Are Quiet Trains Good Or Bad For Commuting?

Last week, I inadvertently stepped into one of the 'quiet carriages' that were recently introduced into NSW trains by CityRail. This is the story of the verbal-lynching that soon followed . . .

"Shhhh" picture from Shutterstock

As the name implies, quiet carriages are select train cars in which commuters are obliged to keep noise levels down to a minimum. The service is currently provided on Blue Mountains, Central Coast and South Coast lines and comprises the first and last carriage on eight-car trains.

"Everyone is welcome to travel in a quiet carriage," explains the CityRail website. "However, customers are reminded to place mobile phones on silent, move carriages to have a conversation with a fellow passenger, and use headphones with mobile devices, keeping the volume to a minimum."

Well, even Lifehacker journos are fallible from time to time — in my haste to board the train, I sat down in the silent carriage and just plum forgot. Later in the trip, I received a phone call from my wife who happens to be heavily pregnant. Needless to say, I took the call.

Now, it was obvious from my half of the conversation that this wasn't idle chit-chat: I was asking about abdominal pain, whether we needed to visit the hospital and her cervical mucus plug (look it up. Actually, best not).

In other words, I was clearly engaged in an important phone conversation about a potential emergency.

Picture by mrpbps

The baleful and voluminous bollocking I subsequently received from a fellow passenger was therefore unexpected. In stunned silence, I absorbed a blistering critique on my dodgy train etiquette, horrible manners and inability to follow the rules like everyone else. (It would be uncharitable to mention that the commuter in question was also breaking the rules by spreading his girth across two seats while only paying for one ticket — but I've never claimed to be charitable.)

In any event, the encounter left me considerably rattled and has prompted me to wonder whether quiet carriages are such a hot idea in the first place.

Before you all blast me in the comments, I will happily acknowledge that I was technically in the wrong. But does this give other commuters the right to loudly and aggressively abuse me? Is there no circumstance in which our mutual vow of silence can be temporarily waived?

At times, the silent carriages can almost feel like overcrowded vipers' nests, swarming with megalomaniacs just waiting to pounce at the slightest provocation. Political prisoners on their way to Siberian gulags probably had it smoother.

And it's not just the quiet carriages that the new rule's affected. Meanwhile, the regular carriages have descended into a lawless cacophony where anything goes: yodelling, caterwauling, kazoo playing, you name it. Anyone who dares to complain is told to naff off to the quiet carriage. Me? I'd just like my normal train ride back.

We'd like to get your thoughts on quiet carriages. Have you ever had an experience similar to the one above? Have you ever shushed another traveler (and how far did you take it)? Let us know in the comments section below.


Comments

    Response may have been excessive but you were in the wrong. Plain and simple, not technically. Don't be mealy mouthed on your part in the matter when are quite happy to slam the person who spoke up.

    Did you apologise for taking the call?

      I didn't get the chance monkeymind: he blasted me on his way out the door (this was around 15 minutes after the phone conversation took place).

        If people like yourself and your fifteen minute conversations you have didn't exist there would be no need for a quiet carriage. It is sad that people believe it is their right to disturb others in the close confines of public transport. No matter which carriage I am on, if I am having a phone conversation of more than thirty seconds, I move to the vestibule as it is respectful to others. This guy was yelling because of the years of disrespectful behaviour endured from fellow commuters before finally being rewarded with a safe place to sit quietly and then having that ruined regularly by people who forget and just talk over the announcements that inform them of their mistake. We all snap because of contact stress, this is the same reason for road rage. You were in the wrong, one hundred percent. Even if it wasn't a quiet carriage, your fifteen minute conversations was neglectful of your fellow passengers comfort. Accept it and do better next time. You are right, we are all fallible so just learn from it. should he have handled it better, yes. I am yet to see a quiet carriage info session passed on respectfully but I think, again, this is due to years of general disrespect that led to its creation.

        I hope your wife is in good health and that your little one brings you much joy in the future.

