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Letters: MTA instructs riders on courtesy

Riders walk through a crowded Union Square subway

Riders walk through a crowded Union Square subway station in Manhattan on March 20, 2014. 2013 set a 65 year record for transit ridership. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Cathy Young's column "The obsession with 'manspreading' " [Opinion, Jan. 6] bemoaned the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's current campaign, "Courtesy Counts: Manners Make a Better Ride." Young wrote that the campaign represents feminist paranoia and shouldn't single out men.

If she had looked at the other topics, other than this one that seems to have captured everyone's imagination, she would have seen clearly that the only people "targeted" are inconsiderate subway riders who make it inconvenient and uncomfortable for their fellow riders.

Do we have a courtesy reminder for men who take up more than their fair share of the limited space offered in a crowded subway car? You bet. But it is just one of several reminders. We also ask customers to be mindful that their bags and packages do not encroach on a neighboring seat. The last I looked, that one could apply to riders of either gender. Of course, there are several more suggestions of that kind that Young might have focused on: "Step aside to let others off first." "Take your pack off your back." "Offer your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person."

There are also reminders about taking up too much space on a standee pole, eating and using the subway car as a salon. The "manspreading" component of this campaign clearly has struck a nerve, and for that we offer no apologies. But the intent isn't one of shaming; it simply reminds customers that space is limited and taking up too much makes riding uncomfortable for your neighbor.

We are fast approaching a day when our 110-year-old subway system will be asked to transport more than 6 million customers every weekday, in an environment not known for excess space for the greater part of the day. If asking our customers to maintain a more compact seating position helps make everyone a little more comfortable, then we'll ask.

Paul J. Fleuranges, Manhattan

Editor's note: The writer is the vice president of corporate communications for New York City Transit.

Cathy Young's column analyzed space hogging on public transit and the MTA's "anti-spread campaign." I'd like to make another point.

I am tired of the MTA's campaigns focused on customers. The Long Island Rail Road also has a rider courtesy campaign, where customers are told how to sit, talk on the phone and sneeze.

This is particularly offensive coming from a railroad with some of the rudest conductors on the planet. In 17 years of riding, I have seen doors closed on people, questions disregarded and a general insensitivity to rider hardship. I would say to the MTA, worry about your own manners and courtesy first.

Alan Woodruff, Floral Park