Quiet cars and “Shh cards”

If you haven’t heard, quiet cars will be coming to Metro-North. Conceptually it is a great idea. In practice, well, we’ll see how it works. Passengers prove time and time again that they will pretty much do whatever the hell they want – whether it be putting their feet on the seats, or “cleverly” attempting to dispose of their garbage by dropping it in the gap at the next station stop. Unfortunately “policing” these quiet cars may fall to the conductors, which already get enough crap from many disgruntled train riders. I am imagining a scenario that will inevitably happen at one time or another: a businessman that gets on the train and insists he needs to have a cell-phone conference call. As the train is packed, the only available seat is in the quiet car. Because he’s paid Metro-North several hundred dollars for a monthly pass, he feels he deserves that seat, and the fact that it is in a quiet car doesn’t concern him.

There are a couple things that amuse me about the initiation of this quiet car program. Firstly, on the Harlem Line, the quiet cars will be on Wassaic trains. Clearly, whoever thought this up has never been on a Wassaic train. If you’re not familiar with the people that I’ve dubbed “the Wassaic people” – they never talk on the train. The trains are always quiet. On the rare occasion that I miss my normal train, I can board a train that originates in Wassaic and happens to stop at Goldens Bridge. If I even say good morning to the conductor taking my ticket, those Wassaic people shoot daggers at me with their eyes. I’m not sure about whatever other trains have been assigned quiet cars, and whether there are odd folks on the Hudson Line that we can call “those Poughkeepsie people.”

The second thing that somewhat amuses me about these quiet cars are the “shhhh cards.” If you are making noise in the quiet car, conductors may give you a specially printed card that they hope will make you pipe down. I got my hands on a few of these cards today, and you can see a preview of them here:


If you ask me, these are a little bit too subtle. This may actually work better:

Metro-North, I fixed that for ya

As far as I am aware, one shh card does not put you in “the penalty box” nor does two get you ejected from the train. A shame, as sports references generally help people to understand “difficult” subjects.

14 thoughts on “Quiet cars and “Shh cards”

  1. How has the MTA graphics department not hired you yet? These are perfection.

    How can we all start lobbying for these?

  2. Nice artwork. It will be interesting to see how well it works. Quite a few other railroads have tried it. Just looking at various forums on the internet, it seems like most other railroads that have tried have done a pretty good job of ensuring that the supply of Quiet Cars is lower than demand anytime a train is crowded, so you don’t get the situation you mentioned where the only open seats are in the Quiet car, because you’re right, if that’s the case, it’s doomed. Even if the Quiet Car does always fill first there might still be the problem of people sitting there because it’s closest to where they want to exit (wouldn’t want to have to walk an extra 50 feet now), but hopefully not.

  3. Sounds like a great idea, but without police to enforce the rules I don’t see how it succeeds. On LIRR, which I would imagine is a fare comparison, conductors can make all of the relevant announcements and even ask individuals to take their feet off the seats, speak softly, etc. But they can’t do much more than that, and the railroad’s biggest concern is the trains being on-time, so I’m sure they won’t be eager to delay trains just to have one jerk removed because of a cell phone. On another note, I thought smoking had been banned from station platforms…or was that merely proposed? Because I have never seen that enforced!

    1. Smoking on platforms in New York was banned, however the ban will go into effect 90 days after it was signed (which is mid-November I believe). That is another thing that is difficult to police. It was common for me to see people smoking *inside* the station during the winter time, because the idiots were too cold to even go out to smoke. If nobody cracked down on that, I can’t imagine they’re going to bother going after people that are actually outside.

      It is possible that the system will work, but they didn’t pick very good trains to test. The real trial will come with the busier trains, not the ones that are already quiet to begin with.

  4. It never ceases to amaze how inconsiderate a tiny portion of the population is. Being the cranky old curmudgeon I am, I welcome the quiet cars.

    This summer I rode in quiet car on Amtrak’s Keystone service, lights low, everyone quiet. It was one of the nicest train rides I ever took. I think that people traveling alone will be the main users of these cars. And lets face it, even on the 6 AM train from Poughkeepsie on a Saturday, one loud cell phone yakker pollutes half the car.

    Let’s hope the spirit of cars is embraced and everyone is quiet.

    Oh, and have you ever ridden a Wassaic early train from like Pawling or Wassaic? They are a very talkative bunch on the platform, at 5:30 am, catching up with each other. But they have to leave that early to be at work, and they don’t step off that train until 7 that night. The morning ride is part of their sleep. They have been on that train a full hour before you join them, so cut em a little slack.

    When can we order some of your cards from catgirl press? Why let the train crews be the only ones with cards!!

  5. I’ve never been in the front of a northbound Wassaic train but I have a feeling there’d be a lot of noise there…

  6. Hi folks,

    I was one of the people who planned and implemented QuietRide on SEPTA. Let me try and ease some of your concerns. There may well be incidents getting media attention, just as there are now with other instances of passenger behavior, but those will be blown way out of proportion. By and large, the passengers sort themselves out pretty effectively.

    Enforcement here is designed to be a partnership between passengers and crew. In most instances, just a point to the QuietRide sign and a finger to the lips is enough to get people to follow the policy; and discretely putting a card in the ticket clip in front of them is effective too. The number of cases where a crew member has to intervene is actually pretty small. If you ride the quiet car, keep a couple of these cards (the Metro-North ones) in your bag and set a good example by handling situations with tact and tolerance.

    Bob, we looked a lot at relative demand for the quiet car (SEPTA consists are 2 to 7 cars in the peak) and found very few trains where the quiet car was significantly more or less crowded than the rest of the train. A large enough proportion of passengers don’t care too much whether or not they’re in the quiet car that they’ll move one way or the other to get a seat.

    Good luck, and please e-mail me at mitchell@dvarp.org or phone 215-RAILWAY if we can help you guys make the program a success.

  7. To add to Matthew’s comment above, the SEPTA program (along with those of other railroads) is pretty much self-policing. Every car in the fleet has notices at each end of the car on the walls that state the Quiet Ride Car rules and when they are in effect (the 1st car of all weekday trains consisting of 3 or more cars open to passengers).

    So a weekday exception would be, for example, a 7 car train I rode that only had the first 2 cars open, in which case, the Quiet Ride car rules are not in effect, since 3 cars are not open. Conductors generally announce at the downtown stations that the lead car is the Quiet Ride car as well. I’ve yet to see any problems, especially now that it has been in effect for a while.

  8. Hi Emily,

    Just came across your site while researching a post on quiet cars for Boston’s MBTA. As a former rider of the Harlem Line, I was glad to see so many true thoughts on the commute.

    I also had a similar concept to your red and yellow cards. Was curious if you wanted to collaborate on these because they could be expanded to many situations.

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