They whisper. They laugh. They scream. “You’re kidding me!”

The conversation goes something like that or maybe that’s how you remember it after the long Metro or bus ride next to a chatty person on the phone.

Although we routinely use our smartphones to tweet, text or check Facebook while on public transit, when it comes to phone calls there’s a debate over whether doing so on the bus or train is acceptable.

For many, talking on the phone –for anything more than a brief conversation– while using public transit is the biggest commuting sin. Okay, officially they call it inconsiderate and annoying, not a sin. But 50 percent of transit users think others’ cell phone conversations are the most annoying habit on public transportation, according to a new survey by Washington-based KRC Research.

The poll of 1,000 Americans found commuters also are annoyed by people who don’t offer their seat to people with disabilities, the elderly or pregnant women, and the messy eater who leaves crumbs behind, and the passenger who gets too comfortable and uses the spare seat for their luggage.

(KRC Research)
(KRC Research)

If I may, I’d  like to add to the list a few annoying habits that we hear about often in our Metro system: Leftscalators – the people who stand on the left side of the escalator as you are hustling down to the platform; the passengers who won’t move to the middle of the car when people are trying to board; the riders who don’t let disembarking passengers off the bus or train before they try to board.

[Which driver do people hate most?]

Transit agencies know that some of these habits can ruin a passenger’s experience.  In response, some have implemented policies to deter habits such as eating and drinking aboard buses and trains. They also have run campaigns to encourage common courtesy toward fellow commuters and regularly offer tips for how to keep the peace on the commute, including keeping quiet while on board.

The Maryland Transit Administration, which runs the MARC commuter rail service from Maryland to the District, says it believes “courtesy is contagious” but people sometimes forget to think about the comfort of others. So, in an advisory the agency urged cell phone users to “Please keep calls brief, limited in number and made quietly so as not to disturb fellow commuters who are trying to read or rest.”

The MTA also discourages riders from taking an additional seat to place your purse or luggage.  “Passengers boarding should not have to ask for items to be removed from a seat so they may sit,” the agency tells its customers.

Transit agencies, including Metro, encourage riders to offer their seats to passengers with disabilities, elderly and pregnant women. It also designates priority seating for such riders. (In case you didn’t know Metro policy requires riders to give up their seat to someone who needs it.)

“The priority seats in Metro’s trains and buses are meant for people with disabilities and for senior citizens,” Metro said in a pamphlet that was part of a campaign a few years ago to remind riders about the priority seating policy.  “If you’re sitting in one and someone needs it more than you, obey the signs and give it to them.  It’s the right thing to do. And it’s the law.”

Phone conversations probably aren’t as big of an issue on our Metro system as other subways since it’s nearly impossible to get a connection underground and service in stations can be spotty and inconsistent. You might occasionally spot someone snacking on the train, but it’s usually students — or  tourists who aren’t familiar with Metro’s policy that strictly prohibits eating and drinking on Metro trains and buses and in stations. And Metro advertising reminds riders of those rules.

“This is not a diner,” says a poster in some stations showing an image of a Metro train made to look like a 1950’s-style diner. “Please don’t treat it like one. Be considerate of others by not eating or drinking on Metro.”

MTA adds another one to the list: the passenger who showered in perfume and cologne.

“An issue many passengers do not consider is the effect of perfumes and colognes in an enclosed environment such as a rail car,” the agency said. “Passengers are asked to be considerate of those with allergies by not using any aromatic sprays while riding and to use perfumes and colognes in moderation.”

So, now you know things that are sure to irritate your fellow commuters. Any others we should add?  Respectfully list them in the comments, please.

More Metro news:

Beware of iPhone 6 thieves on Metro’s Orange, Blue and Silver Lines

Bipartisan Senate bill would fund transportation for six years

What Metro train operator heard in tunnel: ‘Yelling, screaming, kicking and banging’