KCM Orion VII 7004
KCM Orion VII 7004 by punkrawker4783

Metro bus riders will be sitting on slimmer and more modern looking seats when they get on board King County Metro’s new 40-foot Orion VII Next Generation buses and 60-foot articulated New Flyer DE60LFR buses, according to photos on Flickr by punkrawker4783. The 4One Aries seats are the same type as those used on Community Transit’s local buses and in Vancouver TransLink’s buses. I don’t have any word yet on when these buses will be in service but it should be very soon.

The new seats are a radical shift for Metro, which traditionally used fully upholstered seats and over the past decade, seats with a higher back rest than typical urban buses. The slimmer profile seats create more leg room and make the bus interior feel roomier. The stainless steel construction and padded inserts should make maintenance easier. And the design of the seat along with Metro’s new grippier vinyl pads should make the seat reasonably comfortable.

The seats used on most Metro buses are too bulky. The black plastic seat backs “box” people in, look really ugly when vandalized, therefore cheapening the look. The smooth vinyl covering and angle of the seat bottom make slipping off the seat all too common, though this has been partially solved with the more recent seats. And some people may find them cramped. A lot of people are going to miss the deep soft cushions and head rests.

You can view photos of the new buses and seats on punkrawker4783’s Flickr page.

93 Replies to “Metro’s New Seats”

    1. Slimmer “seats” on Americans sounds like a good idea though. Slimmer passengers would make it easier to squeeze past people on crowded buses since Metro refuses to remove more seats to make for wider standing room areas. But in a world where politicians like Sarah Palin denounce the First Lady for trying to encourage exercise and healthier eating habits, I’m not especially optimistic…

      1. A canned announcement saying “If you are standing, please move all the way to the back so the riders in front aren’t leaning against the front windshield.” would also help.

    2. I think “slimmer” refers to the thickness of he seat construction, not the width of the seat. Though I think wider seats in a 2+1 configuration is a good idea. I wrote once before of my intercity “Lux Bus” fantasy: a coach bus with Amtrak-size seats.

    3. Agreed. Slimming the seat is not the way to go, eliminating one is. I’ve not seen these 3 seat coaches lately although I’ve been driving mostly diesels and Bredas out of Atlantic lately so they may still be around.

      The couple of trips I drove one of these I heard positive comments from folks who would rather be able to move around than have a seat.

      1. That would, of course, be the preferable improvement.

        I’ve begun standing on Metro as much as possible, after having done one load too many of unanticipated laundry (thanks to the layer of mystery grime that the old seats attract). I’d be elated if there were actual standing room in which to do my standing.

        But if other systems are any indication, these seats should collect slightly less of that grime.

      2. As one of those blubbery Americans, little makes me feel worse about myself than overcrowded buses where I get in everyone’s way. To those on the receiving end of people like me, you may think we don’t care about you at all, but some of us do.

      3. JCW: FYI, I’m referring more to the traffic pattern for standees entering and exiting the coach, not that “blubbery Americans” are the problem.

        I hate driving Bredas except for one thing: 3 doors, in areas where people understand how to use them, are a real blessing. I’ve been driving the 49 a lot lately and love throwing open those back doors and having people use them appropriately. If it were up to me, Metro would rip out a lot of seats to provide a more open floor plan and space for 3 doors on ALL 60′ coaches. Rapid Ride buses are close but I’d probably go a bit further.

      4. I plan to bring a banjo to the trolley public forum and improvise a ditty begging Metro to buy three door artics to replace the Bredas, and to use 2+1 seating on the 40′ coaches. OK, maybe not the banjo bit, but I’m going to beg anyway.

      1. I’d rather have the seating arrangement tightened up where another row of seats might fit due to these thinner seats than have extra legroom throughout the bus.

        I’d still rather have more standing room than more seats. Standing is the best leg room.

  1. As someone who rides a long route on Metro (that should be a Sound Transit route….) and likes small naps, these look absolutely terrible.

    1. Maybe they should make all the seats folding-style…like the seats for other-abled people.

      This way, during really crowded times with short routes, they could go almost all standup, and the people who really need to sit down, like moms with kids or the elderly could pull down a seat just for themselves.

