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New rules promise better subway etiquette

(China Daily) Updated: 2019-10-29 07:36

The new regulation of dos and don'ts for people using urban rail transit services, which was issued by the Ministry of Transport recently, may seem a no-brainer for anyone who is aware of some basic social etiquette. But its publication - and implementation starting April 1 next year - is timely and necessary given the rising number of complaints about uncivilized and sometimes unruly behavior on the subway and light rail services and the inefficiency in dealing with such problems because of the lack of national unified norms.

By the end of 2018, 35 cities in 24 provinces on the Chinese mainland had started running their own urban rail transit systems that altogether extended 5,300 kilometers, with 21.28 billion trips recorded annually. While those cities have enacted their own rules of conduct for passengers, they sometimes are too simplistic or even contradictory making the rules hard to enforce. For example, eating on subways is not allowed in Shanghai, but the rule is not legally binding, basically making any punishment for violating the ban impossible.

Now the national regulation explicitly puts such behavior as eating, littering, urinating, and graffitiing on the must-not-do list for passengers. Other offenses include smoking, forcing open train doors, lying on seats, making loud noises and using electronic instruments without headphones. Violators will be dealt with by relevant departments according to the law, the new regulation states, although no specific penalties have been listed, obviously giving local authorities free reign to work out their own punishments based on their actual conditions.

Whether the officials in charge can add real teeth to the regulation to deter unpleasant conduct remains to be seen. But they could at least look to their counterparts elsewhere for some inspiration. For example, fare evasion on the New York subways entails a $100 fine, and in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, eating and drinking on the subway could result in a fine of up to HK$2,000 ($255). Although the penalties are rarely meted out, they serve to make the public transport system safe and clean through education. Only when verbal warnings are met with deaf ears are tickets issued.

While the new regulation targets only the urban rail transit services, experiences gained from its implementation should be learned and extended to all public transport systems including buses and even railways to benefit more people on their journey.

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