Riders split on bench seats vs. bucket seats for new rail cars: survey

Rail riders are evenly split on whether the CTA should offer bench-style seating or the current “bucket” seats on the new Series 5000 train cars.

An unscientific survey conducted by the Active Transportation Alliance found that 49 percent of respondents prefer the New York-style bench seats, while 48 percent like the current bucket seating arrangement.

With bench seating, each passenger takes up the space he or she needs, as opposed to having to fit in the space allowed by the current bucket seats. This is an issue now with the long swaths of aisle-facing seats featured in the new Series 5000 rail cars currently riding the Pink and Green lines. They will get their biggest test in November, when the sleek new cars hit the Red Line, the CTA’s work-horse line with 40 percent of all rail passengers.

In the end, these surveys don’t matter because CTA President Forrest Claypool has said the CTA won’t change the seating style.

That’s fine. I get it that it’s a little late in the game to be making such a change. And these poll results don’t show an overwhelming demand for the bench seating.

But it would have been wise to at least consider the two options and consult passengers years ago when planning first began.


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  • Like Count Dracula, Claypool put a stake through this one a month ago, but some think it is among the undead. And here the group didn't even get a decisive result. As you said "In the end, these surveys don't matter because CTA President Forrest Claypool has said the CTA won't change the seating style."

    I still wonder how groups like this or the one that made an ado over nothing with regard to deadhead trips get publicity. Do they, like Blago and Drew Peterson, use the services of Glenn Selig? Or who is their flack?

  • The biggest news in this article for me was that the Red line is getting the new cars in November! Are they going to phase the old ones out slowly? or one day will it just be all 5000 series cars on the line?

  • In reply to Rob M:

    Frosty says they get 6 cars a week. According to chicago-l.org, it takes 336 to run the Red Line (although the assignment list has not been updated for over a year). So, what do you think?

    The inconsistency is that they said something to the effect that the Dan Ryan segment can't get them until it is fixed, but it won't be fixed in November.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hopefully they realized that these cars are going to have to be able to handle less than pristine tracks and decided just to start launching them in November. Whether it's bucket or bench, side or front facing, I for one am happy that we are finally getting new cars. We've got to be the only "world city" to still have beat up train cars with 70's style-pseudo-wood-trim on the interior. The fourth richest city in the world should not have a deteriorating public transit infrastructure.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    You are still getting 1970s seats. The only reason there isn't the fake wood trim is that the 1970s seats are covering the wall.

    BTW, what's the source of your statistic. CTA has been pleading poverty from way back.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's not the seats themselves that bother me.... It's the worn down nature of the cars today and the old decor. These should be way better in that respect. The rest is personal preference.

    Easiest source to look up is wikipedia (bad source I know, but the sources of the page seem to check out) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_by_GDP

    This is a list of cities by GDP which Chicago places 4th in the world (even ahead of London). Every other city I have visited (including London) has a seemingly nicer public transportation system (in terms of looks and quality). I have never seen such a slow zone ridden, old train car filled system like the one we have. Much needed improvements are just now happening though, it's about time. Props to the political machine for FINALLY making this happen.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    You might want to double-check that list. The sort function on that Wikipedia page seems to be doing an alphabetical sort on the numbers with the result being that Tokyo and New York City appear lower in the list even though they have higher GDPs (1900 billion and 1280.5 billion respectively). So that would make the Chicago sixth richest city in the world by official GDP estimates for the cities for which this number is available.

  • IMO, two reasons to stay with buckets:

    * We won't be following New York. Why reinforce the "2nd City" idea? :) I'm 7% serious about this.
    * When in New York, I've observed that, in the absence of well-defined seat boundaries, people tend to take more liberties with their arms, legs, bags, etc. to increase their personal space on benches. Negotiation (death rays, elbows, words) becomes more annoying. With the buckets, quite often the dip$hits will be constrained by poles. Makes life easier!

  • A totally phony survey as it didn't include keeping the current seating setup, no matter what Gump says about underfloor beams not being there.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Not true. It was taken on the Internet, not the phone. ;-)

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I have to side with Scooter on this one.

    I think all sideways-facing seats are bad. Why should I be interested in characterizing one kind of them as preferable to the other? There are so many aspects to the badness of sideways seating besides whether they are bucket or bench. If there had been a choice before the configuration was supposedly baked in, it should not have been limited to "which kind."

    The real issue is that the CTA ought to give a rip about passenger ergonomics and make their decisions accordingly, and that train cannot be said to have left the station.

  • Internet surveys are as meaningless as landline surveys. Besides, Claypool isn't budging about the seats.

  • I rode a 5000 series for the first time last week and it was the worst ride I have ever had. I am 6'2" and trim, but my shoulders are wider than 17 inches. I was sandwiched between 2 other average-sized men so my shoulders were scrunched the whole ride. Also, the ride isn't as smooth as I had hoped, so there is still a lurching front and back as the train accels and decels several times between stations, which hurts my back. My legs also extend well beyond the yellow line. I miss the relative private space that the forward-facing seating provided. This is going to be a disaster once these cars get on the Red Line.

  • I am not a particular fan of the sideways seating, and I think given a choice most people prefer the front and rear facing seats.

    While riding the pink line today I watched as the train made its stops where as soon as the front facing seats were vacated they were immediately occupied by people moving from the middle facing seats. Over and over again.

    Thanks again CTA for totally disregarding the needs and desires of your customers!

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