Civilian’s Guide to BART Train & Station Etiquette and Behavior *

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1. Move with clear, decisive intent when navigating a BART platform. Rhythm is a dancer, but you aren’t. You are on the yellow rumble strip and are about to be hit by a train.

2. Be aware, not just of yourself, but of your sphere of control. This would be the immediate area in front of you, to your sides, and behind you. This will go a long way to preventing strangers who don’t believe in personal property from acquiring yours.

3. If the train is packed to standing room only and there’s one seat and nobody’s taken it and nobody’s going for it, ask yourself this before sitting in it: why was that seat vacant to begin with? If you can answer this question to your satisfaction and are not at all concerned, then by all means, have at it. Its yours.

4. Understand that when you are in a crowded train, you are – to those around you – an ambassador not just of your Self, but your gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation, class, caste, fashion line, and sanity level. Be the best You that You can be. If You play loud music from your telephone, make sure that the track You play is carefully selected. Consider your audience. Nobody likes an amateur selector, and above all, nobody wants to hear jams they’re tired of. Remember: You are an entertainer, and that’s why people ride trains – to be entertained! Did you think they rode trains to go to work? Pthhh! Nonsense. Clearly, they ride trains to see You.

5. Be aware that normative behavior does not include eating on the train, as the concept of eating anything on the train is naturally disgusting. This is because one would have to open one’s mouth and ingest a substance that came into contact with the surrounding air, which is, clearly — by circumstantial, as well as olfactory evidence — dangerous. Airborne pathogens love enclosed spaces. Also, fecal particles aerosolize. So if riding on a train makes you feel like eating, you may have a latent coprophagia fetish. Look into it. Cop-ro-fa-gia.

6. If you feel the need to cold start your symbol of middle class lassitude in the middle of a packed train and enter values into an Excel spreadsheet, work on a PowerPoint presentation, or tinker with a code base while people all around you have their faces pressed into each other’s butt cheeks and armpits, then you might need to rethink your life, because your lifestyle is unsustainable. Also, it goes without saying that such conditions will invariably produce poor quality work. You’re probably just typing some variation of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again.

But, on the other hand, if you prefer working in hot, bad smelling, constantly moving environments to setting reasonable deadlines and cultivating attainable expectations…well, welcome home, Mr. Torrance. You’ve always been the caretaker.

7. If you find a ClipperCard on the ground, understand that holds put on lost or stolen cards don’t go into effect until midnight that day, so feel free to ride it as far as it will take you. Ride the hell out of that thing! Ride it all the way to Pleasanton. Just know that if you miss that midnight deadline and don’t have any way to get home, you’ll be stuck in Pleasanton. You’ll have to buy a house. How do you think people ended up living in Pleasanton, to begin with?

8. If you cough, do so into your inner elbow. This serves to minimize infection rates among people who don’t have sex with your inner elbow.

9. If the door of the train closes before you have a chance to get your whole body into it, don’t hold it open like a monkey gripping a nut in a jar. Let it go. The alternative is having your arm ripped off your body after the train’s booster rockets kick into gear. You’ll flail there for around six to ten seconds before you bleed out and die. You will look stupid.


10. First time tourists: not all BART trains take you to the Golden Gate Bridge. Some take you to Oakland.

11. Scientologists: Understand that metaphysical concepts presented inside a subway station will attract acolytes from among those who are open to new religions found in subway stations. A religious business that, from it’s inception, targeted celebrities and the wealthy for the purpose of growth and power, can expect only a great descending bell curve of diminished value from such a strategy.

12. Spiritual seekers: a religion that sets up shop on a card table in the subway station cannot be trusted. You are better off starting a faith-based relationship with the man who runs the shell game on the 22 MUNI bus. He’ll be easier to get away from once you’re tired of him.

13. Essex/Jersey girls on their way deep into San Fran-Disco for a night of bass, thizz, yayo, and Axe Body Spray: understand that The City is a dirty, filthy, cold place. You should have considered wearing underwear (actually, never mind; I just remembered that a possible side effect of Chlamydia is sterility).

14. Scarecrows, late for their local production of The Wizard of Oz: If you are leaking straw, know that union munchkins will not be cleaning up after you. Alas, life is not a stage; nor is it a dream. Life is, in fact, a hot metal tube inside a disappointing concrete tunnel.

15. Bicyclists: despite the self image you maintain of being world saving, car-slaying green warriors, know that to others, you look sloppy, smell bad, run red lights and slaughter pedestrians. Do not board in the front car.

16. Subway dancers: Bravo! That was terrific. Here’s a dollar. Please don’t kill me.

* This blog is in no way affiliated with Bay Area Rapid Transit.

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