BARTitude - Think Before You Sit

Riding BART can be a difficult experience for people with disabilities or for the elderly when younger people act like they are invisible.

I’ll keep this one short if not so sweet.

I have noticed whenever I’ve ridden BART to SF that  inevitably the seats with the signs that clearly state; PLEASE MAKE THESE SEATS AVAILABLE TO SENIORS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES are inhabited by those who are neither disabled or elderly.

I studied this in both directions Tuesday evening and saw a young woman stretched out across both seats with her bike resting atop her.  One of these seats was not enough for her.  Seated in the others were young people with earbuds in their ears who clearly paid no attention to who got on that train. They sat right down and leaned against those signs. As I looked around, the white haired people were sitting in the middle of the train, the young ones in the elderly seats.  Then on the way back the seats were all occupied and my husband and I both stood while young people ignored us. 

A middle- aged woman in a regular seat motioned to me that she would give up her seat and I said no thanks.  I was concerned about my husband who actually qualifies for those seats but wouldn’t dream of asking anyone for anything.  He preferred to think of it as a compliment that he didn’t look old enough.  I have deeper feelings that it represents the basic lack of respect or concern for others which has become prevalent in society.

I checked on the BART blog and found heated discussions about this after a young man with M.S. vented his frustration.  I don’t think it should be so difficult.  If others seats are open, sit in them and leave the special seats available to those who really need them.  If the car is full and you sit in them, keep your eyes open and give up your seat to someone who needs to sit more than you do.  

