Progressive Railroading


Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

All fields are required.

Rail News Home Passenger Rail

September 2014

Rail News: Passenger Rail

SEPTA tells riders, 'dude, don't be rude'

By Angela Cotey, senior associate editor

Hogging the seat next to you? Talking too loudly on your cell? Blocking the aisle? Leaving your trash on the train? Dude, it’s so rude! Those are a few of the messages that officials at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) are trying to get across to riders through a new etiquette campaign, which they have aptly dubbed “Dude It’s Rude.”

SEPTA's Dude Its Rude campaign

SEPTA began rolling out the campaign about a year ago by incorporating messages at the bottom of schedules and publicly posted timetables. Agency officials recently expanded the campaign by hanging posters inside vehicles and in stations. Poster messages range from “Dude it’s rude — tone it down" to “Dude it’s rude — watch your language” to “Dude it’s rude — unless your bag paid, move it.” The rhyming language is catchy, but more than that, the messaging uses a direct approach that SEPTA communications officials hope will strike a chord with riders.

“We wanted the messaging to reflect the things people may think in their head but don’t necessarily want to say out loud,” says SEPTA spokesperson Kristin Geiger, adding that the most frequent customer complaints center around loud cell phone conversations and seat hogging. “Customers are trying to preserve their personal space by placing items on an empty seat, and then they aren’t always cooperative in moving it when someone wants to sit down.”

SEPTA isn’t the only agency that’s working to address passengers’ rude behavior. For example, in 2012, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority launched a customer courtesy initiative that included placing signage throughout the system reminding riders to refrain behaviors such as playing loud music, panhandling and talking too loudly.

SEPTA’s etiquette program is not its first. Developed by the agency’s communications team, the Dude It’s Rude initiative replaces a previous campaign that used cartoon-like images and a “softer, lighter approach” to politely suggested passengers offer seats to seniors and riders with disabilities, or use headphones when listening to music. The effort didn’t affect passengers’ behavior to the extent that officials had hoped, says Geiger.

In 2009, when SEPTA launched a quiet-ride car on its regional rail system, agency officials began promoting a cell-phone use campaign that combined humor with direct messaging to encourage passengers to refrain from using their phones while riding trains — or at least keep their conversations quiet and brief. Customer complaints about cell phone use declined, suggesting to SEPTA officials that the messaging was getting through, says Geiger. Front-line personnel also have reported fewer complaints.

SEPTA officials hope the Dude It’s Rude campaign will have the same impact. Posters have been hung in “non-traditional” spots, such as a panel above the trolley-car door that can capture a rider’s attention as they are exiting the vehicle, says Geiger. In stations, posters have been hung in spots that typically are left bare with the hope that passengers will be more likely to look at a sign hanging in an uncluttered area that previously was sign-free. The messaging will be changed every few months to keep it fresh, says Geiger.

“We’re really working to capture attention … because we want people to think about travel habits — of others and of themselves,” she says.

In other words, dude, don’t be rude.

SEPTA's previous passenger etiquette campaign


Browse articles on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Dude Its Rude passenger etiquette campaign

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.