Manspreading, hogging seats: Why are people such jerks on public transit?

As journalists, we’ve got the leeway to demand answers that you might not be able to get on your own – and we take that mission very seriously, whether it’s about the best places in Miami to hear jazz or what the hell that jargon on your ballot means.

So when we started getting e-mails from readers with questions, we decided to not just answer them, but share the questions with all of you.

We got this one from Christine Rupp a couple weeks back:

I use public transit and commute by bike as I am car-less by choice (it wasn’t court ordered). When I ride the bus and train, I am always curious about the riders who sit on the aisle when there is a an empty seat beside them. This requires one to basically go around them to sit down? Why don’t people just sit by the window in an empty row so the next person can simply sit down?

Is it rudeness, or human instinct to just want our space? The Internet is full of people asking the same question and cities across the world have launched etiquette campaigns to try and get people to be a better seat neighbor

Maricel Cigales, an Associate Dean for FIU’s psychology department, admits she didn’t consider the seat-saving rude. But she pointed out that the way the scenario is perceived by the person looking for a seat and the person sitting in a seat and saving space are two very different things.

For the rider who hops on looking for a seat, Cigales said asking to get around someone else can seem like an annoying extra step to take.

“Part of it is our own personal preference and perception, and I think part of it is… we don’t like being inconvenienced,” she said. “We may feel shy when asking someone to move out of our way.”

But for the person doing the sitting and space saving — they’re probably not consciously thinking about taking space away from others.  

“Miami has different cultural practices. I think it depends on what you’re used to from where you come from,” she says.

In other countries, saving space on a bus or train could be the cultural norm. We know that Miami’s a melting pot of what different people are used to, but that also applies to taking public transportation.   

What’s your theory? If you’ve been in this situation, let us know what you think.

Next up: Why we don’t have CitiBike stations right at the MetroRail stations.

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