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Cynthia Brody, Marriage and Family Therapist November 12, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Sounds like you've not had negative experiences. I think people get more heated about his kind of thing when they've been directly affected.
Peter Whitbeck November 12, 2011 at 12:50 AM
You know Scott, I give thanks every day for how fortunate I've been. If anyone is resentful about what I have then one, I could care less, two, that's about them and their character issues. It has nothing to do with me. THEY might try being grateful for what they have which, if they live in this country, is certainly much more than most others in the world. There are lots of folks who have much more than me and I'm happy for them -- they've probably worked harder than I have. Envy and jealousy are ugly. Most people who live here earned what they have by hard work in school and hard work at the job -- respect it, don't resent it.
Eileen November 12, 2011 at 01:57 AM
I was living in NYC when pregnant with my first and used the subway system to get around. In my experience, if a person yielded their seat to me, it was most often a young man of color. To the rest, whether young, middle-aged or old, and whether working class or white-collar, I seemed invisible.
X November 12, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Lived it. Spent the first 30 years of my life in the rural South. The percentage of good v. lousy parenting is the same in rural areas & urban areas. Good parents in rural areas emphasize certain traits while good parents in urban areas emphasize other, just as equally, good traits. Unfortunately the percentage of parents who make poor choices has risen across the entire country.
Eileen November 12, 2011 at 02:21 AM
CJ's assertion is completely ridiculous and has zero "factual" basis.
X November 12, 2011 at 02:29 AM
I think we're also seeing the Bystander Effect. If it's crowded & an elderly person or a pregnant woman boards, many think someone else will offer the seat. If one person takes the step of giving up a seat, it seems more folks immediately become willing to do likewise. I definitely saw this when I watched several BART riders get accosted by a young punk looking for trouble. When he finally settled his sights on a 20s-something guy who was sitting on the floor (the train was crowded) & started kicking him, nobody did anything. After about 15 seconds I stood up & shouted at the punk & began walking towards him. As I took the first step other folks joined in & we restrained the guy until BART police arrived.
X November 12, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Being part of the human race might be the problem. Milgram showed us what we're capable of with the slightest encouragement. Bystander effect, conformity experiments - all show while we're capable of doing much good we also have the propensity to be incredibly depraved. I don't know how people work in those fields. The research results are often terribly depressing.
Peter Whitbeck November 12, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Well done Kenny -- you're a gentleman and a stand-up guy. Your kids have a good example in you.
Eileen November 12, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Wow, CJ, ever tried "walking in someone else's shoes?" Your lack of compassion toward your fellow (wo)man has been on full display today. My Mom is in her late 70's and loves to travel the world. I appreciate it when younger, stronger strangers offer to lift her roll-aboard into the overhead bin. And, in an attempt to pay them back, kharmically-speaking, for their good deed, I do the same for an elderly stranger whenever I have the opportunity. That is good manners, pure and simple. But wait, according to your ridiculous post, we "liberals" haven't been taught "good manners." I think you've today shown that you're full of bull-puckey.
Chris Nicholson November 12, 2011 at 03:04 AM
"ridiculous" and "no factual basis" are a bit strong. Not a lot of scientific studies on manners, but if you allow the assumption that juvenile delinquency is correlated with bad manners /behavior (as I think was CJ's claim), then there is TONS of data linking delinquency with poverty/single parents/absent father, all of which are CLEARLY higher in urban versus suburban areas. As an aside, you are MUCH more likely to be a Democrat if you are single, poor or live in the inner city. Causation is harder, but the correlation is clear. Eileen: Given that you view any link to be unfounded, would you accept a large bet that, of two groups of 1000 teens selected at random from (i) an inner city and (ii) wealthy suburban, that the rate of "politeness/behavior" (I will accept any reasonable definition) will be higher in group (ii)? I may even be willing to give you a point spread....
Eileen November 12, 2011 at 08:06 AM
Chris, I believe CJ's point is that youth in more rural environments, e.g., a small town in Placer County, behaves more politely than same in our suburban, Lamorinda, environment.
CJ November 12, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Eileen, I didn't say that I don't help them. In fact I help all that need it as I am generous and polite. But if you travel by air frequently as I do you must notice , people abbse the overhead privilege. Typically a woman,btw. Does making that observation make me sexist? If I could not lift my bag to place it overhead I would check it to avoid the embarrassment and not to be dependent on the largesse of strangers to do it for me. Pretty simple really, and dignified. You're mother should do as mine does and check the heavy bags she can't lift.
CJ November 12, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Eileen- We go together like oil and water. Kids here in Lamorinda are a magnitude better than what I experience in Oaktown/Berkeley/and SF (all bastions of liberal group think) . But venture to Idaho sometime and get back to me. You will be shocked at the difference. My liberal vs conservative analogy will make you pause to reconsider your opinions.
Zoe Claire November 12, 2011 at 03:22 PM
You're also lucky, although I applaud you. I've been a straphanger for most of my life and have seen some very bad things on BART and muni ... AC Transit is also a battle, but that's another story. I agree with you about the crowd dynamic being a factor. I watched a guy stop a thug who had been terrorizing a muni train for several stops. When the cops showed up a couple of women who had been sitting there doing nothing began talking about how the good samaritan ASSAULTED this "poor boy." It was a race thing and it got very loud and the police eventually told the samaritan to "walk away." It was very distressing and escalated very quickly. I always wondered if the man who intervened ever did it again after that.
Chris Nicholson November 12, 2011 at 04:15 PM
