As an integral part of the transit experience, it’s important to invest in quality passenger seating to ensure comfort and safety for both those operating vehicles as well as those riding them. A major shift in the passenger seating industry has been the newly enacted regulation that requires three-point seat belts in certain vehicle classifications, which was implemented last November. Other changes include the increased prevalence of onboard charging capabilities for mobile devices and layouts that more easily accommodate persons with disabilities.
In terms of safety, a ruling by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was officially implemented in November 2016. While it was voted on and confirmed three years ago, agencies were given time to comply. The ruling requires an integrated three-point seatbelt for adults and companions in most motorcoaches, also known as over-the- road vehicles. Buses that need to comply with this regulation have a GVWR greater than 26,000 pounds and an elevated passenger deck located above a baggage compartment. Some exceptions include school buses and prison buses.
Additionally, many seat manufacturers are now offering optional integrated child seats (ICS) and child restraint systems (CRS) on all over-the-road buses, according to Freedman Seating’s President Dan Cohen.
“As time passes in the industry, the people who buy and operate buses, as well as the passengers who ride in buses, are starting to want seatbelts more and more,” Cohen says. “There’s no denying that a person belted into a three-point seat is the safest of all passengers. It’s not to say other passengers aren’t safe, but there are ranges, and people tend to want the safest option possible.”
On the transit side, there are also less traditional seating layouts that more easily accommodate baby carriages, shopping carts, and mobility devices, according to USSC Group’s Managing Director Ray Melleady. He says that today, transit managers are challenged with the need to provide improved accommodations for mobility devices at a minimized time cost.
“There is a lot more emphasis on balancing seating capacity and comfort with device management (securement, maneuverability, etc.) on the lower deck of the vehicle. A well-designed layout will improve traffic flow but minimize the impact to seating capacity,” Melleady says. “That’s important because understanding the appropriate seat layout, seat type, and securement options for the Americans with Disabilities Act can improve the driver and passenger experience and reduce dwell time.”
Specialized layouts include split flip seats, which permit the seat to lift independently and offer the passenger flexibility with their shopping cart or baby carriage. The front curb-level portion of the bus will also often have back-to-back zones to accommodate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which facilitate foot traffic and mobility device securement, Melleady says.
On the technology front, passengers are growing more accustomed to what may have previously been considered luxurious; the rising prevalence of in-transit power outlets allow passengers to charge their devices while en-route, a solution to the drained batteries of smart phones and tablets.
“If you’re spending time on a transit bus, a shuttle bus, or an over-the-road bus, it’s nice to be able to spend that 10 minutes or two hours not draining your battery, or even charging it,” Cohen says. “Everybody is always in search of a place to charge their device, and this can even give people a reason to ride the bus.”
USB applications are also offered in lieu of wall outlets, a feature which is also offered by American Seating Company on their Metropolitan seat and barrier products.
“I believe more USB applications on other products are forthcoming, as they’ve been well received and we continue to produce seat sets for those same customers who have ordered these USB outlets,” American Seating’s Director of Marketing Doug G. Oswald says.
Public transit systems are becoming more safe, convenient, and comfortable, making the entire experience more appealing to passengers.
And as a way to improve the experience of those who maintenance these vehicles, Amaya-Astron, Freedman Seating, and 4ONE released an Auto Return Recliner Mechanism, which automatically returns seat backs to their upright positions when no one in seated.
“It takes time to walk through and move those recliner levers and reach across the seats to do the ones against the window,” Cohen says. “If you have 20 buses, it adds up to a nice time savings on a daily basis.”