4186 Front view of seats by The Lebers
4186 Front view of seats by VeloBusDriver

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.

55 Replies to “2+1 > 2+2”

  1. Vancouver uses 1+2 seating on their new trolley buses and I think it works pretty good. People want to have two seats to spread out their bags, etc. and only as a last resort will they give up their space. So you might as well go ahead and pull seats out if it increases operating efficiencies.

  2. This is great, but I would also like to see some experimentation with seating improvements in the sideways facing seats immediately behind the driver.

    In the PM peak, when riders are surging forward to pay their fares and exit, the area is totally jammed. One rider waiting for the stop after the current one requires exiting riders to turn sideways and squeeze by, or stops the flow entirely. By my experience THAT’s where more floor space is desperately needed. Maybe take out the whole sideways facing seats on one side or the other (but not the wheelchair station, of course)

    1. I’d like to see the ride free area elimiated for this very reason. Exiting in the front of the bus is sacrilegious in most cities. I feel so weird doing it that I almost refuse to.

      Every other city I’ve ever lived in required you to get off in the back. Even if you’re in the seat right behind the driver, you get off in the back. If not, the driver will yell at you and boarding passengers will give you dirty looks.

      This ‘pay on exit’ system has even spread to most routes that don’t even go through the RFA. The 44 for example, I showed my pass upon boarding in the U-Dist and the driver said to show it when I get off. Sure enough, everyone was getting off in the front and flashing their transfers to the driver.

      1. “This ‘pay on exit’ system has even spread to most routes that don’t even go through the RFA. The 44 for example”

        That’s a relic of when the 44 used to be part of the 43, and is rejoined to it on evenings (and Sundays?). The 44 became a separate route but kept the pay-on-exit policy. Or at least it’s always been that way whenever I’ve ridden it. I guess it’s because otherwise the payment location would change depending on whether the bus is running the joined route, which is not supposed to matter to the passenger.

        I can’t think of any other routes that do that. But most splits occur inside the ride free area so this issue never arises. The 43/44 is unusual in having one end downtown but the split elsewhere.

      2. I think the reason for the 44 being “pay as you leave” is that some trips start in the RFA as route 43.

      3. I very much agree with you barman. However, if they were to install orca readers at the back door it would eliminate this problem.

      4. It will probably increase nonpayment issues, as there will be no conventional farebox at the back door, even though folks without Orca passes will be boarding there. Also no way to effectively communicate with or monitor passengers whose passes are expired, or whose e-purse is empty – though God forbid it would ever be acknowledged that drivers are actually supposed to be monitoring the fares people pay.

      5. I agree with all those points.

        Just the existence of the driver makes people less likely to evade, even if the driver doesn’t actually do anything. Same reason there’s less violent crime when there are people around…

  3. This is fantastic news. The improved circulation will be a huge improvement on crowded buses, and the single seats are a great choice for solo riders who are scared of strangers sitting next to them.

    The change probably wouldn’t work as well for commuter-oriented highway buses, but it’d be great in the city.

  4. When I spent a month in Rome this summer I frequently took the bus system for travel within the city, and I was always amazed about how much more room the buses had for standing passengers. A sign in every bus stated that there was room for 14 people to sit, but standing room for roughly 60. Plus it was much easier to navigate through the bus!

  5. Thanks Velo. We could use more standing room on the electrics – great idea. I remember that Muni’s PCCs had single seats on one side of the aisle – good idea.

  6. Was this done at Metro South? A few weeks ago I saw a trolley at Metro South that looked like it was 4186. Although if it was just removing seats, I thought that could be done at Atlantic.

    As for the change, I hope Metro does do that with city routes, especially perhaps have some articulateds with an extra set of doors?

    1. 4186 has been outfitted like this since at least August 21 of this year.

      There already are some artics with an extra set of doors–the Bredas. They only run on trolley routes. 7, 44, and 49 just to name 3.

      1. It was early August when I saw a Gillig trolley at Metro South, but I was thinking that it could be for other reasons anyway.

      1. That’s what I expected, especially since I have also noticed 798 parked there as well. Transporting the old PCF-Brill by flatbed or tow truck should be an extra careful move, 798 is priceless.

