Fine Selfish Bus Commuters


I’ve been using buses more than trains in the last few weeks, for a number of reasons including getting tired of running late when trains get stopped outside the Britomart tunnel.

And I love HOP. It’s so much easier than waiting for your ticket to be clipped -so last century- and it gives you more flexibility as you can decide to “hop” off whenever you choose if you make a last minute decision to go further on the journey than would otherwise have meant paying an additional stage as you got on.

But 2 issues on buses are proving to be a frustrating distraction.

For the 5th bus day in a row, I have encountered a selfish seat hog who has put his bag on the seat next to him and not removed it although he can see the morning peak hour bus is filling up with adult passengers who have to stand.

Four of the offenders so far have been male tertiary students who get off at Wellesley St. Even if they are iPodders, they have visibly gazed around and noticed even elderly people standing - and that’s what makes me angry.

These are elderly people who should get the seats - seats which have included those 4 facing each other at the front of the bus which have signs saying elderly and mothers should take priority. I know some people have a social issue with those seats as you are staring right in the face of someone facing you but that is no excuse to then prevent someone from sitting next to you. It’s totally self-centred mean selfish behaviour.

Why don’t you stand up if you find those seats socially uncomfortable to deal with?

Offenders are mostly around 18 to 25 but it’s not exclusively a generational problem. The fifth offender I spotted was a grey haired woman who put her normal sized handbag on the seat. In none of the other cases was anyone carrying excessive luggage, just their normal small backpack.

Unfortunately I am always standing towards the rear of the bus watching it so am not close enough to say anything and I am bewildered why the Kiwi politeness comes into play as no one ever tells them off.

But then maybe it’s not just a Kiwi thing as even on a US site there’s a comment about the same problem that says:

“I admit, I do nothing to protest (unless quietly fuming and shooting dirty looks at the offending party counts). Like me, most people are too polite to question it and I’m not sure it would really be worth it to speak up and make a scene. I’m curious if others have see this occur. Are these people oblivious or just inconsiderate? Or could there actually be a legitimate reason for seat hogging?”

I notice reports around the world  like this story about “ugly commuters” in Singapore that publish photos of offenders. I was bitten badly by  the dear old Herald which wrote up my fat people on bus story and lied that I was photographing fat people on buses, which I wasn’t and had used an image posted in the US for that particular post.

Thanks to them, I got seriously nasty threats from obese people, human rights advocates and staunch feminists from all over the world who sent in vile personal emails or posted their views on their own sites.

So for now, no faces of the famous five on the bus! This was this morning’s offender.

Today's AUT student offender

In this morning’s case, an old person was struggling to cope standing up then finally another student close by who noticed the offender and got visibly rattled about it stood up for the old man. The seat hog noticed the student doing this but still did not take off the bag.

What is with people about this issue? I can’t get into their heads how they think it’s OK behaviour.

Take a look at this selfish woman on a bus in Denver who thinks being forced to take her bag off the seat violates women’s rights:

It’s not just a bus thing but becomes more noticeable in the confines of a crowded bus.

I have complained previously that this is often an issue on Auckland trains.

This was only seat available & used for student's books

Comfortable enough? Looks like she is waiting for the drinks menu to be offered

A quick Google search finds complaints all over the place about exactly the same issue.

And videos on You Tube also about complain about selfish seat hogs people at bus stops.

On one forum someone calling themselves Mezze writes:

“I was annoyed when a train driver asked me to remove my bags from the seat next to me, he explained that there were a number of people standing. However the way I see it is if people want to sit next to u they can simply ask. No one is stopping them. Of course we dnt want someone sitting by us so we keep our bags there so ppl r less likely to ask to sit down but when the table is turned I always ask to sit down. What do u guys think?”

He/she soon got shouted down:

“I think it`s very rude. If the bus/train is crowded, no one has the right to make people stand. The others paid the ticket the same way you did, so they also have the right to have the possibility to sit. Making people having to ask to sit makes you look like you feel you`re entitled to the seat, and that others can only occupy it if they ask your permission. They don’t need your permission, because you don’t own the sear, nor do you have the right to occupy the seat in a crowded space. I would be pretty annoyed if that same thing happened to me.”

On one UK forum, one poster gets a bit extreme saying seat hogs should be “beaten to death.”

“Is it just me or are some of the most annoying people in London those selfish bastards who sit in the aisle seats of buses and trains, deliberately leaving the window seats empty and difficult to reach? Why do they do it? Why? I hate them. Presumably they do it because they just assume that they’re going to be getting off the bus first, before whoever might sit next to them if they happen to sit by the window. I presume this because when someone says to them, ‘Excuse me’, they invariably stand up and force that person to shuffle past them, rather than just shifting up themselves.

