While the color green typically signifies “go,” new green zones on the platforms of Oslo’s main train and subway station (Jernbanetorget) most decidedly mean “wait.” The strategically placed zones are an attempt by Ruter, the Oslo area’s public transit agency, to make commuters aware of the problem of blocking passengers getting off the trains, and maybe teach them some manners.
Norwegians are often chided for their surprisingly poor manners in public. There’s a general lack of “queue culture,” for example, with many impatient Norwegians clearly finding it difficult to await their turn. Newspapers like Aftenposten regularly feel a need to remind Norwegians of how to behave in elevators, on escalators and, not least, when using public transportation.
The lack of transit etiquette in Oslo is now becoming a problem, because the city is one of the fastest growing capitals in Europe, with more and more people using public transport. Aftenposten reported that in 2013, Norwegians made 309 million trips using the Oslo/Akershus area’s public transport system. Of those journeys, 85 million were made using the metro. Yet even in London, with its massive subway network and tens of millions passengers very day, there is a far more systematic level of common courtesy than that seen on Oslo’s metro.
Sunniva Meyer of The Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics carried out research last year on what commuters found most irritating when using public transport. Passengers questioned by Meyer rattled of a long string of complaints, with the following topping their lists:
- Blocking the way for those getting off the metro, a bus or tram
- Listening to music at high volume
- Taking up too much room (by placing bags, for example, on an adjacent seat)
- Speaking loudly on the telephone (often about personal matters)
- Placing feet on seats
- Failure to give up seats for the elderly and pregnant women
- People jumping the queue
- Large, noisy groups of people, often drunk, who are loud and generally badly behaved
“There is a general level of courtesy, but customers need to be reminded of the needs of others,” Gro Janborg, communications director for Ruter, told newspaper Aftenposten. “We do get positive feedback from our campaigns.”