Friday, October 5, 2012

How Much Did You Pay For Your Seat on the CTA?

Several weeks ago I read the following letter in the Social Q's section of the Times:

Children 44 inches tall or shorter ride the subway free. But I don’t believe in giving an entire seat to someone who hasn’t paid a fare. Recently, I refused to let a small child take my seat when she asked for it herself. I would have been fine giving it up if the mother had asked and put the child in her lap. Was my subway etiquette incorrect?
Julie, Brooklyn 

Well Julie, you present an interesting point of view, one that I had not before considered. For eight years my children have struggled to keep their balance, holding desperately to posts, each other, assorted body parts and weary travelers, when standing on the bus and train while able bodied adults, many of them young, sat firmly rooted in their seats.  Not always, occasionally people get up, which I appreciate, because trying to keep them both upright is a daunting task, especially when I am also responsible for groceries or beach bags or backpacks. However I am a bit confused because for the first 6 years of their life they paid nothing to ride on public transportation, the criteria in Chicago being children age 7 or above pay, albeit a reduced fare. So in those glorious younger years, when they rode only as an expense to tax payers, people seemed more likely to stand and offer them a seat, whereas now, at age 8, and paying a full $.85, they are often left to stand. By your logic, they should be offered a portion of a seat, or perhaps, because they are twins, they could share, but still, their two selves together do not equal one full fare paying adult ticket. An interesting quandary to be certain.

Adding to my confusion then is the reduced fare program for seniors. Qualifying senior citizens pay the same as my children, $.85, to ride the CTA, however signs on both trains and buses implore me to stand and offer my seat should someone much older board. Perhaps what I should do, in this instance, is offer the senior my seat and then pile my two children on their lap, that's $.85 times three, which would put them just over the regular fare price of $2.25 for an adult. Of course if the adult barometer was using a transit card, as I do, they would only be paying $2.00 per ride, and then my pile of humanity would be well in excess of the standard fare. What to do with the millions of people who ride the CTA each year from out of town, or out of the country? After spending a good deal of vacation time navigating the system maps, and then waiting in line to only be befuddled by the automated ticket machine, you now suggest that they should be well versed in the system of fare scheduling, so as to know when they should offer their seat to someone, based not on age and kindness but on the value of their seat? I see some real problems arising on the blue and orange lines, those that come from the airports.

Of course Julie, your logic is transferable to so many different things. There are a good percentage of students in my daughters' school who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Maybe we should shift things around a bit and only allow those children a seat in the cafeteria when all the full paying children have found theirs.And of course we must assume that you, Julie, always pay full fare when flying. I know I search for those super saver fares when we fly, but not anymore, not if that means we won't all get a seat. Certainly in this instance we must insist on safety before savings.

But then, maybe that should be the logic on public transportation also. Because the reality is that children, and older adults, are more unsteady, and more likely to fall, and certainly more likely to get injured if they do. Which is why I wanted to snap off the earplugs of the two twenty something men on the bus yesterday, who sat firmly in their seats while my children played musical chairs with the rotating cast of seniors getting on and off the Addison bus. Should an 8 year old really have to stand and offer their seat to an 80 year old while a 20 year old man sits by watching? Apparently yes, because my daughter has no idea how much someone paid to ride the bus, nor will that ever be a consideration in deciding who should sit and who should stand.

Stand up Julie, and offer that child a seat.

1 comment:

Rob Marvin MD said...

Riding the CTA is always an education ~ from watching a young man demonstrate the art of stealing an iPad to having a back pocket relieved of the burden of my credit cards, cash and ID (which created a pesky little problem with the TSA the next day).

The truth is that when riding the MTA in NYC or the CTA of your home, the crux of your blog post is ALWAYS on my mind. I watch, stupefied, as riders remain oblivious to the needs of the elderly and children. But MY upbringing wouldn't have me stop there; men offer their seats to women, as well, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn't matter that a good percentage of these women never acknowledge my courtesy; I have often wondered how many simply consider me a fool.

And, in the name of full disclosure, I have tried to harden myself to the mentality of these misanthropes by hanging my head and ignoring the humanity about me. It doesn't work. It isn't simply because our parents hammered home the point for years ~ that we offer our seats by virtue of some Pavlovian response. No, we grew up in a different time when manners counted for something.

It also doesn't hurt that I can still CLEARLY hear the voice of my sainted Mother admonishing her six year old son to do all these things ~ sometimes accompanied by a little smack to the back of my head for good measure.


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