True Blue Transit

Can colour make us kinder? Here in Canada, we’re often accused of excessive civility. But although giving up your bus seat to a pregnant or old person is a paragon of politeness, it seems public transit riders in Toronto don’t do enough of it.

Toronto’s buses, subway trains and streetcars have designated “priority seating zones” that are meant to be yielded to people with disabilities and others who need them. There are signs pointing them out and explaining who they’re for. And if, as an able-bodied person, you happen to settle your backside onto one of these benches, then refuse to move (or become overly absorbed in your newspaper) when someone boards the bus who actually needs that seat, you can even be fined $235.

But apparently the threat of a fine (and disapproving looks from other passengers) is not enough to compel all people to give up these seats. So the Toronto Transit Commission recently announced that it’s bringing a bright shade of blue to its priority seating areas.

The blue is startlingly eye-catching, especially in contrast to the regular burgundy colour throughout the rest of the vehicles. “That’s to make sure that everyone knows which are the priority seats,” says CEO Andy Byford in a publicity video. He expresses his hope that the blue will lead to a lot more benevolence.

He adds, “We always say the TTC is the better way” (it’s true, they do always say that), “but we want it to be the kinder way as well.” Andy is appealing to the public to give up the seats willingly, before someone in need actually needs to ask.

I remain intrigued by the colour choice. Why blue? Has extensive psychological testing revealed blue to be the hue that opens our hearts? Following that train of thought, does it matter what blue shade is used – cornflower, azure, cobalt, cerulean? (And has anyone even addressed the whole colour-blindness thing?)

We hope it works. Vehicle drivers, of course, can’t force people out of the priority seats. If someone won’t budge, the driver can only summon a transit officer who can levy a fine. “We’re hoping that’s not necessary,” Andy says. “Let’s all be kind and considerate to our fellow customers.”

What a blue-tiful idea.

Yes, it’s priority seating for Smurfs who have difficulty smurfing when  they go out to smurf. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Transit Commission)

Yes, it’s priority seating for Smurfs who have difficulty smurfing when
they go out to smurf. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Transit Commission)

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