Why do CTA riders have to be reminded to be polite and give up seats to seniors, pregnant ladies?

I got this text today from my daughter:

“My bus driver just had to make an announcement over the intercom demanding that a seated passenger stand up for a woman holding a small child. And no one is doing it. Unbelievable!”

That reminded me of a CBS Chicago story I tweeted on Saturday: CTA To Urge Riders To Yield Seats For Pregnant Women.

The story says:

A new mom says it’s time to give women who are pregnant a break aboard CTA trains and buses. The CTA agrees.

Credit new mom Erin Fowler with bringing it to the attention of the CTA’s board. She told them she recently had a difficult pregnancy and knows other women who have, too. She said all have one thing in common — no one yielded a seat to them aboard trains or buses.

“Oftentimes, the first five or first six months of pregnancy, when you’re the most weak and the most tired, you’re not showing very much,” she said. “People are reluctant to assume that you’re pregnant.

Fowler asked the board to change announcements and signage, asking riders to yield seats to pregnant women as well as to the elderly and the handicapped. The CTA’s board is not known for making snap decisions, but CTA President Forrest Claypool said the agency will do it.

“Common courtesy tells you to give up a seat for a pregnant woman, and I’d hope we’d see more of that civility on our system, but you can’t legislate civility,” he said.

Yes, unfortunately, you can’t force ignorant people to do the right thing. Not that the CTA hasn’t tried. Well, I don’t mean they have tried to force people to be courteous. But they already have pushed the issue to do the right thing.

The CTA joined the RTA campaign last year to provide clear and consistent signage on trains and buses about priority seating for passengers with disabilities and senior citizens.

As I noted in that post, I’ve never been shy about finding seats, especially for pregnant women. “Just a few weeks I asked loudly of three able-bodies men staring at their phones: ‘Which of you gentlemen will give the young lady a seat?’ They looked up innocently and then one finally got up.”

In my experience, the two demographic groups most likely to willingly offer a seat to passengers with disabilities and seniors are women in their 30s to 50s, and young African American men.

I laud Fowler for trying to breathe some life into this old campaign.

She suggested issuing expectant moms buttons so they are easy to identify.

I guess it’s worth a try. But my prediction is that self-centered, ignorant people will ignore them too and keep staring at their phones.


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  • The answer is that this never was and still isn't Canada. But, given the Rob Ford stuff, Toronto isn't Canada, either, any more.

    I'm surprised that young black men are in the polite group, but certainly, some are.

  • In reply to jack:

    [insert Fry here]
    Not sure if racist or just clueless

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Maybe you should read the article on what Steve Harvey said on the subject. Preferably on your smart phone.

    Now,Steve Harvey is .....

  • In reply to jack:

    @darkwing Clueless at first, dumb with the reply comment.

    @jack ...a comedian??? Who gives a flying fig what Steve Harvey said? Don't hide behind Steve, dude. We're talking about you & your comment regarding your surprise that young Black men would be in the group that most readily offers their seats. Raised in Chicagoland, & live in LA now. But when I graduated from college,I lived on the South side with my aunt for a few months, & used to take the Red Line into work downtown everyday. Always saw Black men giving up their seats to older people, or people who needed it. Jump to me moving to Lincoln Park a year later & taking the train down everyday. You think any of those yuppies ever offered their seats to people who needed it? Not nearly as often. And when it did happen, like the author of this post said, it was almost always a woman! It was bad. Once was on the Clark street bus going northbound & this old woman so badly needed a seat & it took the bus driver forever to get someone to stand up & offer her theirs. Now, I'm not going to paint everyone one with the same brush, but I noticed almost immediately what a big difference there was in terms of having what I call "home training" between the residents of the North & the South side neighborhoods I was residing in. And this was the late 90's, like 98/'99, so it's a shame that it seems that this lack of consideration has only gotten worse.

    Although I think it's just a sign of the times more than anything else. People are just so wrapped up in their own little worlds, most times they're not paying attention to what's going on around them.

    And regardless, LA still makes Chicago look like Emily Post when it comes to manners of any kind. People here are so rude you can't even believe it.

  • I will say one thing -- if a woman is obviously pregnant, that's one thing. But a more difficult scenario is where you're not entirely sure ... and God help you if you've guessed wrong.

  • In reply to WCityMike:

    Mike, you are correct. That's where the buttons that Fowler suggests would come in handy.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    If people can't read the RTA sign, what makes anyone think they will check lapels for "I am PG" buttons, as indicated in the last sentence?

