Where riders stand on Metro seating

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 22, 2011; 5:24 PM

For some reason - maybe the heat generated when people get pushed together inside a metal container - the topic of how to place yourself aboard a Metrorail car gets the steam rising in many riders. Quite a few responded to my column on priority seating that appeared in the Local Living section Thursday.

On the face of it, we're talking about the use of those inward-facing seats near the center doors. But the exchanges have evolved into issues about how people relate to one of the few places where we're confined for a while with a bunch of strangers.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At 78, slowed by a hip replacement, I try to avoid Metro at rush hour. My reasons include cost, pressure to move fast on platforms and stalled escalators, and fairness to those who have no choice but to travel then. But at those times when I must board a rush hour train, I've found that younger people readily relinquish priority seats when asked to do so.

I just say, "May I please claim one of those senior seats?" Perhaps "claim" is the motivating word, perhaps it's the tone of voice or smile that eases the transaction. Perhaps those seated recognize an old lady in danger of toppling into their laps. Whatever the reason, someone always stands so that I may sit. In return, I express my thanks and try to pay their kindness forward.

And no, I'm not at all embarrassed to request a seat, knowing that I paid my standee dues in years past.

Carol McCabe, Reston

It's hard to imagine that a rider sitting in one of the seats marked for seniors and people with disabilities wouldn't yield on sight to our writer, but don't you like the tone of the request? It's a "transaction," between two people, rather than a demand. Yet it is reinforced with a polite reference to the rules governing the use of the seats.

Making choices

Others wrote in to explain their choices of seating on transit.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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