A regular reader of CTA Tattler wrote me last week to share this letter that he wrote the CTA after riding on the new prototype Series 5000 rail cars. I agree with his assessment and his proposed solution. His letter:
I have been a rider of the CTA every workday for nearly 13 years.
Today, I had my first opportunity to ride the new subway cars that the CTA ordered and are now testing out on the Red Line.
I beg you to carefully read this comment, as my statement is a problem
that a very large number of Chicagoans are going to encounter. And not
only do I state the problem, but I offer a solution, one that will mesh
with the Authority's stated intentions yet solve the problem.
Let's not be at all coy about my problem with the seats: I am obese, and
the seats offer utterly no way for me to sit down without making my
fellow riders deeply uncomfortable, not to mention my own severe
In the former seating construction, if I was the first to sit down and
had a "window seat", I could either pull myself close as much as I
could, or the person with whom I shared the 'bench' had the option of
the free space in the aisle. Since the "window seats" were not
perfectly flush with the wall, pushing myself against the wall could
give the aisle-seat rider some room. I could put my arm up on the
"window ledge" for further space, allowing me to put my body flush with
the wall (instead of my right arm).
If I had the "aisle seat", that was often better; I had the ability to
let myself partially hang off the seat so as to give the window-seat
person more room.
Today, I sat down, and despite literally rolling my shoulders forward to
a point where I was deeply uncomfortable and having to breathe shallow
breaths (much less read the book I had with me or look at my
smartphone), I knew I was deeply inconveniencing my fellow riders to the
left and right.
Moreover, even when the person to my left was able to move over when the
seat to *his* left freed, I couldn't do anything to relieve the
crowding. Why? The metal bars that you have running from every other
seat from seat edge to ceiling. This means that no matter what seat you
take, you have a metal bar either pressing into your left leg or your
right; moreover, it means that obese people can *only* use a freed-up
seat to relieve pressure on their seatmate if it is on the side of their
body that is not blocked by the metal bar -- meaning that 50% of the
time, a freed-up seat doesn't even do any good.
The CTA Tattler weblog is fairly convinced that you have decided that
longitudinal seating is here to stay.
If it is, I
strongly urge you to make two modifications to the current car design:
- Remove the metal bars that run from the seat edge to the ceiling, and
- Replace the "molded seat" design with a flat bench design such as
what New York City and other longitudinal-seating subway systems use.
I understand that many people are not fond of the obese, and certainly
don't want to be sharing a seat with them. I've been aware of that
sentiment, and although I'm not about to let the whole world start
having a debate about my personal weight issues, I ... and a lot of
overweight people ... desire to infringe upon our fellow riders'
personal space as little as humanly possible.
These new cars are a tremendously huge step backward in that regard,
pretty much producing a situation where transit seating is only for
people who have no weight problems at all. In a city that's the home of
the deep dish pizza, that's a very poor design choice. If you're going
to keep longitudinal seating around, help rectify this poor design
choice by making the two changes I suggest.