Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 10, 2011

BART riders asked to try out new seats

Seat lab coming to Pleasanton on Monday

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

As BART plans to replace its aging train cars with a Fleet of the Future, it is asking riders to try out seat options and give feedback. The interactive seat lab will be at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station from 3-6:30 p.m. Monday.

So far, at seat labs held in six other locations, riders have said they would like wider aisles on the trains, even if it means giving up as much as 2 inches in seat width, said BART officials.

Wider aisles would make it easier for customers on crowded trains to get to the train doors, riders said, and would make the new cars more comfortable for those who have to stand during peak periods. Plus wider aisles would make riding BART easier for people with disabilities.

BART seats are now 22 inches wide, which is among the widest of any transit system. Smaller 20-inch seats would allow the trains to accommodate more people.

"It's totally OK to get a little bit closer if it means more space to accommodate people," said Carrie Harvilla, a BART rider who toured a seat lab recently in Union City.

In a random sampling at the seat lab, about 90% of those surveyed said they found 20-inch-wide seats acceptable.

"I prefer the width of the current seats, but I understand that there are tradeoffs to be made," Christian Schultz, at the Union City seat lab.

The sampling also found:

* 63% preferred forward-facing to sideways seats

* 97% found 27 inches of legroom acceptable (compared to 29 inches currently)

* Respondents rated cleanliness at 6.28 and comfort at 4.88 on a scale with 1 being "not at all important" and 7 being "very important"

* 49% preferred no armrests and 36% wanted armrests

The survey also includes questions about accommodations for bikes, luggage and strollers, passenger information, seat materials and design ideas.

At the Union City seat lab, rider Michael Jordan noted the importance of accommodating people with disabilities.

"There's got to be access to available seating near the doors," he said.

He also suggested more prominent signage of the notice that seats must be given up for people with disabilities. "The signs now are too small," he said.

Another five seat labs are scheduled through June. Industrial designers will use the feedback to come up with three renderings, and later this summer the public will have a chance to give input on them.

The Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station is located at 5801 Owens Drive. To receive updates on BART's Fleet of the Future, visit www.bart.gov/cars.

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