Survey: What do you think about seating on new Series 5000 rail cars?

Today I reprinted the letter that a regular Tattler reader wrote to the CTA, pleading that they change the seating arrangement on the Series 5000 rail cars.

Series 5000 rail car seats.jpg

Photo by Ben Meyerson

Why? Because he’s fat and can’t comfortably sit down in the seats.

And I agree with him. The CTA should change the seating configuration. Right now, nearly all the seats are place “longitudinally” along the windows, with riders facing each other across a wider aisle. The wider aisle will allow more people to board, and make it easier for people enter and exit the train.

I get that, and I support that seating concept.

What I don’t like is that the CTA is using the same molded plastic seats we currently have on rail cars, and placing a pole from the seat to the ceiling. This pole and the molded seating are the problems.

I say move the poles and replace the molded plastic seats with long bench seating. That way, people fill in the seats based on their own size, rather than the size the CTA thinks we are.

I am just over 5 feet 9 inches tall, and I weigh about 185 pounds. According to the BMI table, I am “overweight” — just like more than 60 percent of all Illinois residents. That’s another reason to change the seating the configuration.

So that’s my opinion, but what’s yours? Take this click poll and let us know. I will share results with the CTA. 


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  • It is obvious, even on the latest articulated buses, that CTA doesn't believe in "seating," i.e. the number of people who can be seated. Of course, in the arrangement up through the 2600s, people wouldn't move out of the door areas into the car.

    However, you bring up an even more basic point--CTA is still using 1970s style seats, and it shows. The cars would at least look more up to date if they used the seats like in the more recent buses. The cost can't be any different, and I don't see why they shot down Huberman's proposals to change the aesthetics, which purportedly were not supposed to be for much more cost.

    As for the Poles (technically stanchions), a lot of people are not tall enough to reach the horizontal one, even with the hanging handholds, which look real cheap. By having longitudinal seats, you don't have the loop handles on the seat frames found on cars starting with the 2200s.

    However, if you are suggesting bench seats (apparently like in NY), the residents of hobo corner will just use them to spread out and sleep.

    For that matter, it isn't clear what you are suggesting. As I mentioned to Carole Brown when she said she was not in favor of various forms of the Airport Express, what alternative do you have in mind? I, at least, said what mine was.

  • In reply to jack:

    I missed the "I say..." and posted here before reading the obese guy post. Nonetheless, I don't think bench seats are the answer.

  • In reply to jack:

    The CTA's goal should be to maximize capacity, particularly when the impending fiscal collapse means these may be the last cars they can buy for a long, long time. Beyond what's required for ADA compliance, seating should be a secondary priority, and comfort is so far down as to be nearly irrelevant.

    Even in the current configuration, it seems like this fellow has a few options. If the car isn't full, he can sit across two seats, between two stanchions. If not, he can stand, which those nice aisles make much easier.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    I disagree that comfort should be nearly irrelevant. At the end of the day, riders are customers of the CTA. If the ride experience is a disaster, customers will find other alternatives like any other business.

    For the most part, I have three options for getting to work. By driving, I have the hassle of traffic and parking and the cost of parking. This creates a 'hassle' quotient that I'm trying to avoid. If I take a cab, the hassle qotient is the additional cost over public transit but I also get door to door service and possibly a quicker commute. I can also walk an extra block and take the Metra downtown for a couple of dollars more. I can also carpool with a co-worker I don't like and share his costs. For me, I'll ride the CTA. But when the hassle of the CTA (tardy trains, standing in the cold, crowded trains, no place to sit, jammed in like sardines) exceeds that of driving, Metra, carpooling, or cabbing it, I'll choose another alternative and the CTA will lose my $5 - $10 a day in user fees. If enough people do that, that will result in lower overall revenue.
    Like any other business, the CTA has to take care of their clients. Different people have different 'pain thresholds' but once you cross them, they will choose something different. When that happens, the bahavior changes and its hard to make that change back once our behaviors and routines change.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    The only thing on which I'll disagree with you is the same thing I disagreed with a CMB post on Going Public--transit authorities look at it as that they lose at least 50% per rider. With such things as the Max Capacity cars on the Brown Line, rider comfort and discretionary riders mean nothing to the CTA. It might be different for Pace, given its half-empty buses, but not to the CTA with its crush conditions.

    If enough of you pull your patronage, CTA just has to impose more service cuts. However, I'll be that the majority of CTA riders (other than the bar hoppers) are not discretionary riders.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    While I agree that the CTA should (mostly) be run like a private enterprise, you have to recognize that, fundamentally, it isn't one. It's a heavily subsidized service provider with certain priorities that trump customer service and the profit motive, such as maintaining potentially unprofitable service to poor neighborhoods and providing affordable transportation to the poor and working-class.

    The CTA isn't designed to provide sufficiently posh service to lure commuters out of their cars, and I certainly don't want it doing so with my already-strained tax dollars.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    I hate this society we live in that caters to fat people. I'm sorry, but being FAT isn't a valid excuse to complain about the seats. Pad the seats more, case closed. I've ridden on numerous system with hella more comfortable seating (heck, BART has carpeted floors!)

