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The MBTA Has No Shoes Policy

June 23rd, 2012
transcript, mbta, barefoot

After meeting with little success and a lot of people not getting back to me, trying to get an answer out of the MBTA as to whether shoes were required in relation to my getting kicked off a bus, I decided I might do better if I called them with a policy question framed as being not in relation to any particular incident. I didn't want to put them on the defensive, needing to support their driver, I just wanted to know going forward what their policy is.

At 4:16pm on June 22nd I called and spoke with an MBTA customer service representative. I asked if the MBTA had a policy on shoes, and they checked with a supervisor. They told me that the MBTA has no policy on shoes, but did say that for safety reasons I wanted to wear shoes. Transcript [1]:

T:
I was talking to my supervisor and, no, we don't have nothing in writing like that. Nothing in writing.
Me:
There's no written policy, you're saying?
T:
No. But for the safety of our passengers, you know, safety.
Me:
You're saying that shoes are not required?
T:
There's no written policy, no written policy, no. Like I said, common sense. If you're going anywhere you'd have a shirt on, you know, the safety of the passenger.
Me:
For example, if I were going to the beach I might not wear shoes. If I got on a commuter rail train to go to Crane's beach without wearing shoes, would that be fine?
T:
That's what I'm saying.
Me:
I don't understand, I'm sorry.
T:
That's what I'm saying: for the safety of the passenger that's going to the beach, and of course there's no, you know, any policy that shoes are, you know, required. But just for your safety you want to have something on your feet, slippers, you want to have some shoes, for the safety of the passenger.
Me:
You're saying that...
T:
You know what I'm trying to tell you? You're walking on a dirty floor, on the ground, people have cigarettes, they're spitting on the floor. You don't want to be walking on something like that. There's gum on the bus, on the floor.
Me:
I'm not asking you whether you would personally reccomend that someone take the bus or train without shoes, I'm asking ...
T:
I'm not reccomending anything, I'm just saying safety, that's all.
Me:
I'm still confused, I'm sorry. Are you saying that the T has a policy that requires shoes or that there is ...
T:
I'm not saying that, I'm saying we do not have a written policy like that.
Me:
So if I were to get on a train going to the beach not wearing shoes, and the conductor were to ask me to "where are your shoes" and I reply "I didn't bring them," and they decided to put me off at an intermediate stop between North Station and the beach, would they be able to do that? Or would, because there is no policy, ...
T:
That's the thing, that's the problem right there. There's no written policy, that's what I'm saying.
Me:
If there's no written policy does that mean that it's entirely up to the discretion of the conductor?
T:
I don't know what to tell you. I seriously don't know what to tell you.
Me:
What I'm wondering is, if I get onto a bus or train or whatever, and I'm not wearing shoes ...
T:
... and you get kicked off the bus? The only thing you could tell the driver of the bus, train, whatever, is that you spoke to the MBTA and they said that there's no policy, no written policy, that a person has to wear shoes, or whatever, on the train or whatever you're on.
(audio)

After getting a confirmation number (#03386561) I wanted to confirm that I had understood them properly:

Me:
It would be fair for me to say that an MBTA representative checked to see if there was a policy requiring shoes, and they told me that the MBTA did not have a policy requiring shoes, they didn't have a policy at all?
T:
Right.
Me:
Ok, thank you!
(audio)

So they don't have a shoes policy, but I probably shouldn't be surprised if a bus driver tells me they do. I think I'll keep a printout of this transcript in my bag along with the letter from the board of health, perhaps it will help?

Update 2012-06-24: I prepared a condensed transcript.


[1] Yes, I did notify them I was recording.

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