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All Aboard! Civility Lives Among SEPTA Operators and Passengers

Howard G. Kelly Jr.
SEPTA Bus Operator, Midvale District

Perhaps one of the more common complaints you hear about our fast-paced society is the lack of common courtesy among people.

SEPTA bus operators and passengers spend a lot of time together. Many times, we hear about the not-so-nice side parties may see of one another. However, it is inspiring to see acts of kindness and respect I witness daily from SEPTA passengers and Operators alike.


When I arrive at a transit stop, I frequently observe customers patiently waiting for departing passengers to exit the front doors. As any operator can attest, that is not always the case. Sometimes departing and boarding customers nearly collide attempting to get pass one another. In those moments, operators have to say, "Please let the passengers off."

It's also encouraging to see customers boarding the bus who kindly wait for the customers in front them to pay. Many times, passengers are searching through their pockets, backpacks and handbags for that elusive transfer, TransPass or cash.

Similarly, there are a notable percentage of customers who are not as patient but still courteous. They're rushing to get on the bus and you'll see them reach around or over their fellow riders to swipe their TransPasses through the fare box scanner or give the operator a transfer or convenience pass. Even in these potentially impolite moments, you'll hear customers say, "Excuse me Ma'am", "I'm sorry, Miss", or "Pardon me sir".

As bus operators, we quickly learn that public displays of courtesy and kindness vary from customer to customer. Most operators attempt to acknowledge customers with whom they make eye contact with a smile, a head nod or simple salutations such as, "How are you?", "Good Morning", "Take care" or "Have a good day".


While I see and hear of occasional acts of insensitivity on the part of some operators and customers, it's refreshing to see caring, thoughtful gestures by riders and operators. Most Operators lower the kneeler for the elderly, or for those with visible leg issues who can't take that giant step onto the buses.

Some passengers - especially teenagers and young adults - will help a senior citizen who may be struggling in front of them with a shopping cart or grocery bags. I've witnessed riders and operators help customers with small children who may be having difficulty breaking down a stroller. I've also had boarding or departing passengers ask me to wait as a customer approaches the bus from a short distance down the street.

Operators regularly talk about assisting passengers who are restricted to wheel chairs and walkers and experiencing difficulty boarding or leaving the bus. Without injuring yourself, you carefully help these folks as much as you can. Frequently, we have elderly people boarding crowded buses and riders who freely offer their seats to these seniors - even after a hard day at work. While some riders don't budge, it's heartwarming when others do.

Common courtesy and civility on the bus is not always mutual. As operators, we can't make riders speak to us or be courteous to their fellow passengers. But what we can do is represent SEPTA and ourselves in a professional manner by acknowledging and helping customers whenever possible.

And though civility is sometimes lacking, I am encouraged at the increasing levels of mutual courtesy, kindness and respect I see on-board and around our SEPTA vehicles.

-Howard G. Kelly Jr. has been a bus operator at SEPTA's Midvale District since 2011. A Philadelphia native and Temple University graduate (B.A. Journalism), Mr. Kelly has worked as a public relations and corporate communications manager for several organizations.

SEPTA Bus Operator Howard G. Kelly Jr.

Kelly with a SEPTA customer.

Kelly assists a rider.