The Unwritten Rules for Riding SEPTA

How to avoid becoming one of those passengers who make everyone else’s ride less pleasant. (Some of these rules will also make your own trip better.)

train arriving at jefferson station septa etiquette rules philadelphia

Whether you’re riding SEPTA Regional Rail, rapid transit, a trolley or a bus, following these rules will make your ride easier, faster and better for everyone. / Photograph by John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Depending on the service, the time of day and one’s fellow passengers, riding SEPTA can be a pleasant experience or a nerve-wracking one. Crowded trains, strange smells and obnoxious passengers can turn an ordinary commute into a nightmare.

We may not be able to do much to fix the clock, the vehicles or the physical plant. But at least we can give you advice on how to avoid becoming one of those passengers who make everyone else’s ride less pleasant. Some of these rules will also make your own trip better.

Waiting for and Boarding Trains and Buses

Space Out

Don’t crowd near the platform entrance when you’re waiting for a Broad Street (B) or Market-Frankford (L) train. Back when, signs in some stations advised, “There’s usually more room in the rear cars.” That advice remains true today. Space yourself out along the platform if you have time to do so.

Stand Back

Stand behind the yellow strip on the edge of the platform at train stations. This keeps you from possibly falling off the edge of the platform or getting hit by an arriving train.

Step Aside

Stand aside when the doors open to allow riders to get off first when your train or bus arrives. Then board the bus or train. This cuts down on dwell times, which in turn makes the trip faster.

queen lane station septa rules etiquette

SEPTA Rules: Even if the platform is at track level, as here at Queen Lane Station, waiting behind the yellow stripe keeps you safer. / Photograph by Sandy Smith

Riding the Buses and Trains

The seats in the front of the bus are designated for older and disabled riders.

If an older rider boards, please yield your seat to them if you are sitting in one of these seats and no others are available. The driver will ask you to move if a rider in a wheelchair boards.

Recognize Wheelchair Seats

Trains on the rapid transit lines have seats designated for riders in wheelchairs, but they aren’t marked, so you will need to know what to look for to find them. Specifically, the seats in these areas fold up to make room for the wheelchair. Treat these seats the same way you would the marked ones on the buses.

Yield to Strollers

SEPTA also allows passengers with babies in strollers to park their strollers in the wheelchair areas. Again, if a rider with a stroller gets on and you are sitting in this area, move to a seat outside it.

Move Over

Are you sitting in the aisle seat? Is the window seat next to you empty? Move into it and let another passenger sit down if the vehicle is filling with passengers. The rider will get up to let you out when you ask them politely.

(And that means your bag, too.)

You only paid for one seat, so your bag doesn’t get to ride in the one next to you. Keep it in your lap or on the floor between your legs.

Feet on the Floor

This is public transit, not your living room. You can put your feet up on the sofa when you get home. Don’t put your feet up on the seat next to yours. (The same goes for benches in stations and at bus stops.)

Wear Headphones

Feel free to listen to your favorite music or podcasts —as long as you’re wearing headphones or earbuds.

The Quiet Car

If you’re riding a Regional Rail train with three or more cars, the first car is the designated “Quiet Car.” If you anticipate taking or making phone calls while en route, stay out of this car. Ditto if you’re traveling with others and anticipate talking with them. And in any case, on any SEPTA vehicle, keep your conversation at a low volume, and don’t put your phone call on the speaker.

Don’t Stand in Door Wells

Unless the train is jam-packed, don’t stand in the door wells unless you plan to exit at the next station. Standing in the door wells blocks passage for riders getting on and off. If you do have to stand in the door well but aren’t getting off at the station, however, step out of the car to let others board, then step back in.

Move to the Back

Unless you can’t move back because the vehicle is stuffed with riders, move to the rear of the bus or trolley. You can, and should, exit by the rear door, and standing in the front slows down boarding.

septa route 26 bus at broad and olney

SEPTA Rules: At busy times, waiting to the side while riders get off makes the bus ride faster. It also works during less busy times. / Photograph by Sandy Smith

Other Rules for Riders

No Smoking

Don’t light up that cigarette, joint or cigar on the platform or on board the vehicle. And refrain from vaping. Get caught doing either and be ready to pay an additional $25 for your ride.

No Grafitti

Well-executed graffiti can be great art, but it’s no more welcome on SEPTA than it is elsewhere in the city — you will get fined up to $150 if you get caught and taken to court if you don’t pay. Consider joining Mural Arts Philadelphia, where you can express yourself legally on walls across the city.

berks station

Cute critter, but not the place to show it off. / Photograph by Sandy Smith

Just … Be Decent?

If you’re in a bad mood, don’t take it out on the driver, conductor or your fellow passengers. Hold your feelings inside until you get off of SEPTA property.

On Food and Drink

Don’t unwrap that sandwich and eat it on the train. If you have a beverage with you, make sure it’s in a covered cup or travel mug. And if the beverage is alcoholic, wait until you’re done riding to consume it.

Throw Your Trash in a Trash Can.

Don’t toss it on the floor of the bus or train car. Most rapid transit and Regional Rail stations have trash cans on the platforms.

Mind Your Furry Friends

You can bring your pet with you, but unless it’s a service animal, it should be in a pet carrier.


Most of the rules above are contained in SEPTA’s Code of Conduct. Repeat offenders may be fined and banned from using the system for a year.

And finally, you can help keep SEPTA safe by reporting suspicious activity or anything that seems out of place. Use the SEPTA Transit Watch app, call SEPTA Transit Police at 215-580-8111 or text 215-235-1911.