Swearing on Public Transit Can Get You Fined

Post by Nick Chu

Riding public transit can be an overwhelmingly positive experience. You don’t have to drive in traffic, you get to read your favourite book, and you can save money. However, any regular transit rider knows that once in a while, something always happens which gives you that urge to just vent out a little (or a lot). The real nice thing is, the fashion in which you swear is entirely up to you, whether its in your own mind, muttered under your breathe or shouted verbally at your fellow passenger.

However, should you choose to voice your displeasure out loud, you may get fined depending on the district you live in. For example, in Milwaukee, a rider was hit with a $500 ticket from an undercover deputy for cursing on a bus.

Because we all know that anytime someone gives you a ticket, it'd provoke us to swear less. Image by Flickr user greenkozi.

Now while I thought that was a little ridiculous, it’s apparently not uncommon. In Hong Kong, they decided to take it a bit further. There’s supposedly a law which regulates swearing and the most bizarre (or hilarious) thing about this is that the amount you’re fined is directly dependent on where you decide to spew your profanity. For example, if somehow you’re caught cursing on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, you’ll get hit with a HK$5000 fine (USD $650)!

Just don't get caught swearing on a bus. You might be jailed for 6 months.

So my question is: who and how did one determine these figures? And why does it cost me 5x more to swear on a cable car than a funicular?

While we’ll probably never find these answers, we do know one thing for sure. If you’re feeling down and out in Hong Kong and wanted to vent some frustration in public, at only HKD$100 (USD$13) per swear word, the tram is definitely your most economical option.


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  1. Not justifying it, but the 360 cable car IS meant to take you up to the Big Buddha (and temple). So maybe because its more of a sacred ride than say, the peak tram? Marginal logic, but at least some logic???
  2. Well if someone goes bananas swearing on a gondola, I guess you're sorta stuck with the lunatic for at least 25 minutes (total ride time) since you can't kick him off. So mathematically speaking, that's HK$200 per minute. This, you see, is comparable to the fine on a tram ride.
  3. So once again the gondolas show their economic merit once again. What is the definition of free speech then? And was it one or a few swear words or a whole litany of expletives? It seems a "disturbing the peace" might be one thing and swearing about something (especially if the rider missed the previous bus because it came early,etc) entirely different. Agreed upon the size of the fine: $500. This seems crazy and completely out or proportion to the purported "crime."