How Not To Be A D*ck On A Montreal Bus: 8 Terms & Conditions Of The Social Contract

It's a social arena full of complex interactions and — UGH turn down your MUSIC!

Staff Writer
Montrealers board an STM bus in the summer.

Montrealers board an STM bus in the summer.

Montreal bus drivers are among the city's most unsung heroes, despite serving a crucial role in connecting commuters to their work, loved ones, errands and escapades. As their grateful riders, we sit in the drivers' massive, ambling vehicles for but a brief moment. But in that time, much can happen, from the heartwarming (aww, that baby smiled at me!) to the deeply infuriating (that young adult is taking up five people's worth of space and I just want to RELAX).

We've all been the bad guy on the bus at least once in our lives — unless you're some kind of straightedge beacon of light and love who never forgets to give up their seat. Good for you, but the rest of us need a gentle reminder of the expectations in the social contract we sign every time we tap an OPUS card against those newfangled fare checkers.

Move towards the back of the bus (please)

When you get on the bus, you may notice signs saying "please move towards the back of the bus." This is because that is the polite thing to do; crowding the front can lead to traffic jams (so to speak) and leave later boarders with less room to comfortably stand.

Oh, this is too straightforward? Everyone knows this? Check next time you ride the 24 or the 80, then get back to me.

Maintain spatial awareness

​While you're entering and finding your spot, be sure to remain aware of the people and objects around you. Your gossip podcast may be extremely entertaining, but bumping into people or ignoring when someone is trying to move toward the back of the bus (like a good person) can be quite irritating to those around you.

Take off your backpack

Relatedly, if you're carrying a bag of any considerable size, placing it between your feet is a good way of maximizing the available space and avoiding smacking into people with your textbooks.

Sit in your own seat

Once you've found a safe place to hunker down for the rest of your commute, take stock of the number of spare seats. Is the bus nearly empty? Manspread all you want. But if demand for seats is rising, keep your stuff (and your legs) to yourself. There's little worse than getting on the bus bone-tired and seeing the one free seat taken by some unwitting traveller's backpack. Together, we can all make life better.

Don't put your backpack in the seat you just liberated

Don't confuse the latter two pieces of advice for endorsements of putting your belongings on the seats. Seats are for people. Your lap or the floor (within reason) is for your stuff.

Let others in need sit down 

And we can do that in part by letting folks sit down when they need it. It's not always possible to visibly identify when someone is disabled, older, pregnant, or otherwise in need of a seat, but when you can, offering your place to someone else is not just kind and selfless, it's also very cool and epic.

If someone asks you for your seat, consider taking them at their word rather than attempting to decide for yourself whether they "really need it more than you do." If they're asking, it's for a reason. Being a little extra kind never hurt anyone!

Play your music to yourself

While you're travelling down the highway at top bus speed, you might want to drown out the noise with your sickest beats and hottest tunes. That's a wonderful way to pass the time, but consider that those around you might not want to hear the same post-ska hyperpop that you find so enthralling.

For the sake of everyone's sanity, it's best to bring your own headphones. If you forgot them, resign yourself to the same relative silence that the rest of the bus is enjoying.

Consider masking up

Before you use any of the rest of this advice, it's worth thinking about investing in some anti-illness face masks to protect your fellow transit users from any of your germs. This holds double if you're actively ill — those who take public transit range across the socioeconomic spectrum, with folks of many immune levels sharing space for long enough to swap breaths.

Does that sound gross? It is! Wearing a mask on public transit, especially on poorly ventilated buses, is a great way to avoid that grossness. Now you're one step closer to being a thoughtful bus rider, even if you follow the Montreal code and never thank your drivers.

You can at least say a nice bonjour. It can't hurt!

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Willa Holt
Staff Writer
Willa Holt is a Creator for MTL Blog, often found covering weird and wonderful real estate and local politics from her home base in Montreal.