          The conversation didn't actually go for fifteen minutes - what I meant was, he complained fifteen minutes *after* the conversation took place. (And thanks for the well-wishes.)

            My mistake, I apologise.

          @juststu82, to be honest I don't understand your point of view at all. You're talking about the days of yore, before "quiet carriages" existed, and you're implying that anyone who talked on a train or otherwise made noises was being incredibly rude and offensive. That's a bit pious, isn't it? Not even being able to talk with the person next to you, on public transport?

          I'm from Perth, we don't have quiet cars yet but I'm sure we'll follow your lead sometime soon, and when that happens I'll probably use the quiet cars myself out of personal preference. But as things are at the moment, I would never disdain someone for taking a phone call or talking with someone or not having their phone on silent in a public space - afterall, the world doesn't revolve around me.

            It was just my opinion. I find the notion that its a public place therefore I can do whatever I want to be incredibly inaccurate. If anything you should be more aware of your fellow passengers but unfortunately our society in some places believes the first version to be the best version. I was recounting my own experience of several years of public transport, rising early to complete study and work and get home at a reasonable hour for my kids. Regularly being woken on the trip to work by loud headphones or cackling laughter of the only fore-some in the train who clearly are several decibels above what is necessary and are disturbing the entire carriage at 6am, a carriage which upon until they arrived was 90% asleep. You may not wish to acknowledge that any of these habits annoy you but when a quiet carriage is introduced and you finally get to either sleep or study undisturbed for over an hour a return to the normal carriage or a "mistaken" person in the quiet carriage becomes incredibly obvious. We don't respect each other in public places and this builds up into contact stress (google it, its the reason we live in separate roomed houses and not single room huts), this contact stress leads to outbursts, road rage and the like. You can ignore it all you want but many people are feeling it and have been for years.

            BTW I love Perth and I can understand how you feel as your crowd in peak hour is far more tolerable than Sydney peak hour.

        If he waited 15 mins and only blasted you on his way out then he was clearly a coward who didn't want a full confrontation. If not, he would've yelled at you right after the phone conversation.

      Agree. The 'technically ' comment could be left out. You should just acknowledge you were in the wrong.

      How loud and lengthy was the bollocking you received? Wouldn't the bollocking itself be against the quiet carriage policy?

      I would also be less charitable than you in relation to the volume of seating being taken up by the vocal commuter. If you fill two seats, you should pay for both.

        @machpety
        Do you propose that we charge people in wheelchairs more as well, hell they take up enough room for three people. Especially the motor operated ones!

        And cue your response that being diabled is not voluntary and fat people are fat by choice. Did you check that he doesn't have a disability or is on medications that could cause obesity.

        For instance Paxil, a depression treatment cases substantial wight gain. Oral corticosteroids used for asthma treatment causes weight gain in high doses. And we can keep on going with treatments for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even birth control.

        Maybe one day you might be in the position where some smart alleck is saying you should pay for two seats, when that happens maybe then you'll see how callous your remarks are.

          @bento_box

          No, wheelchairs do actually need more space. The average commuter probably doesn't.

          People on trains just hate people on trains, I think that that's the problem here.

          What percentage of the obese population of Australia do you feel fit into one of the above mentioned causes for obesity rather than simply poor lifestyle choices?

          Also, is your assertion that 100% of patients on Paxil/birth control or type 2 diabetes are obese, or is it more a smaller subset of the small percentage of the population of those using these medications/affected by diabetes. just because it could be a side effect, doesn't mean it has to be. It could be said that with medical support and a lifestyle management plan, the risk negative effects (specifically weight gain in this case) could be minimised in some cases. Some, not all.

          Regardless, it's a great point you raise, as not all people who are overweight are so through choice. Raising the issue of the overweight paying their way can't simply be done through observation alone.

          Having said that, those people fitting into the obese category could have the lack of control of their weight supported with a note from a medical professional. Much like the mobility parking scheme.

          But then the response to this turns to unnecessary bureaucratic processes being created to target those that appear to have not made healthy life choices.

