to streamline your public transportation experience.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #196

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Public transportation is awesome! It's part of daily life in many places, especially cities like New York, which are so fabulous that you spend all your money on rent and can't afford a car, bicycle, or skateboard. My friend Bernice and I visited New York to see the Godspell revival on Broadway, in which I'm a teeny, tiny, itty bitty investor. We took the subway! It was so exciting! But when we got back to our hotel, Bernice gently took my arm in her vice-like grip, steered me to a nearby chair, and pulled the piece of paper off my back that someone had taped there. It said "Public Transit Newbie!" Ouch! Nailed! Bernice then patiently explained the ins and outs of public transportation.

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Here are the tips she gave me for navigating public transit like a pro.

Tip #1: Stand Right, Walk Left

Escalators are everywhere, especially in big cities. Moving walkways zip through airports. And in some cities, people even use the sidewalks. The rule is: Stand to the right so people can walk by you on the left. In fact, even if you're walking, stay to the right as much as possible, so people going faster than you can easily get by. Otherwise, they back up behind you. If while walking, you notice there's no one in front of you and 852 people behind you with expressions of patient tolerance on their faces (if you’re lucky), that means it's time to move over to the right and let them pass. As Bernice so callously informed me, "No, they are not your fan club."

Leave room even if you're with friends. Having an escalator-filling group is fun for you, but not so fun for the people trying to get by. Give them room, and that way, they won't hurt you.

Tip #2: Let Exiting People Out, First

Speaking of hurt, I love the New York City subway. I get a good seat, because the instant the doors open, I just push my way right past everyone, the way a true New Yorker would. No little old lady's going to beat me to that open seat. But it works even better if I just step to the side and let the passengers out first. I can hold back the rest of the crowd from rushing in, and once everyone's disembarked, I have a clear path to that open seat.

Letting people out first, also works for elevators. Let them out, and there's more room for you, plus, Modern Manners Guy won’t have to reprimand you for impolite behavior.

Tip #3: Move to the Back of the Bus (Yes, You!)

If there's room for you, use it! Move in as far as you can. The driver often says "Move all the way in to make room." But I stay right by the door, since I'm getting out in only 3 stops. Then he gets specific. "You, the one with the fluorescent sneakers, step all the way to the center of the car." Oh. That's me. I try to move in a couple of inches, but the other people aren't moving, so I'm getting closer to their personal space. ICK!

Don't be me. When you board, move all the way in. All the way. When the driver tells people to move in, everyone thinks he's talking to everyone but them. No, he's talking to you. Yes, that may mean you have to get close to other people. Deal with it. Pretend they're hugging you. That's what I do; it makes up for all those years of being single.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.