        Another bus I have seen riding LINK past Metro South is the Rapid Ride Prototype. I wonder if that one has the seating layout of a normal 2600 or 6800, but with the third door, or does it have fewer seats?

      2. I took several interior photos of 6000 (the RapidRide prototype) during APTA. The general layout is similar to a typical 6800 series bus (the new 60-ft hybrids). The big difference is the middle door. There are 2 front-facing single seats across from the middle door instead of the double seats.

        They are in a Flickr photoset.

    1. Japan does it in some of their E231 consists (heavy rail, above ground) on the Yamanote line in Tokyo. They have extra doors, too – six per car instead of four. They have only seats that fold down, but default to being folded up, much like Link (although easier to pull down). They’re nicknamed “cattle cars”.

    2. Sure would eliminate the problem of all those pesky folks with mobility problems who can’t stand in a moving vehicle. Now if it just weren’t for that annoying Americans with Disabilities Act and the general idea that everyone deserves access to public transportation, we could move on that idea of yours.

  7. This is great, and I noticed it yesterday on the 13. It was around 4pm, and even with the reduced seats there were several seats free. I’ve had many experiences on the 13 and 2 where the bus was jam packed, and this makes stops take seemingly forever. I can’t wait to see the new seat configuration in use during rush hour.

  8. The single seats should be o the West side closet to the doors. This would allow standing room and easier exits. The single seats on the east side behind the driver still causes confusion when attempting to get off the bus,especially during rush hour

  9. Not sure why Seattle is so slow to embrace ideas that work great all over the world, but I’m glad they are starting on this one.

  10. I can add that Seoul local buses use a 2+1 or even 1+1 (forward of the rear door) forward facing arrangement with wide aisles for lots of standing room.

    Local buses in Seoul are ALL manual transmission, so standing up means getting thrown around a lot, but boarding and exiting is FAST.

    I’ve always felt that the aisles of our buses are far too narrow.

      1. Oh boy is right! There is a box for money payment next to the driver, but over 95% of passengers (based on my observation) use smart cards attached primarily to their cellphones.

        Bus far is based on distance traveled. You badge in coming in the front door and you badge out when exiting the back door. Passengers can only come in the front and out the back…

        I think the minimum bus fare was W500 (less than 50 cents) and then increases by W100 at some interval that I never did figure out…

  11. I loved the buses I rode in Germany that had standing room areas big enough to allow for carrying bikes onboard. Ahhh, to be able to load a bike downtown during peak hours…

    1. definitely.

      the city we lived in had about half as many seats as most metro buses, and crammed nearly 3x as many people.

      during rush hour, they also folded up all the benches to fit even more people (or baggage, buggies, etc)

      metro is not very efficient w/ movement of people (or travel times) and has been a big annoyance for my wife and i.

  12. During the current shakeup, 4186 was last seen on:

    Route 1: Thu 10/15 14:08:09
    Route 2: Thu 10/15 00:48:31
    Route 3: Tue 10/13 00:05:56
    Route 4: Thu 10/8 23:24:11
    Route 10: Thu 10/1 18:57:38
    Route 12: Thu 10/1 17:58:56
    Route 13: Mon 10/12 23:15:58
    Route 14: Mon 10/5 23:23:29
    Route 36: Thu 10/15 13:04:07
    Route 70: Fri 10/9 18:51:03

  13. I don’t like the new seating. Two things I like about Metro compared to Vancouver, San Francisco, and other places is having more seats, and more comfortable seats. Standing can be annoying when you’re tired, want to read, have a long way to go, or have a lot of stuff with you. Obviously there can’t be seats for everybody on crowded runs, but I’d rather have more seats than less so I have a greater chance of getting one.

    The standard Metro seats are softer and more comfortable than any transit system I’ve been on. The ones in the picture are harder, and they’re spaced further apart and higher on top, so you can’t prop a book on the seat in front of you comfortably, or lean your head against it if you’re tired or have a headache. San Francisco and Vancouver have these horrible “McDonald’s” seats, which are hard plastic except for a token pad on the bottom (if they even have the pad).

    People do leave their stuff on the second seat, but if every other seat is full you’re perfectly in your right to make them move their stuff, and they should expect this. Sometimes people leave their stuff there because they’re lazy or unsociable, but other times it’s because they’re tired (from walking), have a headache, or have extra heavy stuff, so the second seat really makes a difference to their well-being.

