The original idea for this was simply on how to give up your seat when someone gets on the bus, but I realized that the entire bus and/or train ride could perhaps be explained in some detail for those, who, unlike me, are not frequent and vigorous mass transit riders. Of course, everything is conditional, and etiquette doubly so. I have also chosen to focus on local transit, rather than the mess of issues that would be raised by a Greyhound ride. If there is a polite way to ask a stranger for permission to sleep on their shoulder, it would need a more professional etiquettist than me to sort out the matter. So let us stay confined to the simpler matter of the local bus ride.
- Waiting for the bus: While waiting for the bus, it is best to wait patiently with some mild to moderate pacing. Conversations can be struck up on the following two topics: how long people have been waiting, and the general failure of mass transit to run on time. Mass transit, like Saturday Night Live features a general opprobrium and feeling of decline amongst most people. Bringing up statistics or arguing the point would be a waste of time, so just nod and say "yeah, it sucks". At a certain point, walking out into traffic to see if that improves your bus-sighting situation will win you a slight position of leadership amongst other riders.
- Boarding the bus: Try not to be too polite. In the time it takes you to say "there there, good sir, after you", three people could have boarded and you could all be that much closer to your destination. Of course, be polite enough. The standard procedure is that first people deboard, and then the disabled enter, and then everyone else. Have your fare ready.
- Choosing a seat: If a free pair of seats is open, choose that, rather than sitting next to someone. If available, try to choose a seat near a door so that your eventual departure will be expedited. If you are on a long trip, choose a seat in the back. That being said, there is also the question if you should alert a co-seater to the fact that you are sitting next to them. This runs into the general excuse me problem. Asking "May I sit here?" may seem like a thinly disguised order for them to scoot over. I think the best practice is to ask "Can I sit here?" while sitting down, presenting a fait accompli.
- Having someone sit next to you:. This brings up another matter: how much to scoot over. Scooting is polite if it is seen as a way to welcome the person into the co-seating arrangment. If, however, it is seen as a way to evade their personal hygeine issues, or to avoid their large buttocks pinning you down, it can be rude. In general, you should scoot: but scoot a scoush.
- Offering your seat: If you are in the elderly/disabled area, this goes without saying, or if a special occurrence comes up. In general, I avoid it, because on a crowded bus or train, the act of getting up, jostling people out of the way, so another person can jostle into my seat, just so they can rejostle their way out of the bus in three blocks is the type of excessive politeness that makes things worse for everyone.
- Making friends: In general, mass transit rides are too short for such things, but at times, including a stirring event for local sports team and/or dramatically unseasonable weather, it is okay to say something like "It looks like the Grande Rapids Tiger Bears were finally going to win that regional LaCrosse title until the goalie got bonked by that baseball sized hail stone with a frog inside". It is also allowed to interject into people who are dazedly wondering where there stop is.
- Annoying loud people: I often have fantasies where I say something witty and shut them up, but it doesn't seem to materialize. Stupid people are stupid. Deal with it, unless you can't
- Crazy, dangerous people: This doesn't actually fall under the category of "etiquette". It is not like someone who has been smoking meth and shouting racial epithets for ten minutes is going to respond to your polite chiding. If he does, you might as well take the chance to get him to straighten up his double windsor. Otherwise, these people usually get taken care of by police.
- Getting off the bus: Try to know generally where your stop is. Pull the cord. Exit the bus. If you live in Portland or another such place, tell the bus driver "thank you" as you leave.
With these tips in mind, you can gracefully step forward into the 21st century of mass transit.