Seven should-be habits of highly effective T-riding people

Keep your hands on the pole and not on your neighbor’s ass, bucko.
By SHARON STEEL  |  May 2, 2008

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Smells like T spirit!
Boston’s mass-transit system dates back to 1631, when sailboats ferried passengers from Chelsea to Charlestown. In the subsequent 377 years, service has become a teeny bit faster — but at a price that has put the MBTA in debt to a tune of more than $8 billion. With transportation issues getting renewed scrutiny under the Patrick administration, Phoenix staffers fanned out to kick the T’s tires.

• The trolley Svengali: Why Dan Grabauskas might actually fix the T — if he can keep his job. By Adam Reilly.
• Trouble 'round the bend? MBTA workers have been without a contract for two years. Arbitration will settle the matter soon, but could stir an angry hornets’ nest for 2010. By David S. Bernstein
• Seven habits of highly effective T-riders: Keep your hands on the pole and not on your neighbor’s ass, bucko. By Sharon Steel.
• The T and the Tube: London’s Underground is seething with danger. Boston’s T has cuckoo juice. By James Parker.
• Underground art: Reviewing the MBTA’s subterranean aesthetic. By Mike Miliard.
A sinking feeling: Leaky MBTA tunnels have been seeping Boston’s groundwater for years. Can a new plan prevent potential catastrophe? By David S. Bernstein
• State of hock: If the MBTA wasn't in debt, these items would be at the top of its new wish list. By Jason Notte.
• The Phoenix editorial: Is the MBTA on track?

Charlie — that button-eyed, lopsided-grinning, porkpie-hat-wearing mascot of the MBTA — isn’t exactly an accurate pictorial representation of the majority of T riders. In fact, we’ve long thought one of the reasons Charlie looks so damn delighted (there’s something diabolical in that pointed wink) is because he pumps himself full of sedatives prior to a punishing day spent inside our subway tunnels.

There are times when we wish we could do the same. Lumbering delays, a stop on every corner on the B trains and none in Inman Square, and an infuriating inability to handle bad weather are among our many complaints about our ancient mass-transport system. But we’ve long resigned ourselves to that. What really puts us over the edge is the conduct of our fellow riders, and it’s recently gone beyond a run-of-the-mill ignorance of common courtesy. Because of several T assaults, flashings, and molestations, the MBTA just launched a public-service campaign to warn people that they’re being “watched,” and to encourage potential victims to file reports.

No surprise, then, that one person’s peaceful commute on the T is another person’s journey to the gaping maw of Hell. But we are romantic idealists at heart, and even at our most hopeless moments — ever tried attempting to enter the Kenmore station right before a Sox home game? — we believe the impossible is possible. Herein, a well-meant manual to encourage civility and etiquette on the T. When in doubt about whether to expose your private bits to the next throng of anonymous commuters, stop, breathe, refer to this handy cheat-sheet, and calmly ask yourself: what would Emily Post do? Right: keep that trench coat buttoned, pally.

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