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Does the MBTA have a shoes policy?

March 23rd, 2012
mbta, transit, barefoot

When it's nice out I like to walk barefoot. I also take the bus to work. These past two days they've not combined well.

As far as I can determine, the MBTA has no policy requiring shoes. Last summer, when I'd get on a bus barefoot, most drivers wouldn't care, and a few would mumble something like "where's your shoes?" [1] Wednesday, however, I had a driver who was much more assertive:

At 8:25am I got on the 8:20am 94 bus from Medford Square to Davis Square at the corner of High St and Allston St. I was not wearing shoes. The driver informed me that shoes were required to ride MBTA buses. I asked who required that I wear shoes and he said it was a state law. I can find no such state law.

What law requires that passengers wear shoes? Does the MBTA have a policy requiring shoes?

(Screenshot of the customer service form. Facebook comments.)

I didn't hear back from them, and because this hadn't happened before I decided it was probably an unusually zealous driver. That evening I rode home barefoot with no problem, but the next morning a different driver decided that my feet were a threat and had me thrown off the bus. Afterwards, while walking to work, I called customer support:
MBTA:Good afternoon thanks for calling the MBTA, how can I help you today?
Me:Hello, um, before we start...
MBTA:Can I help you?
Me:Yeah. My name is Jeff, before we start I'd to let you know that this call is being recorded. I have to notify you. Um ...
MBTA:Uh huh
Me:OK, so I'm wondering, does the MBTA have any policies on footwear?
MBTA:On what? Footwear? Not that I know of!
Me:Ok, Um, I was kicked off a bus earlier today for not wearing shoes ...
MBTA:Wait a minute, hold on, give me a minute, give me a minute, let me [?] in the system, OK?
Me:Sure!
[snip]
MBTA:Go right ahead, what happened?
Me:So, at 9:20 I got on the bus, I paid my fare. Um. The bus driver said "I'm sorry, you have to wear shoes". Um. He said it was state law. I had a copy from the ... A copy of a letter from the Department of Health and Human services saying that there was no state law requiring shoes. I showed it to him, he said he didn't care and that there was an MBTA policy regarding state law... I mean, sorry, r-. I mean an MBTA policy requiring shoes. Um. I said that I had not been able to find such a policy talking to customer support in the past. He said that he didn't care and on his bus you had to wear shoes. I said "I'm sorry, you're wrong" and sat down. We started going. About five minutes later, at the corner of Boston Ave and High St. Uh. The driver stopped the bus, and when custo-, when other passengers asked why the bus driver said that, uh, they were waiting for the police to come, uh, and pick me up. Um. So then we sat there for about ten minutes. Um. An MBTA inspector showed up. The MBTA inspector told me I needed to get off. Um. I did what he said. Um. The bus left. Uh. He said there was an MBTA policy requiring shoes, I asked if he could send me a copy of the policy, he told me to call customer support, he have me your phone number. Uh, so I'm calling you now.
MBTA:So give me one minute, all right, give me one second?
Me:Sure!
MBTA:One second, all right, give me one second, don't hang up!
Me:Yeah, yeah, take your time!
[long pause]
MBTA:Sir, I'm just checking on that, ok?
Me:Thank you.
MBTA:...checking ok, so just stay with me a second, all right.
Me:Ok
MBTA:one minute
[long pause]
MBTA:Hello Jeff, I'm sorry to keep you holding
Me:That's fine
MBTA:Um, hello? Jeff?
Me:Yes?
MBTA:Hello? Yeah, I'm going to, um, get some answers from my supervisor. She call-, she made some calls. She's going to check, and then I should give you back a call on this, OK?
Me:Um, yeah, um. That would be fine.
MBTA:Because i would so much rather, you know, you're a nice enough, you know, like [?] you get those really [?] out of control, you know, little things like this? But at the same time, um, they get upset and, you know, it gets all out of control but, I told my supervisor that you're very nice talking to me with this situation
Me:Thank you
MBTA:This problem. So I'm going to call you back on this and let you know what the outcome of this is, OK?
Me:Mostly I just want to know whether there is a policy requiring shoes. And what the policy is.
MBTA:That's what we are checking. Ok, that's all.
[snip]

(recording)

When I called back that evening they said they were waiting to hear back from the bus operations department. The question of "does the MBTA have a shoes policy?" is still open.

Update 2012-06-23: The question is now closed: the MBTA does not have a policy requiring shoes.


[1] At Harvard station I did once have a customer service agent tell me shoes were required. When I asked where I could find this policy he said it was posted by the door. When I told him it wasn't posted, which it isn't, he said: "Would I lie to you? You think I would like to you?"

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