In an effort to keep New Yorkers from being discourteous, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is introducing buttons that will encourage commuters to give up their seats to pregnant riders.
Starting Sunday — Mother's Day — and running through Labor Day, the MTA will be giving out pins reading "baby on board" and "please offer me a seat" as part of a pilot program. Elderly riders and riders with a disability also have the option of wearing buttons, which are available by request online.
"Pregnant riders, seniors and those with disabilities often need seats more than others but their condition may not always be visible," MTA interim executive director Ronnie Hakim said in a press release. "We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first."
The London Underground has a similar program in place, offering buttons reading "Baby on Board!" to pregnant riders, reportedly with limited success. South Korea has also attempted to alert riders to the presence of pregnant commuters with a system of Bluetooth-powered pink lights, as well as with pink seats marked "for pregnant people" on the Seoul subway.
New York subways, on the other hand, are notorious strongholds of appalling behavior. As the Cut recently reported, a woman named Yvonne Lin carried her first pregnancy to term without a man ever offering to vacate his subway seat for her. It wasn't until eight months into her second pregnancy that a man finally did get up, whereupon she awarded him the "No. 1 Decent Dude" trophy she had made and toted around with her for trimesters.
According to the Daily Beast's Brandy Zadrozny, who chronicled her experiences commuting while carrying a child, men tend to be worse about showing pregnant people courtesy than women do, but ultimately, subway commuters of all genders have equal potential for asshole behavior. "I take the subway at least twice a day, five days a week, and can count on my hands the number of times I've been offered a seat during my third trimester," Zadrozny wrote.
Can the buttons dissuade subway riders from being selfish monsters? Or will it go the way of those ads meant to shame manspreaders into closing their legs, which achieved no measurable results despite the MTA's better intentions?