Julie MarshLast Monday, New Jersey Transit extended its Quiet Commute program during peak hours on train lines to and from New York and Newark. The first and last cars of each train are "quiet cars" in which Quiet Commute etiquette is enforced.
I can't help grinning at the dichotomy of a so-called quiet commute in New Jersey. I rode NJ Transit for three years. Ever been to New Jersey? Folks there are some of the loudest I've ever known.
The New York Times covered the initial mixed reviews of the Quiet Commute program. Some people attempted to abide by the etiquette guidelines, but others ignored the restrictions altogether, leading some to complain to conductors. Still others interpreted the etiquette guidelines with such severity that one man asked a conductor to "disable the automated announcements, which inform riders of impending stops, as well as the conductor’s work radio." In typical New Jersey fashion, the conductor ignored him and whispered within earshot of the Times reporter: "Why don’t I just get this guy a pair of pajamas and a pillow?"
Quiet is a relative term. We each have our own definition, which can vary depending on circumstances. NJ Transit has attempted to create an unambiguous set of etiquette guidelines, but there will always be room for interpretation. Also, there will always be those who either don't know the rules or choose to ignore them. Conductors have bigger jobs to do beyond mediating disputes between passengers regarding their individual definitions of quiet.
Riding NJ Transit -- heck, riding any sort of public transportation in the New York metro area -- requires an ability to compartmentalize. If you're the type to get irritated by what people around you are doing and saying (and how loud and in what proximity they are), you might want to consider living elsewhere or commuting by car. "Quiet commute" regulations aren't going to change ingrained behavior, certainly not immediately.