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BART Etiquette: 17 Steps for Becoming a Better BART Rider

BART Etiquette: 17 Steps for Becoming a Better BART Rider

Commuting on BART isn't always fun, but you can make it easier on your fellow passengers by following these 17 simple rules. Team


4 min read

August 12, 2019

There’s little worse than commuting to and from work on a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train full of rude passengers who seem to have no idea they are committing some of the most offensive BART faux pas. Though riding BART isn’t exactly a fun pastime, it’s much more convenient—and environmentally friendly—than driving through San Francisco’s crazy traffic. Plus, it affords passengers the time to catch up on reading, respond to emails, and listen to podcasts. 

While there are several distinct signs throughout the BART system that clearly state the rules (which also seem to be forgotten 9 times out of 10), there is another unspoken set of rules that visitors and new residents may not have heard about:

1. Stand Right, Walk Left

The escalators are built with enough space for two people on each step, so do us all a favor and stand on the right side with all of your things on your half of the escalator, and let those of us who have places to be walk up the left side.

2. Stand in Line

Yes, you are expected to wait your turn instead of rushing the train like a stampede. This is San Francisco, not New York.

3. Let People Off Before You Get On

Seriously: There is enough time for you to board the train, so don’t make someone else miss their stop because you rushed onto the train and blocked their way.

4. Never Cram a Bike Onto a Crowded Car

Literally, this is never okay. If there isn’t enough room for you, what makes you think there is enough room for you and your method of transportation?

5. Don’t Eat on the Train

While there are certain circumstances that make eating protein bars and the like on BART somewhat acceptable (e.g. you will faint if you don’t eat, causing the entire system to halt while you get medical attention), there is no excuse for eating potent cheesy pizza or fried chicken—and yes, I’ve witnessed both.

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6. Turn Down Your Music

Check your headphones before wearing them on the train. If your friends can hear your music playing at a normal volume while sitting next to you on the couch, then return the headphones, because they aren’t doing anyone any good. You might as well have brought a boombox. The chatter of other people and the screeching of the BART wheels already provide plenty of noise; we don’t need to hear your terrible taste in music, too. 

7. Don’t Spread Your Germs

Sometimes, riding BART while sick is unavoidable, but use common courtesy: Cover your mouth, don’t sneeze into your hands, and use hand sanitizer to help prevent others from getting your nastys. 

8. Be Aware

Take a look around when you arrive at each BART stop to see if someone might need a seat—especially if you are sitting near the train doors and are on a crowded train. Yes, you may have had a long day, but the elderly person, pregnant lady, and dude on crutches need to sit down way more than you do.

9. Take Only What You Need

Don’t be the person who takes up both seats with your luggage, purse, backpack, or whatever else it is that you’ve lugged onto the train. Seats are for people; the floor and your lap are for everything else. 

10. Make Some Room

You can’t stand by the doors and expect to not have to move during the trip. Whenever possible, move out of the way when people are entering and exiting the train; stop hogging the straps and poles that everyone needs to avoid falling over; and move to the middle of the train as soon as possible if you aren’t willing to cooperate.

11. Remove Your Backpack and Giant Purse

Crowded trains aren’t anyone’s favorite thing, but you can make it more pleasant for everyone by taking off that bulging backpack or oversized purse that keeps hitting other people in the face without you knowing it. Remember, you have zero right to get mad when somebody touches your bag to keep it from jabbing them, so save those dirty looks.

12. Put the Lotion Down

Some people are very sensitive to certain scents—and trust me, BART already has enough smells on its own—so wait until you get to your stop to put on scented lotions, perfumes, or anything else with a distinct and potent smell.

13. Keep Height in Mind

If you are tall enough to comfortably grab the top bar instead of the straps, give your shorter fellow commuters a break and let them hold onto the strap.

14. Don’t Block the Doors

There are a few stops in the city that are always busy. If everyone behind you is getting off, do them a favor and step off the train to make the process a bit smoother. 

15. Don’t Hold the Doors Open

This should go without saying, but it happens daily. If the doors are closing, wait for the next train to come instead of shoving yourself on, breaking the doors, and inconveniencing everyone else. 

16. Find Your Ticket Before You Try to Exit

Paying BART fares is not a surprise, so don’t hold everyone up while you look for your ticket. (Unlike other subway systems, BART requires passengers to insert their tickets or tap their Clipper Cards when entering and exiting, so come prepared for both situations.) To avoid holding everyone up, step to the side and find your ticket. Or better yet, use some of that time on the train to locate your ticket or Clipper Card prior to attempting to leave the station.

17. If It’s Not Acceptable on a Plane, Think Twice Before Doing It on the Train

Smoking, dancing, playing loud music, putting your feet on the seats around you, and riding bikes or skateboards wouldn’t be allowed on other forms of transportation, so avoid doing them on BART. Just try to be polite, people.

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