Standing up for what is right when Metro seats are scarce

During rush hour, the need for courtesy and consideration on Metrorail might be greater.
During rush hour, the need for courtesy and consideration on Metrorail might be greater. (James A. Parcell/the Washington Pos)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 11:40 AM

My exchange with a traveler about access to the priority seating near the center doors on Metrorail cars [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 6] sparked quite a few responses.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your point is well taken that if there is any doubt about a standee's "eligibility," the seat should be vacated. But this should go for all seats, not just designated seats, because there are far more "eligible" folks on the trains than there are designated seats.

I am grateful to all the people who have given me their seats on trains and buses over the years. I am glad there are some who are not so immersed in a hand-held device that they are oblivious to their immediate environment.

Alice Markham, Reston

DG: Markham makes the point that courtesy doesn't stem from an act of Congress. Metro is required by federal law to set aside certain seats for senior citizens and people with disabilities. It plasters advisories about that above the designated seats. But the need might be greater, especially in rush hour.

In one of its public education campaigns about priority seating, the transit authority offered some tips for riders. I like the phrasing of this one, because it doesn't refer to legal categories: "If someone needs a seat more than you, give it to them."

Other advice also is relevant, but a bit difficult to carry out in a car crowded with multi-taskers: "Pay attention to your surroundings" and "Don't get distracted by electronic devices or reading material."

Ask and receive?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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