There are many different aspects to what customers look for in transit and motorcoach seating. While characteristics like comfort and safety are apparent, other traits, such as weight savings and being environmentally friendly, are often overlooked as being important to customers.
Seating companies must take into account both the wants and needs of passengers, but also what transit manufacturers and maintenance people desire in the way of cleanliness and ease of care. Here, transit seating experts give their input on how they remain cognizant of the voices of various customers and respond to them by developing products that meet their requirements.
Different types of transit agencies are looking for different aspects in a seat. However, preventing vandalism is something that is important for most transit companies. Doug Oswald, director of marketing, transportation, American Seating, says that when it comes to heavy-duty bus seats, it’s all about making sure they remain clean and are easy to maintain. In an effort to solve these kinds of problems, American Seating has moved toward products that have high glass fiber content to discourage vandals. Stainless steel is another wise option, because graffiti can be easily buffed out. “We try to stay away from softer plastics,” Oswald says.
Keeping fasteners out of sight is another way to prevent passengers from damaging the seats.
Just as important as keeping seats clean for passengers is making sure they are comfortable. American Seating prefers to do their own design and development work instead of exclusively bringing in existing designs from overseas, and their research on pressure-mapping has helped the company optimize ergonomics, in terms of the contours, back angles and pitch of the seat. “There’s a science behind comfort,” says Oswald, who also recommends side-by-side comparisons when making purchasing decisions that can significantly impact ridership satisfaction.
Ray Melleady, managing director, North America, USSC Group Inc., believes one must take into account the different types of customers that exist.
“Our customer includes the bus manufacturer, the rider, and the transportation and maintenance departments,” he says.
The community wants a comfortable commute, ADA securement, and amenities like outlets and USB ports to charge their electronic devices. The manufacturer desires proper aisle spacing, seat width, and access for strollers and carts. Maintenance departments appreciate seats that are easy to fix if vandalized and the availability of customer support and parts.
Comfort is more than just seat cushions — it’s peace of mind in knowing that your needs will be met no matter what customer category you fall into.
Dan Cohen, who is both the executive VP for Freedman Seating Co. and FMS Seating, as well as sales manager, transit sales, Amaya-Astron, says that they are seeing an increased desire for limousine-like interiors and executive style seating in the small- to mid-sized bus market. For this reason, Freedman expanded its line of executive style products with the Eleganza Collection by FMS. Three new seats (Bellagio, Napoli and Trieste) are designed for “first-class” with a variety of patterns and options to choose from, including three-point seat belts. In addition to requesting integrated three-point seatbelts, more motorcoach manufacturers are asking for built-in power outlets. “Everybody wants connectivity,” Cohen says.
Another emerging concern is not adding weight to a vehicle. Because electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent and are often heavier, many transit operations are looking for ways to keep the vehicle as light as possible.
“Anything you do to help reduce weight helps [manufacturers] meet requirements and specifications for the vehicle,” Melleady says.
At the forefront of the electric bus trend, 4ONE introduced their ultralight Gemini transit seat in 2012, Melleady adds. A new aluminum mounting system was later introduced in 2015, reducing the seat weight by another 20%.
Oswald, on the other hand, recommends that customers request total seating weight comparisons by bus layout to understand the true savings.
Responding to the interests and needs of persons with disabilities is always uppermost in the minds of transit operations when it comes to spec’ing seating options for vehicles. To that end, American Seating provides flip-up seats and the Q’POD system, which delivers quick and effective three-point mobility aid device securement and occupant restraint with maximum user maneuverability, Cohen says. In an attempt to communicate to passengers that certain seats are reserved for “priority” riders —elderly, people who utilize mobility devices and others needing additional consideration — some seating options provide a clearly marked place to sit. Freedman Seating is developing new coverings and vinyl seating with symbols and text printed on them identifying specific seats for these priority passengers.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to get the person from point A to point B safely. If we’ve done that, we’ve done our job. Everything else is secondary to that,” says Cohen.
Care for the Environment
Seating companies are also taking initiative to become more environmentally conscious. American Seating has eliminated VOCs from metal finishing, reduced process water consumption by 80%, added a powder coat recovery system to reduce consumption by 23% and moved to 100% recyclable packaging.
4ONE has minimized their use of paper products like marketing brochures, and Freedman Seating has been working with suppliers to use environmentally-friendly foam made from vegetable oil instead of petroleum. In addition to this, they’ve altered their packaging to make use of more recycled and reused components.