          Of course, any of the arguments in the article or the comments following could all be dismissed if we all took a bit of personal responsibility for our actions rather than trying to deflect.

            "Of course, any of the arguments in the article or the comments following could all be dismissed if we all took a bit of personal responsibility for our actions rather than trying to deflect."

            You should be prime minister.

    I travel in the quiet carriages every day, from Wollongong to Sydney and back again.

    I'm also one of the few people on my regular trains that will deal with people breaking the quiet carriage rules.

    I have a simple approach, if you get onto the quiet carriage and you start breaking the rules, I'll simply politely inform you that you are on a quiet carriage and invite you to move to another carriage, or follow the rules. Generally that is sufficient.

    I'll normally tolerate short phone calls where the person is speaking at a normal volume, but repeated, prolonged, or loud conversations will be interrupted with a polite "excuse me, but did you know..."

    If someone continues to break the rules, I'll continue to remind them until they get fed up with my interruptions and move on.

    As I get on the train at central when it's terminated, I try and head off potential problems as well, parents with kids who are already loud, people in groups entering the train talking, etc. Mostly it works, sometimes you get people that just want to be assholes.

      +1 for politely asking as that's what I was going to suggest the other guy should have done.

      The author was in the wrong however the other guy was a dick for not giving a stranger the benefit of the doubt that they may have not known what they were doing was against the rules. However they author then decided to drag himself down to the other guys level by deciding to be petty and pick on his weight.

      As for the headline question I like the idea of quiet trains though I've yet to experience them. Even if the other carriages are getting louder it wouldn't bother me. I'd love it if someone busted out a musical instrument and started playing while I was on the train (and not in a quite carriage.)

    Why didn't you just move to another carriage, Chris? =/

      As mentioned, I wasn't aware it was a quiet carriage during my (emergency) phone call. Obviously I would have moved to another carriage otherwise.

    I'm all for them, but I wish they were easier to distinguish. I was in one the other day and had no idea. Until I got off at Epping to make a phone call. It wasn't my stop, but I didn't want the phone to cut out. I nearly made the call in that carriage.

      That's a good point thom -- apparently CityRail will be signposting quiet carriages more clearly in future.

        The issue is the carriages change so the carriage coupled as the last this trip may be the middle next trip.

          This doesn't happen very much any more, actually. On old sets where this is possible, most split routes (8 car becoming two 4 car) are gone, there's only a handful of 4 car routes left on the network. New sets like the Waratah can't split at all, they're designed from scratch as 8 car EMU sets.

      This!
      Most of the time, I have absolutely no idea which carriage I'm on on the train - first, second, last, whatever, let alone if I'm on a "Quiet Carriages" train or not!

      Personally, I love the quiet carriages, and would happily enforce them, but without knowing I'm on one, I'm sure I've made the social gaff of being too noisy before, but no one has informed me of it.

        As near as I can tell, there is no way to know that your on the quiet carriages train if you want to get from Strathfield to Epping. It seems to be basically random.

    Why do people care what other people are doing on the train? What are they disturbing YOU from doing? NOTHING! We're all sitting on the train doing nothing important.

    I used to sleep on the train every day and I never cared when people talked or made noise.

    People are always looking for something to gripe about. Society has turned into a bunch of spoilt sooky little brats that scream and cry at the first slight inconvenience.

    You're in public. Deal with it.

      Some people like to Read in quiet (take the library for example).
      I'm used to riding on trains in Japan, where every carriage is a quiet carriage. If you dont follow the rules, you just get stared down.
      Coming back to an Australian train was a bit of a shock to the system for me.

        They aren't quiet in the sense of these carriages, they require all passengers to put their phones on silent and allow talking at a quieter level (it's not disallowed). They also allow phone calls again if they are short and not loud. It's a much better system which only works because of the culture of Japan. People in Japan are very respectful of others where as Australia is full of ignorant twats.

      There should be no need for a quiet carriage. We should all just respect the comfort of others on the train and be quiet to start with.