  • In reply to mugen:

    And I'll bet the floors on BART are disgusting. At least our trains can be hosed down now and then.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    How about an area to hang bikes vertically? Other agencies have them. Its an easy add on. I agree with whats been said about these cars already looking horribly out of date. They are basically glorified 3200s with a few add ons and a computer to identify problems. But I think that's the point. We're going to be stuck with the 2600s for a while, the 3200s arnt going anywhere soon and I bet someone at the CTA wanted them to somewhat match. Hence the vomit beige and the same seats. Most of the rest of the fleet (sans 2200s) could be converted over to longitudinal seating and look a lot like these cars. Don't get me wrong, the AC propulsion motors are awesome. We're the last major transit system in the US to get them. As well the regenerative braking is a great benefit. But come on. Take a look at any other new light rail fleet in the past 10 years and it blows the 5000s out of the water. I wish Siemens had gotten the fleet contract. They know how to do an interior right.

  • In reply to thrulateevening:

    Bombardier can do a decent interior as well. The Huberman renderings for the 5000s were in line with other metro systems. But, for whatever reason, the current leadership of CTA insists on keeping a 1980s-era railcar design in 2011.

    A simple color scheme change and a swap of the seats for a more modern model (bench, or not) could go a long way to make these new cars actually look new at little or no additional cost.

    I'd really like to know why the bus interiors have advanced over the years while rail interiors remain stagnant. Other than the modified seating layout, these cars look exactly like the ones delivered decades ago.

  • In reply to jack:

    My biggest problem with the 5000-series is that they look embarrassingly out-of-date already. When you have visitors to the city, it's really kind of painful to say, "look at our new railcars!" Seriously, they're right out of the early 1990s. At least freshen up the interior a bit... please ditch the beige... use molded seats like the new NYC subways. Even the new buses CTA is using with the metal seats look way more modern.

  • In reply to jack:

    just go for bench seating, I grew up on it and its so much more comfortable.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm going to post this to both of today's seating threads.

    I just measured my shoulders.
    They're about 21.5" wide. And that was wearing a shirt, not a bulky winter coat. There's no fat there, it's just skin over bone.
    I don't know what the seat widths are, but they're sure not that wide.

    By going to side seating, the CTA is negating the widening of the cars caused by the fishbelly sides, that were first used on the North Shore Line's Electroliners of the 1940s.
    The CTA adopted that design with the original 5000 series [renumbered 51-54] & onward through today.
    That design gives a bit more shoulder room.

    If you look at the side seats on the newest articulated buses, that's even more insane.
    There, you have shaped, metal frame seats that don't even fill out the entire space. There are several inches of unused space at each end in several seating areas. And these seats are really narrow!
    The problem is an over reliance on standardization, so they can have a smaller inventory of spares. But that's just foolish.

  • In reply to jack:

    A lot of cities, particularly in the midwest, will have to decide how much overall capacity they want to sacrifice in various settings to better accomodate the expanding and expanding obese population. I'm 6'4" and weigh 240 lbs, my shoulders extend way beyond the seat ridges, but fortunately, they're way above them too. My butt and gut fit in the allotted space. I'm prone to weight gain (fat), so I have to make an effort to keep myself transit-sized. I don't enjoy exercise, but I see it as part of living in society.

    The externalities wrought by the obese on public life are disproportionately large, even to them; this is only one example. I recognize that a small group of people truly cannot control their weight, but the existing handicapped guidelines are designed to accomodate this small population. The discomfort of using human-scale public offerings should be a subtle nudge toward health.

    I'm grateful for the ridged seats and their dated but frictive coverings every time a train accelerates or decelerates suddenly (even the 5000s are driven by CTA motormen). Without the divided seats and stanchions, I'd probably be sliding all over the place, and with more places for the fulltime amateur immersive transit enthusiasts (homeless) to get comfy, the stakes of sliding around wildly would be a lot higher. Also, I can't imagine the cute girl at the other end of the bench wants this cannonball of Man in her lap everytime the train stops.

  • Ed: Yes I do plan to share this with the CTA, but I haven't done that yet.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Thanks Kevin. Please send the seating comments in when you can. Many of the comments here and the suggestions are well thought out. I'll chime in, too:

    If the longitudinal seating is here to stay, then please change the posts and/or seats. They are just too plain small to have on one's left AND right. This is a side-by-side seating configuration that hasn't been used. If I remember correctly, even the longitudinal test train a while back didn't have the poles inserted every two seats. This new combination is a deal breaker.

    Suggestions to rectify this:
    1) Remove the poles attached every two seats and replace with hanging straps or poles located elsewhere.
    2) Use a larger seat size (and yes, lose some seating capacity, but at least the seats remaining are usable when the car is filled)
    3) Use bench seating, perhaps with some type of anti-skid/anti-graffiti surface, combined with the pole removal. (to prevent sliding).

    Could there also be a reevaluation as to why there are sets of forward/rear facing seats near the doors? If longitudinal seating is being used to create more center space, then creating a block near the doorways defeats that purpose. Surely, other transit agencies that use longitudinal seating already have solutions for disabled/elderly longitudinal seating.

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