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NY Transit Museum exhibit to explore ‘Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages’

Opening March 12 at Grand Central Terminal

March 4, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Translation: The tram always has priority. Courtesy of Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company (STIB-MIVB) and Advertising Agency Mortierbrigade SA with permission of David P. Favest, Marketing Director
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Given the nature of urban mass transit — small spaces shared with perfect strangers and everyone in a rush — it is no surprise that transit agencies have, from their very beginnings, encouraged passengers to be safe, clean and well-behaved. No matter if it is 1916, 1956 or 2016, whether in Toronto, New York or Tokyo, the inappropriate behaviors ubiquitous to mass transit have remained remarkably consistent and have annoyed commuters throughout the world for more than a century. 

Opening March 12, the New York Transit Museum’s newest exhibition “Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages” explores the creative and engaging visuals and broad scope of humor that transit agencies in the U.S. and abroad have used to cajole and scold passengers into better behavior.

Whether they are asking people not to smoke, to be safe at the edge of the platform or to throw away their trash, the graphic posters and videos from all over the world truly speak to everyone, their message loud and clear with no translation necessary. “Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages” includes etiquette campaign posters and videos from cities dotting the globe including Barcelona, Brussels, Chicago, London, Madrid, New York, Philadelphia, Rio de Janiero, Taipei, Tokyo and more.

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Each section in the exhibit highlights a transit etiquette sin that is seen year after year, from one city to the next. A section entitled “Don’t Be a Seat Hog” includes a 1920 London Tube poster from the London Transport Museum Collection, a 1939 Toronto Transit Commission poster from the City of Toronto Archives, a 1947 New York City Transit Authority poster from the New York Transit Museum Collection and a 2012 Tokyo Metro poster from the Tokyo Metro Cultural Foundation Collection — all discouraging what has come to be known today as “manspreading.” After viewing etiquette campaigns spanning over a century, some exhibit visitors may question how far we’ve really come.

“Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages” opens to the public on Saturday, March 12 at the New York Transit Museum’s Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central. The gallery annex is located just off the main concourse in the shuttle passage, next to the station master’s office, and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free to the public year-round.   

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