MTA to Target Seat-Hogging Jerks With New PSAs

seat hogs

You know those dudes on the subway, the ones who spread their knees in order to take up every possible inch of space, even through there’s a perfectly good seat next to them that you could settle into? It’s not just social media that’s going to shame them anymore. The MTA announced that, in January, it’s going to launch a PSA campaign targetting “man spreaders” a.k.a. “seat hogs” a.k.a “bros who are making your life worse for no reason.” So the subway is about to be four percent more expensive and maybe four percent less horrible. At least that’s the plan.

There aren’t specifics on what these signs will actually look like, but, as MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz told Am New York, it will be “something new, something fresh” to replace the old slogan, “courtesy is contagious.” Because, apparently, no it’s not. What’s super contagious is terrible behavior! And germs. Hey cool.

The PSAs are actually a milder response that one proposed by MTA board member Charles Moerdler, who originally wanted to ban backpacks entirely from the system, thanks to a certain jerkish propensity to use them to take up space. “I believe that you ought to get them off the back and onto the floor so they don’t hit people when you make an inadvertent movement or the train comes to a sudden stop,” Moerdler said. “What we need to do is focus on it so that people will understand that it’s the right thing to do.When you get to the hard-core violators and courtesy doesn’t work, then you have to take enforcement action.”

True, but, like so much else in life, space-hogging is one of those invisible trappings of privilege. Bustle’s Gabrielle Moss did a social experiment in which she pruposefully hogged seats on the train for a weekend:

 A funny thing happened: I registered the fear and displeasure of strangers less and less. I went from faking being absorbed in my book as I maintained a nervously wide stance, to actually being absorbed in my book, forgetting that my legs were splayed out like I was holding a beach ball between my knees. In other words, I became unconscious of my own manufactured privilege. As people viewed my leg spread as an act of aggression and possible instability and steered clear of me, I slowly began to stop even noticing them.

Unclear if the signs will really help, taking that into account. But hey, you can always imagine that those guys are just saving room for cats.



  1. when confronted with someone hogging the only available seat I just say “excuse me please” and start to sit down. I haven’t ended up in anyone’s lap yet.

    • I tried that once and got the meanest glare from the lady sitting next to me, followed by a cursing and ranting session (from her).

  2. If you simply ask nicely, the person in question will usually accommodate. And I’m sorry, but the only thing I put on the floor of a subway car is the soles of my shoes.

    • I DO ask nicely; I just don’t give the jerks much time to reply. As to not putting your stuff on the floor, that isn’t necessary–your lap will do just fine.

      • Sometimes, even asking politely does no good, especially if you’re told to F off (or F you). That’s why I do not ask. (And as I’ve said before, asking shouldn’t be a requirement for relinquishing an extra seat.)

    • When you make someone ask, you are putting a limit on that seat. You might as well say, “I can’t have the common decency or courtesy to move over.” Not everyone speaks English, and some might be deaf or not hear you due to wearing headphones. Just. Move. Over.

    • Bob, unless you paid for 2 seats, you don’t have the right to impose restrictions as to whether or not you’ll move over. If you only paid one fare, you’re entitled to one seat, nothing more. As long as you refuse to move over voluntarily, you’re violating MTA rules of conduct.

  3. “…space-hogging is one of those invisible trappings of privilege.”

    Really? I find the leg-splayers of the world as annoying as the next guy, but this idea that every social gripe in the world can be framed–at least when directed at men–as an attack on “privilege” has reached a point of extreme silliness.

    Why, just last night I got on the subway; I hoped to sit down, but some woman had her massive privilege bag (i.e. purse) taking up an entire seat. Then, I was trying to have a quiet brunch with my girlfriend, but a large group of women was eating nearby, and drowning out our conversation with their loud giggling and privilege. Then that evening I went to a bar; I had been waiting to order patiently for fifteen minutes, but a woman approached the bar, batted her privilege, and got served right away. All told, it was a privilege filled day.

  4. The thing is, it IS an act of aggression, and a vaguely threatening one. I’ve often fantasized about pretending to be a crazy woman and acting so aggressively I might convince a man to give up the space, to shame him. I’d yell at the top of my lungs. “God your balls must be so big! Did they make you pay extra to bring those big balls on this train. Can you give me $2.50 because I paid for a god damn seat but your big balls need to breathe. How do you even walk with those things! You must sweat like a pig.” I could imagine going on like that, and if I was sure it wouldn’t lead to physical abuse, I’d do it.

    • I absolutely agree. I’ve actually told some seat hogs, “that extra seat better be nice and extra comfy in order for you to need it.” (Note the word EXTRA.) They usually don’t say anything, but instead look at me as if I had no right to say it. My thinking is, if hogging a seat doesn’t bother you, why should my commenting aloud about it bother you either?

  5. Am I the only one who finds it weird that the MTA failed to target people getting on the train with carts, bikes, and so forth? The bikes seem to cause the biggest hazards, as they almost always block the isles and doorways. I always stand up on the train, so the elderly, ladies, pregnant woman, etc may be able to have a seat. The downside to this is that I need to carry my bag full of heavy law school case books (5lbs a piece). It seems like more of a hazard to place my bag on those dirty floors that have been urinated on more than they have been cleaned because that may in fact cause someone to trip, and you can guess the rest. Speaking of which, when is the MTA raising our fares again? I can’t wait to check out the improvements!

  6. Guys shouldn’t be sitting on the train anyway. Oh wait, giving up one’s seat for a woman or an senior ir sexism and agism. Better to just closer you eyes and pretend to be oblivious to everything around you lest someone think you looked at them too long and file a stalking complaint.


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