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Olympic travel tips: transit etiquette and behaviour

For those who might be on transit for the first time during the Olympics, here’s a short series of tips to help you get on your way. (If you do know this stuff already, please pass it along to those who might find this useful!)

So far in the Olympic tips series: info on tickets, bike info, Park and Rides, a guide to transit staff, where to find real-time transit info online, and transit etiquette. Let me know if I should add anymore!

If you’re new to transit, you might notice that experienced riders are following an unspoken sort of transit etiquette.

That’s because regular riders know there are many things you can do to make the ride easier on yourself and your fellow passengers.

So if you’d like to help out, here’s a short transit etiquette list to help you get started. (There’s also a list on the main TransLink site.)

Although really, the golden rule of transit travel is “Be considerate” :)

Make boarding easier (and faster) for everyone

Have your fare ready when you board a bus
If you count your change on the bus, passengers behind you are stuck waiting to board. So have exact change ready before the bus arrives, and you can quickly pay when you get on. Better still – buy a prepaid fare, and you can just validate the ticket or wave your pass when boarding!

Let everyone off the transit vehicle before you get on
This is especially true for SkyTrain. Stand clear of the doors and let everybody exit easily—the quicker they get off, the quicker you can board.

Move as far into the vehicle as you can
Going far inside leaves more room for people to get on.

Put your backpack (or your bag) on the floor
A big backpack can take up a lot of room if it’s on your back, leaving less room for other people to board. Put it on the floor and more people can hop on.

Walk left. Stand right.
When using an escalator, please stand to the right to allow people to pass you on the left.

Make the ride easier for your fellow passengers

Give seats to those who need them
Seats closest to the doors are for those with disabilities and/or seniors. People appreciate you offering these seats to them. It’s worth remembering that some people have disabilities that aren’t always obvious. If someone asks you to give up a seat because they have a disability, please take their word for it.

It’s a good idea not to eat or drink on board transit vehicles! You could spill it, or it might bother fellow passengers if your food is particularly aromatic. Or you might be left with messy garbage while on a busy vehicle..

Personal hygiene
Busy rides on transit can mean close quarters. Deodorant can make all the difference! It’s also wise to be mindful of those who suffer from allergies to certain scents, and apply your scented products moderately.

Don’t pump up the volume
Continuous loud noises can really bother your fellow passengers – so be aware of the volume of your music player, the sound of your conversations (both in person and on cell phones), or other noise you might be making.

If you have any other transit etiquette notes to add, feel free!


  • By Ivan, February 4, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    Riders are reminded not to wear backpacks as the packs can hit the passengers who are seated.

  • By Holly, February 4, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    If you’re sitting in an aisle seat and the person beside you picks up their back pack, that usually means they’re getting off at the next stop and you should stand to let them pass.

  • By Sally, February 4, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    If you hear a cell phone ringing and all the other passengers are looking at you, that’s because it is YOUR cellphone!!!

  • By zack, February 4, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    Other rule notes should include no swearing, no inappropriate behavior, and no smoking on all transit property.

  • By Bob, February 4, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

    I would strongly like to emphasize the “Personal hygiene” part. Also, to add: nobody wants to smell your breakfast rotting in your mouth…brush your teeth! It’s not only good for other, but for your teeth as well.
    Likewise, nobody wants to smell other peoples’ sweat. I’ve been to poorer parts of the world where temperatures reach 40*C during the summer; yet, hardly any body odour is noticeable on packed 30 year old buses.

  • By Steve, February 4, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    This is a good reminder. Life is getting a little heated on the over-crowded Canada Line where I have seen two guys starting punching each other (yes, fist punching), and a couple of nights ago I had to stand next to someone who was high on drugs – smell and behaviour was pretty bad. With the odd exception I find Vancouver residents really friendly and courteous, much nicer than other cities I have lived.

  • By Babette, February 4, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    What people really don’t seem to understand is what to do on a crowded bus/train. If you’re standing in front of the door and people need to get out, step off the bus to let them pass. Move away from the back doors when they are closing so they can actually close. Don’t stand in front of an empty seat, either sit or move so someone else can sit. When you want to get off, it usually isn’t necessary to move towards the doors until the bus/train actually stops, and you just end up squishing and bumping everyone along the way.

  • By Tristan, February 4, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

    So, not eating on transit vehicles is a recommendation? According to some signage, it’s a doable offense. And yet, there are cafes inside fair paid zones.

    This is an embarassment. Please develop a coherent policy around food on transit vehicles.

  • By Dave 2, February 4, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

    Rules for busy passageways. When on a collision course with someone walking in the opposite direction, pass each other on the right. If you’re about to change direction, shoulder check first.

  • By Dave 2, February 4, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    I’ve noticed that the no food/drink icons are not on the new onboard Skytrain signs, and the platform “Rules & Regulations” no longer mention food and drink. The Canada Line, OTOH, has signs near the station entrances.

  • By Joanna, February 4, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

    Please, please do NOT leave your trash on the buses and Skytrains! Although trash does not seem to be an issue on the Seabus as there are trash cans on the vessel and lots of staff to check the boat, a lot of people leave empty cups, cans, paper bags, and newspapers on buses and trains. Garbage leaves a bad impression on other riders, and it increases the operating costs of TransLink because somebody has to clean up that mess and other riders don’t want to touch your mess.

    That’s just about my biggest pet peeve about the bus system.

