After a yearlong pilot program to test a new style of seats with armrests, built-in cup holders and better head, neck and lumbar support, Metra announced plans to purchase and install the new, modern seats on an ongoing basis as it rehabilitates its fleet of railcars. The new seats will also be included in future railcar purchases and will become the standard for Metra’s fleet moving forward.
As part of the pilot program, Metra used a survey to gather input from customers about what they liked and didn’t like about the new seats and the older seats. While the new seats were not favored by everyone, Metra believes there are strong economic reasons for choosing the new style and the design will be further enhanced based on the feedback received from customers.
“This was not an easy choice to make because we know that many of our customers like the older, bench-style seats,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “But we received some great input from our customers that we will incorporate into the next design that will make the new seats even more comfortable.”
As a result of customer feedback, the new seat design will include an additional armrest, be modified slightly to widen the aisles to their original width and will feature enlarged cup holders.
Most respondents indicated they were unsatisfied with the direction the new seats face (the stationary design means that half of seats face backwards), however, the majority of customers who had an opinion about the new seats were satisfied with both their comfort and size.
In addition, Metra will continue to install USB ports and power outlets in its railcars to allow customers to charge their phones and mobile devices while onboard.
The new seats cost about the same as the older seats, but there are more manufacturers of this style in the rail industry, which is expected to keep the prices competitive and drive down future procurement costs. Further, replacing the new seats in future rehabilitations will cost about 50% less than replacing the old ones because parts can be reused.
Metra is not spending any extra money on the new seats; they are being installed in cars whose seats need replacement anyway, and rather than replace them with the older style the agency is replacing them with the new style. The agency also hopes that the new, stationary design will help prevent injuries to customers and employees who pinch their fingers and strain muscles flipping the older seats back and forth.
“The reality is that these new seats have become the standard for the vast majority of commuter railroads,” Orseno added. “We are excited to take this step forward with railcars that feature a more modern seat design.”