        Hahahahaha - Have you SEEN the type of people you get on trains? Many of them wouldn't know what respect is other than a hip-hop term :P

      Ridden a train on the Western line on a Saturday afternoon recently? Good luck trying to sleep then with the screaming families and yelling "bros" (as they call themselves).

      What about on a Friday / Saturday night? What if you have a slightly higher than normal startle response (because, god forbid, you're a smaller stature person and feel uncomfortable locked in a small space with strangers while passing through a lower socio-economic region), don't you think constant loud noises is going to stress this poor person out just a little?

      What about if you're not a heavy sleeper?

      What if you normally have headphones to cut out noise but your MP3 player's batteries are dead / you forgot your head phones while you're on a 50 min trip to the Central Coast?

      What if you've got even a minor headache, and you just want some silence to help it subside?

      ...

      Don't you think it's acceptable for these people (who have just as much right to ride the trains as you do) to have the choice of moving to a quieter carriage? What skin off your nose is it if two out of the eight carriages on most trains are 'quiet'?

    Public transport implies that you will be exposed to.... the public! If you wish to travel in silence then you should drive your car as that is your own private mode of transportation.

      But when I read whilst driving it ends badly...

        And my imaginary car doesn't travel anywhere near as fast as an actual real train...

      not if your drop top is down!

    It seems you had one bad experience, hardly enough to write off the entire quiet carriage concept.

    It's kind of sad we need to designate particular carriages as quiet ones. Call me an old-fashioned 20-something, but has common courtesy deteriorated to the point where we need to segregate those who can happily sit and respect other peoples' desire for quiet and those who can't?

    Headphones are cheap, phone calls can be returned when you get off, and conversations with a fellow passenger can be quiet enough not to bother those around you. All easy stuff. At least one would think so.

      Agreed.

      But, good luck trying to get the general public to abide by that.

      It's just like trying to convince [insert religious / political group here] that they're not doing [insert something] right...

        Apparently, general publics can. Someone already mentioned that Japanese culture frowns upon rude and disruptive behaviour on public transport. The fact we have to put up signage to remind people to abide by basic rules of courtesy makes us look primitive by comparison.

    Are Quiet Cinema Audiences Good Or Bad?

    Last week while watching Wreck it Ralph i technically broke the etiquette rules by answering my phone in the cinema. I had simply forgotten to put my phone on silent and the call was from my girlfriend asking about a strange rash on her lady parts.

    Obviously I was in an important phone call, discussing the rash. Saying things such as, 'does it burn when you pee.' However the audience was very vocal against me talking on the phone. Even though they could hear it was an important call.

    I didn't like the fact that I had people having a go at me, despite the slight chance of being in the wrong. It makes me wonder whether this whole idea of people quiet in cinema's while people watch a movie is a good things? When something as simple as a man discussing with his girlfriend her pussy rash during a kids film received such verbal abuse from the audience.

    Last edited 11/02/13 12:33 pm

      Touché. Although in my defense, I wasn't actually aware it was a quiet carriage.

      The slight chance?

      I thought all movies these days had that little screener reminding people to turn off their phones.

      Also, couldn't you have gone out to take the call? I don't know about you, but the few times I've taken a call in a cinema I couldn't hear the other side over the things going on in the movie, so I said I'd call them back. That and are you a doctor, otherwise why should she be consulting you over such an issue when it seems more appropriate that a doctor look at it?

      Call me a douchebag, but people go in to a movie theatre expecting to watch a movie, not listen to other people talk on the phone. Same thing goes for quiet trains, it's not on to listen in on someone's conversation anyway, so I really wouldn't blame people for not knowing what you're talking about.

      Just because the conversation is important to you doesn't mean it is to everyone else, and just because your side is filled with important lines still doesn't mean other people are listening in with sympathy for you.

      I don't like the fact that people feel entitled to not cop an earful after making a mistake, and instead of seeing that they made a mistake they feel angry at other people for pointing it out.

      Conclusion : Even if your conversation is important, sounds important, doesn't mean everyone around you is a busybody and will know exactly what's going on, and will instantly know the context. Also, it's highly likely that nobody will have a go at you for taking a phone call in a place that isn't a library/theatre/place of worship/quiet train, so why is this even a problem?

