MTA to Tackle 'Manspreading' in New Mass-Transit Ad Campaign

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New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority hopes to encourage more courtesy on subway trains. Andrew Burton/Reuters

New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) will tackle "manspreading," when men splay their legs wide open and take up several seats on the subway, in a forthcoming ad campaign, NBC New York reports.

Following a barrage of complaints on blogs and social media posts, MTA will be releasing a series of ads in early 2015 aimed at encouraging common courtesy among passengers on the train. The "Courtesy Counts, Manners Make a Better Ride" campaign will include ads that say "Dude...Stop the Spread, Please: It's a Space Issue" and "It's a Subway Car, Not a Dining Car." Subway riders can expect to see the new signs as early as January, and they will be placed in commuter railroads and buses in February.

But will the signs effectively curb manspreading? Earlier this week, New York Times reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons interviewed subway riders about the forthcoming ads, and several of the men grumbled about the complaints. One rider said he "was not going to cross my legs like ladies do," while others saw the characteristic male slouch as an "unalienable right."

These "rights," which some view as an issue of comfort (and, for others, one of power), may have to give way to necessity: Overcrowding on the trains is due to surging of New York City's population. According to recent reports, subway riding rates are at an all-time high. A recent Reuters report revealed that up to 6.1 million people rode the trains this past September, up from the previous record of 5.9 million rides in 2013.

The city of Philadelphia has unveiled a similar ad ("Dude It's Rude...Two Seats—Really?"), but it's more intended for stopping people from taking up several seats with their bags, as opposed to manspreading. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority spokeswoman Kristin Geiger told The New York Times that manspreading may not be the phenomena it's made out to be on social media, but rather a more "localized" problem seen in New York. She cited a lack of complaints in Philadelphia. Transportation officials in Washington and Chicago also said that manspreading is not a complaint they hear much.

But perhaps the ads will incite a conversation about politeness that will make those morning commutes a bit more bearable. Gothamist notes that in the 1940s and 1950s, New York City subway cars featured more signs encouraging subway etiquette, including not placing packages on seats and not blocking the doors. "Hit Him Again Lady, We Don't Like Door-Blockers Either," one of them reads.