“Incredibly annoying.Or maybe it’s just that they don’t like being penned in. Well tough shit. You’re on a fucking bus. It’s public transport. Deal with it. And stop being such a self-centred piece of shit.

Thank you, that is all.”

I never wish anyone any harm but can understand why that person got angry.

I’ve had dozens of emails this year complaining about another trend which I have only realised why it’s such an issue in the recent weeks that I have been using buses.

The issue: People who blast the whole bus with music from their phones without wearing headphones.

Like most people with loud bass thumping but crappy quality car stereos, such people usually have a bad choice of music - or one some of us in the bus do not appreciate hearing blasted.

Often these people sit right at the back like naughty schoolkids but you can still hear their music in the front seats despite the noise of the bus and the traffic.

They need to have their phones confiscated if that’s the only way to force them to buy a cheap pair of ‘phones.

It does happen on trains but seems to sound louder and more annoying in the smaller confines of a bus.

Time to wage war on selfish commuters.

If bus drivers and train managers feel too busy or timid to tell people, it’s time to campaign for Veolia, NZ Bus and other public transport companies to bring in instant fines that drivers and train managers are required to enforce.

In 12 months, the Victoria Government issued 18,347 fines to the city’s train passengers for what it judged bad behaviour earning the state a not-to-be-sniffed-at cool AU$3.1m.

Inspectors each day fined around 50 train passengers $160 each just for having their feet on seats!

The New York train rules forbid anyone to “occupy more than one seat on a station, platform or conveyance when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers.”

In the last year, the number of tickets issued for taking up more than one seat on a New York train leaped by 16%.

A total of 9,490 fines.

That’s a nice easy nest egg for the transit authority at $US50 a pop.

With the number of offenders in Auckland, maybe it will help pay for the CBD Rail Link without a congestion traffic charge!

At least it will start teaching these selfish people a lesson in manners and keeping an eye out for others.





  1. Jon R says:

    From the 1st of December passengers in Swiss Railways trains will be charged another full fare if they put their bags on a seat (if they refuse to move it). Perhaps the same needs to happen in NZ?

  2. Geoff Houtman says:

    I gotta say it’s as simple as “can you move your bag please?” and then you start sitting.

    They’ll move their bag pretty damn quick if they don’t want it squished.

    Like the dude in New York said “see something, say something”.

    Public shaming can also work wonders.

    Ultimately it’s up to us to fix it. Inconsiderate people won’t. That’s why they’re inconsiderate…

  3. My Name's Chris says:

    Back in my Auckland commuting days, I encountered this situation a number of times. I invariably found I could deal with it by looking at the offender and saying “excuse me mate.” The bag was almost always moved forthwith, without even the need to make eye-contact.

    Occasionally there might be signs of resentment, but it never amounted to anything.

    Not that this is any kind of excuse. It goes without saying it shouldn’t be necessary to ask people to move their bags so you can sit down. I can well imagine many others wouldn’t have the boldness to ask a stranger to do so. Times may have changed, and maybe ingrained anti-social attitudes hardened, in the big city. I’m glad I’m not in a position to observe too often.

    I have to say, though, as I recall it often seemed the offender was genuinely away with the fairies, and simply hadn’t noticed the bus fill up. As soon as I brought them back to reality, they apologised graciously - so let’s not line them up and shoot them just yet, not all of them anyway.

    I’d suggest a blanket ban on bags being placed on seats, and stickers plastered around the bus/train saying something like “Seats are for people. Please do not place your possessions on them. Offenders are liable to a $100 fine.”

    And maybe a little more readiness on the part of ordinary reasonable people to get in the faces of the miscreants and give them a gentle lesson in manners.

  4. Chris says:

    I’m with Geoff Houtman.

    I’ve more than once simply just gone to sit down on the seat that has the bag on it. A couple of times the person didn’t remove it in time, while a few managed to very quickly remove the bag before I sat down.

    I’m kinda past asking. Full bus, bag on seat. I’m sitting down thankyou very much.

  5. GJA says:

    You also aften get it where the bag or just open seat is next to the window, so it is a hassle to get to the seat or just to sit down on the bag.

    I agree when they come round to clip the ticket, just ask it is the person’s bag occupying the seat, if so clip the ticket a second time.

  6. anthony says:

    If we don’t do something soon, it is only gonna get worse. When I used the school bus into town i am one of the last ones to get picked up, despite the bus only being techincally half full, me and several others are forced to stand because other students refused to move their bags off the seats. It wasn’t until the driver came down one day and threatened them off the bus unless they moved their bags that I could sit down.

  7. James B says:

    Another annoyance is people on cellphones and annoying ring tones. In Japan they ask you to set your phone to silent and on shinkansen to go to the service areas at the back of front of each carriage of you must use it.