        I think screamface was using hyperbole to make their point. Settle down.

        The dude was being facetious to make a point mate!

        Wow, epic missing-the-point content, that.

        Reading it again I realise what everyone else said. And I apologise to screamface, if he's still reading.

        Long day, tired, excuses for not understanding what he read and all that good stuff.

        He made the point better than I did even.

      I know, right - some peeps are just so totes rude.

      Had exactly the same experience the other day - they're all like "dude, turn off your phone!".
      Honestly, how am I supposed to check my junk in the cinema without the phone flash - it's like really dark. Duh.

    Why didn't you give the passenger a piece of your mind? Even though you were unknowingly in the wrong, it was an emergency, and in such cases your first priority is always going to be about your pregnant wife.

      By the time I mustered up a suitable response, he'd already left the carriage (also, I was afraid he might sit on me).

        Poor form continually attacking his weight...I am one of many readers who is not your ideal size Chris.

          Then go to the gym instead of outlawing all (funny) fat person jokes?x

            I am buddy, 15Kg down and and 10Kg to go. Feeling ridiculed for your weight because Chris is trying to defend his own mistake is a little off. I love fat jokes, your mum and I were rolling around laughing to one the other night but in this instance he was just deflecting from Chris's own mistake.

              If you're worried about shifting 25kg then you're not fat like he's goin on about taking up 2seats, happy gyming to you bro!

    Hell is other people... - Jean-Paul Sartre

    A quiet "Do you realise this is a quiet carriage" should have sufficed. The other person was a dick.

    can i suggest that if your wife is that pregnant, and you are in a position to have to take important calls, you pay mind to what carriage you board? also, being fat has not yet been disallowed, so your dig at the fat dude while you were the one in the wrong is petty, at best

    You were 100% in the right. It doesn't matter where the #$^@ you are, if your heavily pregnant wife calls you, you pick up the phone. There is no 'you did what you should have but technically you were in the wrong'. The real world overrides the world inside that carriage. You did what you should have and therefor you did the right thing. Even if you'd known it was a quiet carriage there is still a pretty good chance that you would have forgotten about it in the case of an emergency and it wouldn't have mattered any more in that case either. Take it a step further and lets say you did remember it was a quiet carriage. Guess what. It is an emergency. Something that needs immediate attention.. your passenger next to you is now irrelevant unless at risk or included in the emergency.

    How are the above posters expecting you to apologise to the carriage anyway? Stand up and make an announcement? That will really work in a quiet carriage. A quiet apology to the person next to you might be nice but if the problem passenger was a few seats away he or she would be none the wiser anyway.

    It really annoys me when people are so close-minded and self-centered that they think they are the defenders of the good when they are really the ignorant fools making our society worse.. they seem to be the same people that feed of a current affair programs. I see the same sort of thing happen with disabled parking spaces. Certain types see someone get out of a car OK and instantly get attitude about it. These people have absolutely no idea of the scope of why someone might need a disabled car parking space but don't have the capacity to think outside their little square.

    So to tie back to the title of the article. Are quiet carriages fine for commuting? Yes I think they are and regularly enjoy them. Are ignorant twats fine anywhere? No!

    ugh what a rant. hope it comes off OK.

      Agreed, especially in regards to emergencies.

      The problem with mobile phones on the train, back when I caught the train, was that people would answer their phone, and talk with a really loud voice that made it impossible to not hear what their conversation was about, usually to make themselves heard over the din being created by school children (even when I was in school myself, this frustrated me), which was only even more annoying than the kids. I imagine that for the most part, taking a phone call in a quiet carriage would solve this problem, and so it wouldn't be anywhere near as annoying.

    "I absorbed a blistering critique on my dodgy train etiquette, horrible manners and inability to follow the rules like everyone:

    Bingo. That pretty much sums it up.

