Using gadgets on public transportation

Is it a good idea to pull that expensive gadget out of the bag on the bus or train? It depends on where you are and who's sharing the trip.

Since moving to the city center a couple of years ago I frequently take public transportation. I don't ride the bus often, mainly due to the overly complex schedules and routes, but I do take the light rail quite a bit.

Metro Rail
Houston Metro Rail Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I make it a point to take public transportation when I travel, especially to San Francisco and New York. It's a good way to get around and learn the city at the same time. I see a lot of business travellers when I do, mixed in with the daily local riders.

Whether I'm on the bus or train, I like to pass the time by pulling either my phone or tablet out. I can read a book or surf the web to kill the time. Having LTE on my tablets and phone makes this possible even without wi-fi.

See related:  Exciting work venues for the mobile professional  |  Key to using a tablet for work: Don't force it Best iPad Air keyboards (hands on): January 2014  |  4 advantages Windows 8.1 has over Android in mobile

I have friends who have a long daily commute by train and they tell me they regularly use a tablet or laptop on the rail car. Their trips are long enough they can get a lot of homework done when riding the rails.

I confess that sometimes when I pull my expensive gadget out on a train or bus that I feel uneasy. I wonder if it's a good idea to be flashing a device that cost hundreds of dollars on a crowded car. The last thing I want is to have it snatched out of my hand and disappear forever. It's a good idea to take a careful look around before you pull that tablet out. 

I also wonder if others consider it rude for me to pull out the tablet. The reaction of some makes it seem they do. My gut feeling tells me that if I feel uneasy pulling out the gadget on a given trip, odds are I shouldn't do it.

I figure that business travellers probably wonder the same thing when they step on the bus or train in a city unfamiliar to them. Is it a good idea to pull that shiny tablet out? What would the locals suggest? Do the same rules and etiquette apply for gadget use on public transportation in San Francisco as they do in New York? How about Houston and London?

That's where you readers can step in and help us out. If you regularly take public transportation, what advice would you give those of us visiting your city? Is there anything we should be aware of that you can share?

Please leave your advice in the comments, and mention your city. Tell us what to do with our gadgets, whether that be leave them in the bag or use them discretely. Any pertinent advice you can share will be greatly appreciated.

If the response is good anough, I may follow up with an article sharing the best practices recommended for each city discussed. That's a reasonable way for us travellers to learn to practice the rules of the road where you live.