  • By ;-), February 5, 2010 @ 12:55 am

    -don’t chat with the driver and block the passage way
    -don’t use courtesy seats if you don’t need it. In many other countries it is first come first serve.
    -check to see if strollers are exiting before entering at busy stations
    -flip up seats if you see strollers or wheelchairs
    -don’t block rear doors if you are not exiting (need serious re education). Bring back paddle (McKay gate).
    -prepare to exit prior to people coming in

  • By Paul, February 5, 2010 @ 1:13 am

    The only tip that I could add to all the great ones list.

    Do not do something that if someone else did the same thing would get you upset. Unless of course your a self centred egotistical human who only thinks of themselves and no one around you.

    Now if only we can get people to follow this etiquette list till the end of time. :)

  • By ???, February 5, 2010 @ 2:07 am

    Don’t smoke at the bus stop?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 5, 2010 @ 8:58 am

    Tristan, Dave 2:

    Here’s what I know about the food policy.

    Food isn’t prohibited on transit vehicles by our Transit Rules and Regulations. However, you are meant to abide by what our staff asks of you — so if you are asked not to bring food and drink onboard, you shouldn’t do it.

    So for us, food is really dealt with on a case by case scenario. If you are eating/drinking on board, use discretion and make sure you’re not disrupting others or likely to spill etc. I have just suggested above that you might not want to eat on board because of all the possible pitfalls.

    As Dave 2 points out though, Canada Line might have different rules about food — I’m not exactly sure how that all works. But I’ll ask!

  • By Cliff, February 5, 2010 @ 9:47 am

    An interesting one I do is to leave by the front doors if I’m the only one getting off and there’s no one getting on at the stop I’m disembarking.

    Why? Apart from giving me the opportunity to thank the driver, it allows the him to close the doors manually as soon as I step off the bus and not have to wait for the rear doors to close.

    Oh, and don’t smoke on transit property or around bus stops (at least not with non-smokers around). There is enough signage up to make it common sense now.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 5, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    Tristan, Dave 2:
    I’ve asked ProTrans BC, the private operator of the Canada Line, and their policy is no food or drink inside a fare paid zone.

  • By Jim, February 5, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    A great tip if your taking a bus and are asked to move to the back the back is not at the foot of the back steps but actually the seats at the back so if your asked to move back please do so that others can get out of the rain and get to where they want to. I am sure if you were out side at the stop and saw that there was room you would want the people in the bus to move to allow you to get on as well which is much appreciated. I feel like often people in north america are so worried about personal space that even being a little close to others makes them concerned!

  • By Stefan, February 5, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    “Please move to the back of the bus” should be the number one rule. (Are new buses still getting those “Please move to the back of the bus” stickers)?

    More than a few times, I have gotten on at the front, been crushed between more people getting on and no one behind me moving back, and so (politely) worked my way through all the people squeezed into the front half of the bus, and found a wide open space (and often a seat!) at the back of the bus.

    It seems as if the low-floor buses exacerbate the problem, as people tend to congregate around the wide-open exit area (and/or the steps present some kind of visual barrier to the back of the bus), and then more and more riders accrete in the front of the bus.

    Oh: And the number 2 rule: when at a station, please do not stand directly in front of SkyTrain doors when people are exiting!

    In South Korea, subway cars and trains are always the same length, so doors are always located at the same point on the platform, and there are even platform markings indicating where the doors are, and more markings that encourage people to line up to the left and right of the doors, leaving a clear area for passengers exiting the train.

  • By Reva, February 5, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    With the exception of what Cliff described, and of course wheelchair passengers/elderly/disabled/etc., PLEASE EXIT THE BUS BY THE REAR DOORS. I find this is especially a problem on the new Novas. Often I will see 2 or 3 people get off at the back doors, while 8 or 10 people wait patiently to file out through the front doors, when the aisles of the bus are obviously clear/no crowds to work through. I often even see people who were sitting in the back of the bus walk past the rear doors all the way up to the front to exit! It is awkward and takes much longer to load the bus when all the unloading is unnecessarily taking place through the front door. Whatever happened to the large “Please exit by rear door” stickers on all the windows?

  • By Rvie, February 5, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

    Another tip I should contribute is don’t place your bag on an empty seat next to you. It would mean that you don’t want to offer the seat next to you to others when they need a place to sit and relax (especially on long bus/SkyTrain rides), even if you don’t want people sitting beside you.

  • By Stefan, February 6, 2010 @ 12:10 pm


    Oooh, that’s another one!

  • By Dave 2, February 9, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

    The buses still post a “No Drink, No Ice Cream Cone” sign (Ice cream cone? Who has ever taken an ice cream cone on board?)

    Perhaps this sign from the ’80s is apropos, though it’s missing “Phone No Evil” :)

  • By ;-), February 17, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

    Is it possible to have the recorded “move to the rear of the bus” message translated into the most common languages?

    I saw a really dangerous situation today where ethnic seniors all crowded the entranceway wheelwell and refused driver’s request to clear the entranceway until he drove to the Skytrain station. The driver repeatly requested people to move, but there was a language barrier and every request was ignored.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Olympic travel tips: Park and Ride lots for the Games period — February 4, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Olympic travel tips: a guide to recognizing your transit staff — February 4, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » Links and tidbits about the Olympics and transit so far — February 15, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  4. The Buzzer blog » Olympic travel tips: web and mobile resources for transit info during the Games — February 20, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

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