I used to ride BART through Oakland in the evening (well after rush hour) everyday. I once tried to be a good samaritan by verbally intervening in what was clearly physical child abuse of a 3/4 year old from a mother or "caregiver" who seemed to be on drugs. It was BAD and no one was doing/saying anything. I was immediately accosted by what I think were some older siblings/friends. I was shocked at how scary/intimidating three boys aged ~10-14 could be when they want to be, but I felt in physical danger--particularly as others from their larger group were egging them on. Finally some other bystanders helped diffuse the situation, but I learned my lesson. Sorry to be un-PC, but it was definitely a race thing. At least she stopped beating the kid (for the moment). I won't intervene again unless someone's life is in danger.
Cynthia Brody, Marriage and Family Therapist November 13, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Oh...I entered that last one on my phone...I was agreeing that Kenny is an honorable guy, not that I'll never intervene if I see things that I deem wrong.
Boragan November 13, 2011 at 10:51 PM
Looks like all the comments leave it up to the "sitter" to give up his/her seat and the "standee" to stand in front of the potential seat (Disabled/senior sign) , maybe giving the "sitter" daggers...why doesn't the "standee" say something? I think people would give up their seats if asked or maybe not...or maybe a confrontation?
X November 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM
If the kids in Idaho behave so well, why don't the adults?
X November 14, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Actually unmarried childbearing is not proportionally higher in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. Percentage of births to unmarried women in DC (2009): 55.8 Percentage of births to unmarried women in MS (2009): 55.3 Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana all have a higher percentage of births to unmarried women than does California. As one study noted, "(d)espite considerably different racial, cultural, and economic environments, rural families are more like urban families (in structure) than they are different." Unmarried childbearing has become far too pervasive to breakdown along rural and urban areas. The best bet for preventing unmarried childbearing is to have a college degree. College graduates have the lowest rate of unmarried childbearing.
Cynthia Brody, Marriage and Family Therapist November 14, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Perhaps the standees find it disheartening that the sitters don't seem to care. If that's the case, it would be an invitation to a confrontation, which most people, I'd think especially the elderly and infirm, would not particularly want to invite.
Eileen November 14, 2011 at 02:37 AM
I didn't say that my Mom "couldn't" lift her bag - she can. I only expressed satisfaction that many of us well-mannered souls offer help, often unsolicited, to strangers in small moments of altruism, kindness.
Eileen November 14, 2011 at 03:27 AM
Oil and water indeed. I'll choose to be the pure mtn. spring water while you can be the Canadian sands' oil. That would seem to fit our respective frameworks. Your choice to compare a set of ethnically/racially/religiously diverse cities like SF/Oak/Berkeley to largely white (84% white, per Census) and more ethnically/racially/religiously homogeneous Idaho is interesting. I've actually traveled by car through So. Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming with my Asian husband and found the reception we received not as welcoming as that we enjoyed all along the western and eastern coasts, from strangers. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you haven't considered the racial dimension to your comparison. I've observed differing levels of "parenting quality" in my daily life in the Bay Area, my frequent visits to deeply-conservative Placer County (where my Mom lives), and my broader travels around the country. What I've experienced is that the more educated/affluent the parent, the more actively they guide their sub-10 yr olds to "share," "give the next kid a turn" and "apologize" for whatever infraction. And, on the flip side, the less educated/affluent the parent is, the more likely s/he is to reward aggression and the less likely s/he is to encourage responsible "civic" behavior by their kids. Come with me to visit a local park and tag along on a Placer Co. Easter egg hunt - you'll be shocked by the difference and be compelled to change your opinions.
Cynthia Brody, Marriage and Family Therapist November 14, 2011 at 03:48 AM
I don't think one's politics has much to do with teaching children to be compassionate, empathic people. I am always amazed at how dichotomies are continually created on here so someone can be right and others must be wrong. We all need to teach our children to think of others, to recognize that they are not the center of the universe. The best way to teach that is to role model it.
Cynthia Brody, Marriage and Family Therapist November 14, 2011 at 05:00 AM
Eileen...I too am having a problem with the attitude of "if you need help don't look at me". It is why I wrote this article. We help EACH OTHER. Sometimes it is about brawn, sometimes about compassion. We can choose to opt out of this, of course, but it can actually feel Good to be helpful.
Chris Nicholson November 14, 2011 at 06:17 AM
I was talking urban v. suburban. I agree that rural is worse than suburban, and sometimes as bad as urban. DD: I think you'll find that my urban v. suburban stats are accurate, although I do not doubt that rural may be as bad or worse than urban. It's pretty simple if you think about it: the best and brightest are often drawn away from rural areas into cities to work. Cities also have some less desirable elements. The most successful of the city workers, especially those with kids, move to the suburbs to avoid the less desirable aspects of city life. So you'd expect rural areas to have a high concentration of below-average folks, suburbs to have a low concentration, and cities to have a mix.
Chris Nicholson November 14, 2011 at 06:21 AM
@Eileen: Using rural Placer and El Dorado Counties as yardsticks of the GOP is as fair as using urban Detroit Dems as the yardstick. Each party has its losers. Can't deny that.
X November 14, 2011 at 07:09 AM
Chris - The dividing line on unmarried childbearing is a college degree, not whether one lives in an urban area or a suburban area. I'd agree that college graduates probably skew towards suburbs and if so then you'd see lower rates of unmarried childbearing in suburbs.
Chris Nicholson November 14, 2011 at 07:23 AM
@DD: I was citing correlations, not causation. I don't think "living in a suburb" is a root cause of much of anything. Obviously, importing poor urban (or rural) unwed moms to Lamorinda won't magically give them college degrees or make them better parents.
Eastofthehills November 22, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Bart is amazingly civil. Go ride a muni metro train or bus during commute. Bart and its riders are much better in almost everyway. You actually have to pay real money to use bart not a lousy token amount that muni fast pass costs I think that helps keep the riff raff off.


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