The MBTA’s Just War on Backpacks Has Been Rekindled

As back-to-school season arrives, the T is sending the message via announcements and videos.

Photo by Garrett Quinn

Waiting in the stale heat that fills the southbound MBTA Orange Line stop at State Street this morning, I heard the sweetest sound come over the loudspeaker.

For all the rush-hour commuters crowded on the platform, there was the soothing voice of Frank Oglesby issuing a helpful reminder to all of us: Remove your backpack when you board the train, and hold it at your side. Thank you Frank. Thank you so much.

Of the many issues that plague the T, not all of them are caused by years of neglect and mismanagement. No, some of them are our own damn fault. And one of those problems is commuters—looking at you, undergrads—who straight up refuse to take their giant backpacks off when they board the train, sacrificing space that could be occupied by, well, me.

The announcements—which I’m told will be played once every hour on every subway line for the next week and a half—are timed to coincide with the end of summer, and the return of the student horde.

“Backpacks are something the T hears about quite often from riders as they can take up space when worn, bump other passengers, and can be generally intrusive, especially during peak travel times,” spokesman Lisa Battison says in an email. “With the beginning of the school year and students returning to the MBTA system, these announcements were proactively scheduled beginning this week as a polite reminder.”

This follows a similar MBTA campaign last year that took aim at big backpacks and “manspreaders” alike.

The T has also released a series of videos, produced by students in a class at Emerson, urging better behavior. I love these videos. Get a load of this one, featuring an anthropomorphic, coffee-cup eating backpack, and the tagline, “Don’t let your bag be a bully.”

And this one, which uses some of those big T-Rex costumes to demonstrate why you should get out of the way of the doors:

And this one, which reminds us that littering can lead to delays:

There is hope for the future.