    For that matter, I just saw a "No Guns/Illinois State Police" sticker on a business window. Is CTA going to put those on its equipment, too?

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, the fact that the ISP wasted taxpayer dollars designing an "official" sign is ludicrous. I guess I should be happy to know that if there's ever a shooting spree on the street, I can simply duck into the nearest business with a "No Concealed Carry" sign on the door, and I'll be all safe and sound knowing that the lunatic with the guns wouldn't *dare* come into the store.

    Sheesh. F*ckin idiots. Personally, I will not purchase anything at a business with one of these signs.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Like Metra determining that it can't get wifi for free, that's just doing something that the legislature said you have to do.

    As with any other law, the only effect is that if someone is arrested for shooting you in that establishment, he can be charged with violating the concealed carry law, as well as attempted murder, aggravated assault, etc.

    My understanding is that CTA is already exempt from concealed carry, but I brought it up only because someone might think that a sign would otherwise deter clearly prohibited behavior. Ask Blair Holt.

  • In reply to jack:

    Except that the perp would not be charged, or convicted of violating the concealed carry law. If he was somehow charged, his lawyer would cut a deal to lower the charges, and he'd be sent to boot camp, instead of a mandatory 5 year sentence. One of the asswipes that shot up the playground a few months back had been caught with a weapon previously. As an ex-felon, and a known gangbanger, he should have received a *minimum* five year sentence. Instead, he spent a few weeks at a boot camp. If the judges are not going to enforce the laws, then no point in passing new, "tougher" laws.

    Face it, the only people that are going to be affected by these signs are law abiding citizens. One of them will unfortunately forget they're carrying in a purse, and the Alvarez will be all over them. Either that, or we'll start to see mass shootings in these gun free nirvanas, as the crazy folks always seem to know where the gun-free zones are. Don't you think it's a bit odd that we don't hear about crazies shooting up police stations, or other places where there is a high percentage of people carrying? No, it's the malls (w/ no guns signs), movie theaters (w/ no guns signs), and of course schools (w/ no guns signs). See a pattern?

  • In reply to WCityMike:

    How you address that is you don't say "Hey, pregnant lady, do you want my seat?" You simply say, "Would you to sit down?" At worst you were a gentleman who gave up his seat to a lady even if she wasn't pregnant.

  • In reply to Kim Z Dale:

    That's what I was going to say Kim. I've only been offered a seat twice since I got pregnant... and I'm five months pregnant now. Once a woman got on the el who was clearly much more pregnant than me, and sadly I was the only one who offered a seat. It's amazing the lack of common courtesy. I just started carrying a pregnancy/baby book with me to read on the el, and if that's not a sign I'm expecting, I don't know what is.

  • In reply to Kim Z Dale:

    What year is it where you live? I'm all for letting people who need to sit have the seats. That includes the infirm of any gender/age, pregnant women, and people who have just gotten off work where they stood all day.

  • When I was pregnant I was probably yielded seats about 50% of the time.

    More recently, I was near the front of my train so I could hear the radio. There was discussion about a train that was being held up because people would not yield the wheelchair accessible seats (that fold up) for a passenger in a wheelchair. You may have questions about whether a woman is pregnant, but a wheelchair is pretty obvious.

  • This used to be common practice, but then men who did give up seats, did hold doors open and were polite, were trashed sometimes by the same strident women. Women wanted to be equal in all matters was the thought, and now it is entrenched. Here is turn-around: a younger guy with a broken leg comes on the CTA, how many woman will give up their seat or will they just let him stand there and "take it like a man?"

    Don't be angry at the men: get on Gloria Steinem's case.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Yep. As Instapundit was fond of saying, chivalry was a system of behavior that imposed obligations on women as well as on men. Women who pushed to free themselves of those obligations shouldn't be surprised when men do the same.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Richard, I have seen WAAAY more women give up seats for other people - both male and female - than I have seen men do it.

    In the many years that I have offered my seat to women (and the occasional elderly man), I have never been "trashed" by women. I had maybe two "snippy" NO comments. But that's it.

    You can't let one or two bad comments keep you from offering an obviously pregnant woman a seat.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Kevin, I didn't say I stopped being a gentleman, and I'm glad you have noted that women seem to be more kind in giving up their seats. What I am saying is that an entire two generations have now grown up with the idea that women are no different from men and therefore do not deserve (in their minds) any special treatment. This behavior has to be taught at home and not by a sign on the CTA. Maybe the CTA should bill Gloria Steinem and the militant feminist movement instead of taxpayers footing the bill.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    OK Richard, that is a much better way of putting it. I get it now. You're right that such courtesy does have to be taught at home, but I see no problem with the CTA putting up signs either.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    This used to be common practice, but then men who did give up seats, did hold doors open and were polite, were trashed sometimes by the same strident women.

