File this under mundane, but nevertheless important. Both Martin and I have an oddly intense passion for how Metro can improve circulation on it’s buses by strategically removing seats, which is why I was floored when I saw this photo by STB Pool contributor VeloBusDriver over the weekend. Click on the photo above to see several more photos.
Everyone has had the annoying experiences of squeezing past other riders, getting hit in the head by backpacks, having butts in your face or even the occasionally funny human tetris game played at every stop. Wider aisles will alleviate these problem by giving standees more space to move.
Metro has retrofitted one of its 40-ft trolley buses with 2+1 seating, after the initial inward-facing 1+1 seating area just behind the driver. This alternative seating arrangement doubles the width of aisles, allowing riders to stand two or possibly even three wide. Additionally, forward facing seats mean that the effective width of the aisle for standees is actually wider than that of the area with 1+1 inward-facing seating, because the legs and bags of seated passengers do not protrude into the aisle. As an added bonus 5 lucky passengers get a private seat by the window. More below the jump.
This morning I spoke with Jim Jacobson, Metro’s Deputy General Manager, about this trial. He emphasized the purpose of this trial is to see how alternative seating arrangements can improve efficiency by reduce dwell times at stops. Due to significant ridership increases over the past few years overcrowding has become a large problem, and threatens to become even worse over the next few years. Seating configurations like this could help to provide more efficient service with existing service hours and buses.
He went on to say that after operating the retrofitted bus on the same runs and routes (so that passengers have had several experiences on the bus) Metro will ask for customer feedback and proceed from there. Jim pointed out that this is a balancing act between better interior circulation, rider preference to sit and safety.
Seat arrangement changes could be made on either existing or new buses (but more likely for new buses) of all types and they are also looking at increasing the number of handrails, especially in articulated sections. All these changes to the interior hardware are restricted by the location of structural members.
So while these changes are good for Metro they are also good for riders. During several packed trips to work on a 40-ft trolleys I counted a capacity of 42 seated passengers (if all seats are taken, which almost never happens especially in the back) and around 22 people standing. The modified seating configuration removes 5 seats but probably adds standing room for at least 1o (very rough guess) and makes shuffling and maneuvering inside the bus much easier. While this obviously makes passengers on packed buses more comfortable it also speeds up aligning and boarding. This time advantage is especially important for buses when they are packed, because packed buses are often late buses.
The retrofitted bus, number 4186, will be running as a 36 today leaving 3rd and Union Southbound at 4:45 and returning Northbound to 3rd and Pike at 6:15. If you go for a ride let us know what you think.