It’s the annual Priority Seating Week — an event that shouldn’t need to exist — to encourage London commuters to offer their seat when they see someone else is in need of it.
A survey of 1,000 customers found that around one in four passengers feels awkward about offering their seat to someone who might need it more. It could be the worry that someone isn’t actually pregnant, or that they are offering a seat only to have the offer declined.
As part of their refurbishment, bolder new designs on the fabric covering priority seats on the Jubilee line are being tested to see if they encourage people to offer their seat — or maybe avoid sitting in it in the first place when other empty seats are available.
Observing behaviour on the tube, and it’s interesting to watch how many people get on and sit in the priority seats, even when plenty of other seats are available. It may sound insignificant, but apart from being near the door, they also have the arm pole to help get up and down, and not all the other seats — which might be empty — will have that.
Last year when your correspondent was using a walking stick, he often walked past an occupied priority seat to get to another empty seat that was next to a pole just so he had the extra support when getting up again.
However, the TfL survey also found that almost a third of passengers only believe that they should offer their seat if they are in a ‘priority seat’. Maybe pregnant mums shouldn’t move down the carriage?
TfL’s Priority Seating Week aims to address these issues by raising awareness of how to make travelling easier for everyone, particularly those who may be in need of a seat.
Posters featuring staff will be running across the network and video clips with customers talking about their journeys will be shared on social media. These will be encouraging people to look up and offer their seat to someone who may need it more, whether they are in a priority seat or not.
Priority Seating Week also marks the second year anniversary of the free ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ badge. Specially designed to make travelling easier for people with a range of conditions that make it difficult to stand, more than 44,000 badges have been issued to disabled customers and those with invisible conditions since it was launched in 2017.
Mark Evers, Transport for London’s Chief Customer Officer, said that they “encourage customers to have a quick look up when other people get on board, otherwise you might not see that someone is struggling in front of you. ”