ABOVE: Pregnant woman says courtesy in short supply on TTC. Carolyn Mackenzie reports.
TORONTO – Ashimi Suri is 33 weeks pregnant and finds it difficult to get a seat on the TTC.
Despite signs for ‘priority seating’ or seemingly common rules of etiquette, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to find a place to sit.
“Especially during rush hour when there’s a lot of people on the bus or the subway and I’m trying to get a seat,” she said. “I would walk into a subway for example and I would see priority seating and people would look at me and glance up and then suddenly glance down and wouldn’t offer me a seat.”
TTC by-laws state people “must give up” priority seating for a person who is disabled or has a physical limitation. While giving up seats for the elderly or pregnant women such as Suri is not required, the TTC does “encourage” it.
“It becomes quite uncomfortable. One, because it’s kind of hard to say ‘oh sorry, can I please have your seat?’ and two, I’m afraid someone might fall on me when the subway or any transit is moving, which has happened before.”
Suri said she was standing on a streetcar in downtown Toronto when someone inexplicably fell into her, almost knocking her to the floor.
“And it was an eye opener for me, saying that even though it’s ok for me and I feel comfortable enough to stand, I’m putting myself and my baby in danger.”
So what is the TTC doing? Brad Ross, the TTC’s director of communications, said etiquette is a concern for TTC officials. To stem the apparent rise of poor etiquette, the commission is rolling out a priority seating campaign within the next year.
“People shouldn’t have to ask or have someone ask on their behalf to give up their seat. You should be able to get on a vehicle and not feel intimidated, not feel shy about having to ask for a seat if you need to sit down.”
The TTC will be changing the colour of its priority seating to blue to differentiate those seats from regular seating and will extend its priority seating to include pregnant women.
And the TTC has taken steps in recent years to try and educate commuters on public transit etiquette.
On April Fools’ Day, Ross and Chief Customer Officer Chris Upfold starred in a short YouTube video introducing the so-called ‘personal car.’
The ‘personal car’ allows commuters to do everything they would regularly find annoying; from clipping their nails, to listening to loud music, taking up seats or eating. But of course, maybe to the chagrin of some commuters, it was satire and followed with a message to commuters to “be considerate.”
Other riders have taken a different approach to getting commuters to follow the unwritten rules of etiquette. A short-lived, blog titled “I hope your bag is comfortable, [expletive]” attempted to shame TTC riders from taking up extra seats with their bags, luggage or feet.
“I travel so much on the TTC and it doesn’t happen as much as it should,” Suri said. “This is a real issue and that people do feel uncomfortable travelling on the TTC where it’s supposed to be ‘the better way’ but maybe it’s not the better way for pregnant women.”
© 2013 Shaw Media