    I'd bet a lot of my money that you have never been "trashed" by a woman for holding the door for her, or giving up a seat. You're full of it. I've been holding doors and giving up seats for decades and I have never been "trashed." Sure, I've been ignored (by women and men) as if I was their butler, but who cares? It's not like I want a medal for it. Everyone can have a bad day.

    Here is turn-around: a younger guy with a broken leg comes on the CTA, how many woman will give up their seat or will they just let him stand there and "take it like a man?"

    Okay, I'll respond with something that happened in real life and not in your mind. I broke my ankle about eight years ago. After the surgery I was hobbling around in a big boot for about a month, and commuting every day on the Red Line. Many people didn't notice my boot on the train, but most of those who did offered me their seat ... and most (I'd say 3/4) of those generous people were women. So there ... your whiny hypothetical has been proven wrong by real life experience.

    I hope you're able to keep your chin up and persevere in your life struggle as a downtrodden white dude in a society that no longer treats women as second class citizens.

  • In reply to mikely:

    Thank you Mikely!

  • In reply to mikely:

    What a whiner.

  • In reply to mikely:

    Well, actually mikely, I have been, but I continue to do behave in a socially good way anyway, without hostility or rancor.

    And...for the record, I'm not white. Interesting how you see skin color and not content of character. And your example, while wonderful, does not prove or disprove anything, sorry. I don't understand your hostility at a couple of comments.

    Be careful of what you assume, as, well, you know....

  • When I had a broken foot (this was years ago) I often had trouble getting a seat on the bus even though I had a soft cast and used a cane.

    On the plus side, a young af-am man recently offered me his seat on a bench on a subway platform. I was carrying bags. But then I noticed an older woman with a cane coming along, so I offered it to her. I don't think he minded! I got the seat after her train came.

    True, some people are just too self-absorbed. Maybe they're waiting to be shamed. I say, shame them--which of course must be done very politely or it won't work. Of course, it's important that when someone does the right thing, you thank them. The point is to make them feel like a true gentleman--that's what they get out of it.

  • I can't help but notice that two guys here are talking about gun rights while it's mostly ladies who have been pregnant on the CTA keep the real discussion going.

    Come on guys, you are showing your insensitivity.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    May only point is that willful illiterates won't read signs, whether posted on buses or pregnant women's bosoms.

    Nothing about insensitivity about that.

  • In reply to jack:

    OK, I'll grant you that Jack. I really just wanted to point out that the guys were talking about gun rights in a post about being polite to pregnant ladies and seniors. Enough said.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Maybe if the PG ladies and seniors were allowed to carry, a few more people might give up their seats. ;-) Remember, Kevin, an armed society is a polite society!

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Please Spiny. I'm not even going to take the bait on THAT comment.

  • Of course the ones complaining about the lack of common courtesy are the ones crowding at the front so prego's can not even get on the bus.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    The reason I'm crowding at the front of the bus is because the bus is *packed*, and I can't move 2 feet past the driver. During the morning and evening rushes, I can barely get on the #66 bus 70% of the time. But of course, that's a different topic, i.e. "The Failed De-crowding Plan".

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    That actually gets to a somewhat relevant point. Combining the "packed" with the CTA's perception that fewer seats solve the problem, there are fewer seats to give. I'm sure that cutting down the average number of seats in either a bus or L car from around 48 to 38 didn't help, except to pack the aisles. Not to say that either is that packed all the time, but certainly during rush hours and closer in.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Packed buses are a no win for anyone and way to common, but I'm talking when all the sheeples are blocking anyone from getting to the rear where there are seats and plenty of room. Also way too common. Then there are the people that like to stand in the rear exit when there are seats and room elsewhere, but I digress.

  • I lived in Chicago for 13 years and took public transportation. People in Chicago are just rude period. CTA has always had announcements and signage about offering your seat to the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled. The stand at the doors when they aren't supposed to, they eat on the train and leave their garbage, they panhandle and a number of other things CTA tells them not to do and they do it anyway. Public transportation aside, just watch how people in Chicago drive... they will cut off a funeral procession if it will shave 5 minutes off of their commute time.

