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Aisle-facing seat: More room means more scrunched?

Aisle-facing seats on trains are now a $577-million fait accompli for 2009.

The CTA says after the purchase of 406 new rail cars, riders will get at least 6 more inches of aisle space to allow "more room for customers carrying backpacks, packages, luggage, strollers and bikes. In addition, it allows more space for standing customers with more support poles and straps in the center of the car and accommodates 40 seats so no seats are lost as a result of the new reconfiguration. Aisle-facing seating also provides space for an additional wheelchair position, increasing the total to two per car."

Two years ago I rode one of these cars during a CTA test run. The one thing I didn't like about it was the prospect of being squeezed in and scrunched on two sides. I think the CTA should consider some sort of divider between seats or an elbow rest to protect personal space.

What do you think? of the aisle-facings train cars. Take my click poll below. And here's a Tribune graphic showing the new configuration:



Did you catch Conan O'Brien last night on this? To the effect that: "The Transit Authority is ordering new quiet L cars. That means that the only place in the city where you won't hear the L train is in it." The small talk between Conan and Max about the Pink Line and how Max won't take the 21 Bus to from UIC to Lou Malnati's at Ogden and Pulaski was also great. I think Conan mispronounced "Krueseye," however.

This is a long overdue change for the better. It will help eliminate the worst flaw of the current train cars--the pole-gripping logjam that occurs on crowded trains as people don't want to give up their death grips on the vertical poles. Since the poles are near the doors, this guarantees a crowd where you least want one. Terrible design, just terrible.

The aisle-facing benches should not have armrests, though. They should be all one long bench, with no individualized seating. That way, people can slide over easily. The problem will come with hobos lying down lengthwise. Will the CTA enforce rules against stretching out for a nap?

From the diagram above it looks like maybe there will be dividers between each set (2) of seats, which might be the best solution as it gives you the same amount of "personal space" you have currently, without creating an invitation for certain people to make themselves overly comfortable. And on that note, nice to see that Hobo Corner has not made it into the redesign.

This is similar to how the subway cars in NYC are laid out. On a recent trip there I found those to be much roomier than our current El cars - even when crowded. It was nice to stand and be able to hold a pole instead of the back of someones seat.

This makes me sad. One of the favorite things about taking the El for me is getting a window seat and watching Chicago roll by.

Personally, I think they should keep front and rear facing seats on the ends of the cars and incorporate longitudinal seating between the doors.

Just for the heck of it, I created my own diagram of what I'm talking about.

It offers 42 seats, but still greatly increases the amount of standing room in the middle of each car. All of the seats would be undivided in order to accomodate all different sizes of people. It would also include floor to ceiling poles in addition to horizontal overhead poles with straps.

Any ideas? I can always modify my design to match the consensus.

link to layout

The CTA isn't likely to use custom seating for the trains, as they love to use the uncomfortably cheap variety on all of its stock.

So expect the seats to have the same, small-bootied divisions which are all wrong for big bear-butted Chicagoans.

But you're right, they should at least have flip up seats where the wheelchairs will stand. However people can stand in that space too.

After riding a northbound 147 express yesterday and being thrown out of the seat as if I was riding a bucking bronco, I am strongly considering taking my own seatpad with me.

This could be a new source of revenue for you creative types. Some sort of styling bookbag/carrybag that has an inflatable or some other kinda seatpad for the owner.

But then again, how do you design that well enough to accomodate the bear butts of the city?

I am really looking forward to this.

It's a way better set-up. As others have noted, the way the space is used in this set-up makes it much less congested. Think NYC.

There's no mention of the width of the new seats, so any expectation that they'll be wider, although that may turn out to be true, are not really justified.

Somebody mentioned bench-style seats with no individual seats to accommodate different-sized people. That might work out.

I'm a larger person, and I like to sit in an aisle seat so I can hang out in the aisle partially and not crowd the window person. Impossible with the new seats.

I always take a seat that already has someone at the window, so no one has to crawl over me. Plus I ALWAYS stand up to let the window person out.

Nice drawing, karczek.

The reason New York City subway cars feel more spacious probably is that they are. The width of Chicago rail cars must have been determined decades ago when many traveled as street car trolleys; the New York lines have (I think) always had their own rights of way and so could run cars closer to heavy rail dimensions. No creative rearranging of seats on the L seems likely to compensate for this.

Growing up in New York, there was a "Straphangers' Campaign" of subway and bus riders that advocated for better service. When I moved to Chicago fifteen year's ago, I immediately knew things were bad when there were not even straps to hang onto. But hurray! the Thursday Tribune photo showed straps – I think suspended from the ceiling. This could be a big improvement for aisle standers. Except that the straps appeared to be (difficult to tell from the photo) flexible –- letting a hanger-on swing all over the place –- side to side with bumps on the rails and front to back during acceleration and braking.

I hate to start griping about this. Especially since its a its-better-in-New-York gripe. And if I were a CTA planner reading a complaint about something that doesn't even exist yet, I would just start cursing the blogosphere. But here it is anyway:

How come we can't get those nice rigid "straps" like they have had in New York for fifty years? They are really more like hinged arms. A spring keeps the arm/strap above head-banging height until a rider pulls it down; the rigid mounting let's the rider brace against sudden speed changes.

The CTA is just thinking ahead. They know that it has to get 10, 15, maybe even 20 years service out of this new car. Why not take a design that enables them to pack more people on each car?

With respect to the NYC subway, only the lettered lines (Division B) have wide cars; cars on the numbered lines (Division A) are close in width to the cars on the El. Both run on standard gauge (4 ft., 8.5 in) track. I'm pretty sure the El tracks are standard gauge as well. The cars are also longer, and each run has more (almost always ten cars on the numbered lines, eight on the lettered lines).

So yeah, for the most part, the subway trains are more spacious, but even the numbered lines, with the narrow cars, never had forward/rear facing seats as far as I know.

Yeargh. If this means there are going to be fewer vertical rails, then I have a problem. I'm short, so having the handles on the backs of the seats to hold onto was a huge help. When I was in London, where the trains have aisle-facing seats, I'd often be left with nothing to grab ahold of during rush hour trains so I had to keep a death grip on my friend to keep from falling on other passengers.

Oh, yeah, and the ceiling straps were too high to get ahold of as well, so I'm not too excited about that development either.

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