    1. Although having a seat is nice, I see it as more necessary for longer runs. Trolley buses don’t leave the city, and the ones I take are packed during rush hour. I’d rather stand for 20 minutes than have to wait for the next bus.

      1. I’d rather be able to sit, or wait for another bus. Why make the buses *less* comfortable than the already are?

      2. But the city buses I take are already jam packed. So it *will be* a huge difference because even more people will be standing. We don’t need more standing space on already uncomfortable, crowded buses.

      3. We’re only talking 5 seats. Taking those 5 seats out increases the standing capacity by more than 5 people.

    2. I would actually applaud less plush seats as well. My feeling is that not only are there too many seats on most Metro coaches but they are too bulky as well, increasing the claustrophobia. The worst are the two door articulated coaches which seem ridiculously inefficient for in-city use. I’ve always felt that the Metro fleet seems more suited to freeway commuting than city routes with frequent stops. Glad there seems to be some rethinking on the way!

      1. Everytime I ride another agency’s bus, like those for CT, PT, or Translink it feels more open because of the lower back seats.

        I don’t like the big 60-foot high floor articulated coaches because of their bulkiness and jerkiness and I ride one nearly every morning.

  14. This new layout would be great for trips to the airport or train station when I’m carrying luggage. It’s such a huge pain to deal with luggage in the typical 2×2 configuration and this would provide some room for maneuvering my suitcase.

  15. I don’t like this style of seating. Its nice to sit down on the bus after a long day. Packed buses mean that frequency should be increased if possible, or articulated buses used. Of course, not all bus routes are equal, and I can see this style being useful for short routes with frequent stops.

    1. Increasing frequency costs money. Metro doesn’t have money right now.

      There are a limited number of articulated buses. A few points:
      – They’re used on the highest ridership routes first.
      – It costs money (and time) to drive one bus back to the base to pick up another.
      – It’s nice to have a couple of spare buses. You’ll never see all 59 Bredas on the road at the same time.
      – Articulated buses can’t make some of the turns on some of the routes.

    2. Yeah, the way I see it, this is streetcar-style seating, valuable for the kinds of trips that could be well-served by streetcar if we had the cash/public will to do it.

  16. 2+1 was used in the Muni PCC cars I rode daily in the ’60s (and even remember it). Of course a PCC car is wider than a bus but the whole front area was 2 + 1 to the back doors. The rule of get of in rear applied when the car was crowded (and some rides I took must have had 150 to 200 riders). I also rode the ETB’s in Vancouver about a month ago and found them to have a lot of capacity either in the single axle or “bendy bus” version.

    Side note — the fellow riders in Vancouver were exceedingly polite, if I was standing several offered me seats — at one point another man who also had been offered a seat time and again just said ” I sit way too much at home and need to get the blood down to my legs”. Being polite to us older types and offering seat just doesn’t happen here that often. But its ok, I prefer to stand when the bus or light rail is crowded.

  17. In Istanbul, I saw some articulated buses with all the seats removed from behind the back door (it wasn’t a low-floor) They had straps and a leaning rail.

  18. I rode this bus several weeks ago. Caught me completely off guard. Although I’ve only been on that one trip, I’m not a fan of the design.

    There is one really annoying problem for those of us who are tall enough (I’m 6’0″). The left-side overhead handrail is at head-height for anyone who is ~5’10” or taller (a fairly sizeable percentage of the population). You can’t stand in the area where the seats used to be without hitting your head. The handrail is the same height as on every other bus, but with the 2×2 seating, you never stand right under it (I’ve managed to hit it anyways, of course).

    On this particular trip, the standees were mostly men who were too tall to comfortably stand under the handrail. Most of the extra space was wasted and the bus was consequently more crowded than usual.

  19. Vancouver had the one plus two seating on the last generation of electric trolleybuses as well, so that example has been available for several decades. The concept has been discussed for many years. Seats have been very important at Metro. That may have helped lead to the Gillig trolleys being high floor instead of low floor. Maybe speed of service is gaining in importance.

  20. I think that we can get more space if we use a long bench instead of using a single seat facing to the bus driver. Besides, we can have at least 7 seats with a long bench, instead of 5 single seats.

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