    "Before you all blast me in the comments, I will happily acknowledge that I was technically in the wrong. But does this give other commuters the right to loudly and aggressively abuse me? Is there no circumstance in which our mutual vow of silence can be temporarily waived? "

    Not 'technically'. You were in the wrong, period. If you have a heavily pregnant wife and need to be able to take phone calls, a quiet carriage which is sectioned off for the explicit purpose of not permitting phone calls is clearly not where you should be.

    Given that you're already there, the 'right' thing to do would be acknowledge that you didn't realise it was a quiet carriage, apologise and move to another carriage.

    I was in one the other day. I don't usually commute via train so I was completely unaware. If there was a visual indication that was so plainly obvious I wouldn't have made the mistake. Feel for you bro.

    I'm going to throw this out there and say perhaps a quiet carriage is the MOST appropriate place for him to be located. Because he was in a quiet carriage he was able to identify his phone ringing and clearly understand his wife on the other end. I think that is probably a bit extreme but then I think most have taken another extreme by suggesting he doesn't belong there because his wife is pregnant. Sounds like discrimination to me. Emergency phone calls aren't restricted to pregnant couples.

    Unfortunately, other customers standing up is the only way to actually enforce the quiet carriages. Your conversation may have been an emergency, but that's no reason you couldn't leave the carriage.
    This policy may discourage a handful of people who don't pay attention, or who simply don't know better, but it assures hundreds more that they're able to have a peaceful commute without clogging the roads with another private vehicle in rush hour.

    "Technically" is an apology weasel word, that means "I'm not really apologising". But, having said that, while you were indeed in the wrong, anyone with some brains would make allowances for the call once the content of it becomes obvious. And not wait 15 minutes to make the point in a cowardly fashion. And also not take up two seats :-) Also, boo for not-clearly-marked carriages.

    I like the quiet carriage idea and hope they end up on the Macathur line soon so I can read in peace but I don't believe that gives other passengers the right to chew someone out about it.

    One of my mates lives in the Netherlands and they have them over there. He loves the quiet carriages and if you break the rules one of the other passengers will tap you on the shoulder and politely say "You know the rules" usually with a smile. If you look like you don't get it they point to one of the signs.

    I think this is more a case of a rude passenger than a poor idea.

    You were right to take the call.

    Repeatedly attacking this guy for his weight makes you look like the arsehole.

      When did he "repeatedly attack" the guy for his weight?

        Once in the article (saying "his girth took up two seats" and then again in the comments (saying "I was afraid he would sit on me").

          Ok, I didn't see the one in the comments.

    I think it is a little over the top to be honest. I ride on the same trains that have the quiet carriages and to be honest, I've never bothered with them. It's a nice idea but it shouldn't be so utilitarian and anal retentive as has been made by those travelling in those carriages.

    In Taiwan and China, they have the same rules for business class long-distance trains. I've seen plenty of people take calls on those trains and no one bats an eyelid because the people taking the calls are relatively quiet and not boisterous. That's what this is all about really.. it's about those exceptions to the rule of common sense, respect and consideration for others. The really loud and obnoxious people who seem to think that the loudness of the voice, or loudness of their devices, or laughing hysterically is acceptable in a crowded situation. Most people are simply not like that.. but there are times when people (yes, people.. not robots or animals with tight anal passages) need to make noise.. funny that.. people.. social beings.. making noise.. wow.

    Was it wrong for him to take a phone call, no. Oh but it's a quiet train car.. it's clearly marked as such. Uhm.. so? Does this mean all life ceases the moment you enter the carriage? Maybe we should have carriages for anal retentive morons and clearly mark the carriage as such instead. It somehow works in a country with 1.8 billion people.. but not here? How is that possible? People here have waaaay too much entitlement issues.

      Maybe the sign for "Quiet Carriages" should be a silhouette of a person with a large stick lodged up their rear end.

    I don't buy the "potential emergency" thing. I think you may have just added this into the mix to try to justify your error.
    If you are in transit on a train then you will be at best "potential assistance".

    Yeah, you broke an established rule and annoyed people, and people got annoyed. Get over it.

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