Last year's City Hall Christmas tree

At 11th and Locust two years ago, one Christmas tree learned the hard way riders aren’t allowed to bring objects on board that are too large to fit in their lap.

For at least a week, the gigantic pine sat forlornly at a Center City bus shelter — presumably after a SEPTA driver refused to let a human carry it on. The tree got so desperate looking that folks strapped a sign around its neck begging for a bus to accept it.

Yep, so much for holiday cheer. You’re not allowed to tote home your regular-sized Christmas tree on any SEPTA vehicle this winter, including BSL/MFL subway cars, buses, trolleys or Regional Rail.

The transit authority doesn’t allow any foliage over a certain size, according to spokesperson Andrew Busch, though he was not able to provide specific dimensional limits. Apparently it’s up to the discretion of individual bus drivers or train conductors (so when they deny you entry, you know it’s personal).

“Generally speaking, it would need to fit on your lap or within your seating/standing area,” Busch said. It’s a safety thing, mostly: a bigger tree could interfere with the movement of passengers or general safe operation.

Lap-size trees are allowed, and so are fake trees, if they’re still in the box — and if you’re ok with the world knowing that’s how you roll. Bus drivers have also been known to allow trees to be tied onto their bike racks, on occasion.

For the record, Philly’s transit authority isn’t the only one to exclude holiday cheer of the eight-foot-tall variety. The D.C. Metro doesn’t specifically call out trees, but it does prohibit large items that would inconvenience other passengers. Riders must limit carry-ons to small packages, WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly told Billy Penn via email.

Boston, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Basically: It isn’t not allowed… just don’t be stupid.

“We ask that people exercise common sense when using the subway system,” MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told The Boston Globe in 2016. In other words, customers are allowed to bring trees on board — but he hopes they respect the personal space of other passengers. (The MBTA rarely receives complaints about passengers transporting the trees, Pesaturo added.)

Of course, this is Philadelphia we’re talking about. Just because there’s a rule against festive foliage on SEPTA doesn’t mean that it’s followed.

Philly people seem to find a way to get their trees from point A to point B using public transportation. Maybe just be prepared to persuade your bus driver?

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...