    I always offered my seat, and especially for another group that wasn't mentioned, young mothers clutching babies or holding strollers. Many CTA stations aren't handicapped accessible, and it used to blow my mind how many times I would see mothers attempting to lug baby, and stroller, up stairs, a lot of times while also trying to hold the hand of another kid... and NO ONE would help. In fact, they would pretty much knock her down to get past her to get on/off the train. Not everyone can afford a car in the city, and you shouldn't have to, yet the CTA doesn't do enough to accomodate those with disabilities and families with strollers/etc.

    More tax-payer funded signs and announcements aren't going to change the attitude problem. Too many people today not taught manners at all. The "Me" generation lives on.

  • In reply to Broccoli:

    Great summary, Veggie! Thanks for weighing in.

  • In reply to Broccoli:

    Many people in Chicago are very rude. I have found much friendlier people in all types of situations all around the world, including NYC. Some people cannot even retain civility when responding to posts; they have to resort to personal attacks. It is the Chicago Way.

    And, no taxpayer funded signs are not going to make a difference.

  • In reply to Broccoli:

    No city,age group, or era has the market cornered on rude people. You are just more likely to witness bad behavior personally when exposed to a larger sample. There always are, has been , and will be a certain percentage of people all over the world who are rude.

  • It certainly wouldn't hurt to have additional reminders to CTA riders to have common courtesy. Last summer (2012) when it was incredibly hot, I was incredibly pregnant and had a senior citizen (woman) ask me to give up my seat for her! She didn't pinpoint or ask anyone else but me. I did, but not without snark and strife noting that I was 1 week away from giving birth, but I would get up. The young, very able bodied folks around me, sitting in the disabled seating, did nothing. Nothing! I waddled a few steps and a courteous woman got up as she noticed what occurred up front. I think additional automated announcements will go unheard after a while and its up to the rider to politely ask for a seat if needed. Common courtesy goes a long way, but so does the ability to speak up.

  • In reply to D Berg:

    No one can hear the announcements with their headphones in staring at their phones.

  • I stick to a pretty simple rule on the CTA, I don't sit in the mandated elderly/disabled seats. If there are no other seats free, I choose to stand. I thought the whole point of designating special access seats was so that people who needed would have it? Why not just enforce the existing rules? I mean I get if they're all filled by people who need it someone else needs to step up and give up their seat.

    The most irritating thing about that is when you do give up your seat you don't get a thank you or even a head nod. I still give up my seat for people who need it, but I stopped offering my seat to perfectly capable women because I never get thanked for it.

  • If people aren't taught to be courteous when they're three, it's silly to assume they will be courteous when they are thirty. This problem started twenty or thirty years ago, we're just seeing it come to fruition now.

  • I'm a little perplexed at the ire towards being on your phone on the train/bus. You're using your resources to make commuting time move faster. I notice the focus is on phones, but why is a phone so much worse than a book, tablet, or e-reader?
    I wholeheartedly agree that people with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant women should be given a place to sit, if they so desire. I don't understand the idea that everyone should be 100% aware of every single person who boards. Able-bodied people like to try and be comfortable, too. Sometimes that means blocking out commuting noises with more-pleasant noises. Sometimes it means using phones, books, or tablets. Sometimes is means some combination of the two. I've seen my share of people with disabilities, elderly, and pregnant women with heads buried in phones/books/tablets, wearing headphones, or both.
    So if you want someone to move, don't resort to useless internet name-calling because they chose to distract themselves. If no one notices you might need a seat when you walk in, ask someone nicely. I know I will happily give up a seat if someone asks nicely. You may have to tap me on the shoulder, though. I'm fine with that. If you're not, maybe you're just as disconnected as everyone else.

  • In reply to bckoch:

    Except that I & others have been blocked by idiots using their phones & tablets while going up or down stairways & while boarding the bus or L!
    Put the damn thing away when doing these things, nothing is that important that it won't wait for 30 seconds!

  • And then there was a guy yesterday morning that gave up his seat (he was from out of town and had flown into O'Hare) to a pretty woman when she got on. I wonder if he would have given it up to anyone else? And he then proceeded to talk to her the rest of her ride. I wonder what the motive was, gentlemen or an introduction?

  • Now if they'd just start making announcements on the trains at rush hour for people to move to the center, maybe I could get on a train before 3 go by.

  • Kevin - Erin Fowler here. Thanks very much for covering the story. I think the bottom line is, everyone needs to be more civil and pay more attention to their surroundings - on the streets, on public transportation and everywhere else. It is too easy to live with your face buried in your phone/newspaper. Hopefully the CTA will follow through.

  • In reply to fowlerin:

    Erin, thanks for writing - and thanks for doing what you did.

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