  8. tbird says:

    These people are just protesting corporate greed…
    It’s the Occupy Bus Seat Movement.

  9. Hamish Keith says:

    I have a simple plan - I smile and ask the offending passenger if his/he bag/book/handbag is tired and if it is not may i have the seat.
    Selfish indeed but if the bus companies continue to treat their passengers like cattle they might behave like cattle - in particular will you or someone who cares, start a campaign against the 100% coverage of windows by advertising turning the inside into gloomy tunnels - boycott perhaps - the Sony 12 hour laptop battery campaign is the latest and grossest offender

  10. James Pole says:

    I just either (1) if I’m in a good mood ask nicely before I sit down or (2) if I’m in a bad mood I’ll just sit down and hope the person takes away their bag in time. Has always worked for me. Don’t think it’s a problem specific to Auckland buses and trains — I see this everywhere and on different modes of transport. Perhaps people needs to be more assertive in claiming the space back and sooner or later the ‘selfish people’ will take note — the more people that do that the more likely it’ll become part of Auckland PT ‘norms’.

  11. richard says:

    Agree with those above:
    Quick request, move your bag please and if no response pick it up and move it for them or sit on it!

    As for the lounging lady, move your legs please then make to sit on her ! I’m sure her legs would recoil as soon as you did this.

    Agree with Hamish all over advertising is little better than tagging and bombing in my view.

  12. Bryan says:

    Part of the problem is train and bus staff who are unwilling (or too busy) to enforce the rules. The pupils from a certain private school are amongst the worst offenders on western line trains.

    Pretty sure Stagecoach used to charge a fare if your bag or parcel was too large to sit on your lap. :-)

  13. Simon Lyall says:

    I find it quite common for people to sit on the isle seat and leave the window seat empty. I make a point of sitting next to them. They have the option of moving over or letting not-as-slim-as-Id-like-to-be me squeeze past.

    I’ve no problem with people putting bags on seats when nobody is standing. Some people will have several shopping or other large bags ( musicial instuments ) that can’t reasonable fit on their lap and if the bus is half empty storing these on the seat next to them makes more sense than in the wheel storage area.

  14. James B says:

    I took an ATX tower case on the bus once and balanced of on my lap so it’s possible to take quite large parcels without annoying too many people.

  15. Nick R says:

    “I find it quite common for people to sit on the isle seat and leave the window seat empty. ”

    I do that, but only because I am too big* to fit on a bus seat properly and need to point my legs over and spill out into the aisle. You are more that welcome to take the seat against the window next to me though!

    As for bags, people plonk their stuff down and go about their business. If you want the seat then just tell them to move their bag, in most cases I doubt they even noticed you standing there suffering shyly in silence.

    *That’s long legged and broad shouldered, I don’t want to stir up the ‘too fat’ pot again!

  16. Tim says:

    Agree with the above of Geoff and others, and I think it is key to do it straight away rather than dither and let yourself get worked up about the “ugly passengers”, that way it gets resolved quick and you don’t feel the rest of the bus staring at you, waiting for you to ask for the seat in the silence of the bus…

  17. Geoff says:

    I regularly put stuff on the seat beside me, and the seat behind me as well. One of the many joys of PT (Personal Transport)! :)

  18. James says:

    +1 to Nick R above

    It’s not so bad here, but on London buses I found that the distance between seats was usually shorter than the length of my femur - meaning I had to sit on the aisle or with legs sideways to fit in the seat. I usually ended up just standing…

  19. Nick R says:

    The seat pitch on the NEX is shorter than my femur, and the seats narrower than my hips and shoulders. Sitting in the window seat really ain’t an option!

    One reason I prefer to travel by train, the seats tend to be more spacious (especially in my other home of Melbourne), more numerous and of course it is a hell of a lot more comfortable to stand on a railed vehicle.

  20. Scott says:

    I was really supprised by the seat sizing on the NEX, many (normal size) passengers were only partially on the isle seat due to the (normal size) person next to the window.

  21. MrV says:

    These are interesting sociological experiments. For example suppose said male student has books on the seat next to him and a super attractive blonde comes looking for a seat.
    You can guarantee the books will be hoovered up faster than light speed!

  22. Jan O'Connor says:

    “For the 5th bus day in a row, I have encountered a selfish seat hog who has put his bag on the seat next to him and not removed it although he can see the morning peak hour bus is filling up with adult passengers who have to stand.” Simply ask if he/she is carrying 2 HOP cards - before HOP I asked if they had paid double fare. And when the seats are full I always go to the back seat which holds 5 but invariably has only 4 in it

  23. Morisa says:

    I witnessed a high school student place her bag on the chair next to her. An older woman boarded the bus picked up the bag and threw it on the ground and sat down. I wish I recorded it on my phone.


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