In a crowded train the other day (caused by a cancellation), both I and another bloke got up at the same time to offer an
old lady senior citizen of the female persuasion a seat. He caught her eye first, but as it happens another lady in need of a seat got on at the next station.
It seems to me there is general acceptance that offering a seat to the elderly is the right thing to do. (Though a third lady was apparently unnoticed by others nearby to her.)
Pregnant women or people on crutches or who otherwise are likely to have problems standing are other obvious contenders who should get a seat, and I’ve certainly seen it happen (last week two pregnant ladies, friends, got offered two seats on the train I was on), though letters into MX would suggest it’s not 100%. It’s worth noting that it is in fact legislated:
A person with special needs or another person on that person’s behalf or an authorised person (conduct) may request an occupant to vacate his or her seat to enable it to be occupied by the person with special needs. It goes on to clarify that it’s referring to a seat that has been designated as a seat for use by a person with special needs.
It also mentions that special needs refers to: a person who, because of age, disability, illness or pregnancy has a special need to travel in a seat.
It doesn’t appear that, these days, men will generally offer their seats to a lady who is of a similar age and has no particular need to sit. But then I’m not sure I recall that was ever the case.
There is a widespread belief that students are legally required to give up their seats to adult passengers. Back in the day, there was that condition for holders of a Student Pass, and this was actually specified on the ticket. It isn’t anymore, not since the replacement of paper tickets with Metcards about 12 years ago.
I assumed that meant the requirement is no longer there, though looking through the legislation, it includes:
An authorised person (conduct) may request a primary or secondary school student who is using a concession ticket to vacate a seat on a rail vehicle or a road vehicle to enable the seat to be occupied by a person other than a primary or secondary school student if there are no empty seats on the vehicle to which the person has reasonable access.
Interesting — unlike for people with special needs, it’s limited to a request from “authorised persons”, eg staff, police, Authorised Officers, so it’s not as though any punter can order a student to stand up for them.
Of course, it’d be a lot easier to stand if more trains had handles all the way along to hang onto.
Update: The rules have changed a bit. The new legislation is here.