Too loud, too bad: SEPTA doesn’t enforce ban on playing music without headphones

A commuter listens to music while they wait for a SEPTA bus. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A commuter listens to music while they wait for a SEPTA bus. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

PlanPhilly is launching a new collaborative playlist for commutes through the city. But please don’t play it out loud on SEPTA, because it’s bad etiquette.

That’s it. 

SEPTA’s policy on loud music is that it is officially prohibited on transit. But agency spokesperson Andrew Busch said while blasting your personal soundtrack is not allowed, SEPTA Police doesn’t actively enforce against the violation. 

Busch described it as a violation of etiquette unless it is being done in conjunction with a citable offense or it becomes a chronic problem.

“We rely on our customer etiquette program,” Busch said. “It’s not something we rely on police to enforce.”

SEPTA’s social media team suggests passengers simply ride it out. 

Five percent of SEPTA passengers surveyed in 2008 said loud music was the single most offensive breach of customer etiquette while riding or waiting. The largest share, 41%, said it was “loud cell phone conversations,” a not so distant annoyance. 

The question is absent from SEPTA’s most recent rider survey, though clearly some riders do have opinions. 

Our northeast neighbor New York City prohibits the use of “sound production” devices on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority service. Such devices include “any radio receiver, phonograph, television receiver, musical instrument, tape recorder, cassette player, compact disc player, speaker device or system, and any sound amplifier or any sound-producing device of similar nature.”

Penalties for violating the prohibition can result in criminal prosecution with penalties ranging from a $25 fine and/or up to 10 days in jail, or fines up to $100 per penalty from the transit adjudication bureau.

“Use headphones with all audio and video devices” is the first thing listed under “Do” on the D.C. area’s Metro system’s Rules and Manners page. The district recently decriminalized playing music without headphones, but violators are still subject to a $50 civil fine.

While SEPTA has no such civil fines on the books, Busch said riders should alert SEPTA employees for such incidents.  

For suburban commuters, there is always the option of the “quiet car,” weekdays during rush hour.

But for those who listen to music and aren’t jerks, we recommend the PlanPhilly playlist on Spotify. Follow the playlist to listen and add songs yourself.

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