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In response to the agency’s issues with passengers needing a place to store such items as strollers and carts, American Seating’s flip-up seat made its debut on Calif.-based Long Beach Transit’s buses.
As transit agencies continue to explore ways to grow ridership and take more people out of their cars, one key aspect to the experience is the comfort of the vehicle and the overall ride. Seating plays a huge role in not only that comfort, but also in the flow of the vehicle and the ability for passengers to load and unload quickly.
METRO Magazine spoke to seating manufacturers to discuss what is new in the marketplace and what trends transit agencies are seeing and trying to respond to.
Development, spotting trends
Seating manufacturers say that market knowledge is a key aspect to their success, but they are always looking for feedback and suggestions from properties whose needs differ from agency to agency and change year to year.
“There is just a wide range of options available, and we are seeing more customization. Transit managers are looking to attract discretionary ridership and are designing bus interiors that provide both increased comfort and functionality,” says Ray Melleady, managing director, North America, for USSC Group Inc. “In general, customers want more product options, better hip-to-knee room, lighter weight and improved maintainability.”
When developing products or exploring trends, American Seating’s Michelle Wolf, product manager, transportation, says the company will reach out to folks at several levels to get feedback before it is refined and completed.
“When we see trends coming, we will do research and ask transit authorities and bus builders for their thoughts, and once we get a concept, we will bring it back to those same people and make sure we are heading in the right direction,” she says. “Once we get a good concept, we will bring the solution to the market.”
Wolf adds that one trend emerging over the last year or so is a call for more maintenance-free seating.
“Transit agencies want seats to be as easy to clean and maintain as possible, because their budgets are so tight. Some places can’t even pay to do more than hose down the inside of the bus,” she says. “Sometimes that might mean vinyl or completely non-upholstered, if that is an option, on that seat. Anything you can do to take the nooks and crannies out helps too.”
A recent trend in the industry has been a move to non-upholstered seating, including at Oakland, Calif.-based AC Transit, whose new buses include 4ONE’s CitiPro seating solution.
Dan Cohen, VP, sales and marketing, at Freedman Seating/4ONE, says the industry has always wanted more and more fabrics over the years, with fabrics that are antimicrobial, antibacterial and moisture repellant recently surging. However, he agrees with Wolf that the latest trend in transit seating is for products that are non-upholstered.
“Our upholstered products are great, but there seems to be this shift toward customers wanting hard plastic seats, so our CitiPro and Gemini offerings have really been gaining acceptance. Both are available with no upholstery,” he says. “Several larger transit agencies, including AC Transit, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and New York City Transit, are already moving in that direction, so customers can walk into a bus and wipe the seats down with their own wet wipe or whatever.”