Well-trafficked public transit networks are powder kegs of social interaction between irate commuters crushed together in close quarters. So it’s no surprise that cities shell out money to remind straphangers to be polite and follow the rules that keep public transportation running smoothly, like exiting buses from the back doors and giving up seats to older and pregnant passengers. New York City’s MTA, for instance, spent more than $76,000 this year to remind passengers to stop dancing on subway poles and to refrain from manspreading.
In Bogotá, however, transportation etiquette lessons come not from signs and impersonal overhead announcements, but from actors. In January, the Colombian capital hired three acting troupes to encourage proper transit behavior and shame unruly passengers.
The city’s public transportation network has been ranked the worst in the world for women, and an estimated 70,000 bus riders a day skip out on paying their fares. The actors, planted within the crowd of everyday commuters, stare down passengers who rush onto buses without waiting for people to exit. They enact skits where one actor holding a baby doll is forced to stand when no one is willing to give up their seat, and the doll falls out of the pretend mother’s hands. They hold loud phone conversations about the dangers of fare evasion, describing fictitious scenarios like how a fare-skipper got hit by a bus.
The plan is kind of genius: People don't always behave as they should on public transit, and a paid actor in the crowd is more likely to speak up (or at least glare) at someone who's flouting the rules of public transportation decorum by hogging seats or standing in front of the doors as people try to enter and exit.
Unfortunately, there’s no real data showing that the actors are improving bus behavior, and some critics object to the use of city funding for such transit tomfoolery, so the program may not last beyond the next election. But for now, Bogotanos will get the occasional spark of whimsy with their reminder to give up their seats to those who need them.
[h/t: The Economist]