      1. JB has at least the seed of a good point. Fold-up seats at the front would allow for several more passengers.

        A sitting passenger who could (and would if she/he had the choice) be standing is a waste of overhead space.

  2. Ugh, those seats made the 35 minute ride from Downtown to Magnolia (3 mi)bearable. I’ll miss my afternoon nap!

    It will surely help in the morning though when the bus is full. I guess a bus shouldn’t be a bedroom, right?

    1. I ride almost an hour each way from Brickyard to Pioneer Square. And I nap frequently. So I’ll miss it, too, maybe.

      The closest analog to these seats are Link’s and I haven’t had trouble napping in them. Actually, I like them for two things: Snug, form fitting, so I never slip off, and many of them are heated. These new seat backs appear to be higher than Link’s.

    2. What happened to those old Metro bus ads that said basically, “Ride in comfort” and would show people relaxing, napping, reading the newspaper, etc. Doesn’t look like you can do that with these new seats.

      1. I actually rode on these seats all the time on TANK in Northern Kentucky. They’re actually reasonably comfortable, not as nice as metro’s current ones, and not quite nap worthy, but they’ll do fine for most routes. Some longer routes should try to stay with the current seats. (Yes, I know that increases complexity.

    3. Maybe we should be asking why any 3-mile trip takes 35 minutes, rather then looking for the plushest seats on the Titanic?

      1. I’ve asked. It didn’t help.

        (actually, the answer is hills and traffic, which are both hard to solve. the real answer is grade-separated, but light rail won’t hit somewhere like Magnolia until… well, effectively ever. probably another great spot for a Gondola)

      2. (If people can walk to a hypothetical centrally-located gondola station, they can sure as hell walk to the 34th corridor from 7 blocks in either direction. No matter how hilly.)

      3. I will appreciate not slipping off the seat as we go down Magnolia bridge.

        The 24’s route is circuitous, though it’s not like there are a million riders over here. The weekday routes are full with commuters, but ridership is pretty low nights and weekends.

    4. I ride the bus to and from Magnolia all the time and it has never been a 35 min ride. 25 max. in traffic!

      1. The timetable for the first run at 5:11am has 34 minutes from Magnolia W & W Emerson to 2nd and Pike.
        The trip is even worse on the way home, leaves 4th and Univ at 4:20p, and arrives at W Emerson at 5:04p.

  3. On the current bus fleet … does the stop pull cord cross the middle of the windows too?

    1. On the current bus fleet I believe the cord is inline with the top of the main part of the window, below the part that swings open.

  4. in the photo above … the seats on the left … is this bus missing a row? looks like they are double spaced compared to those on the right

    1. Here is another view. It looks like those seats need a bigger seat pitch because of the door. Maybe it would make sense for them to be side facing, giving a little more standee room near the back door.

      1. Metro’s inward facing seats are terrible. They’re just a single flat surface that doesn’t keep people in their seat, compounded with the slippery cover material.

      2. Here’s what I find so eternally perplexing, Tim:

        How can treat the input of others — usually derived from first-person experience with preferable models and borne out by statistics — as “an infringement” on you, but you can’t seem to see why perpetuating your preferred model — which, as I’ve said before, speaks to your limited experience (sorry, it does) — could be an infringement on everyone else?

      3. Thanks for the attack, d.p. I was just expressing an opinion.

        But my opinion can’t be alone: I’ve noticed that when buses are running well below capacity, people tend to sit in forward-facing seats before they choose inward-facing. From there, it’s a crapshoot whether or not they “buddy up” or sit facing inward.

      4. Really not intended as an attack. I find myself truly befuddled, on a regular basis, when you treat sound policy suggestions as “infringements.”

        An open floor-plan is proven to speed up boarding/de-boarding and therefore operations. Insisting upon a “preference” for in-the-way seating infringes on everyone’s right to get there fast!

    1. Slimmer seats are no fun when the belted-in driver in his/her Recaro race-car seat takes the corners hard.

  5. I’m thrilled about the new seats! They leave more room for passengers to move about and won’t sag over time as the fully cushioned seats do. I cannot wait for the Orions to join the Metro fleet.

  6. I love the seats that Pierce Transit 800-series buses have. Nice thick pads… Too bad those buses are not used very often.

    Seats on Tri-Met are usually okay. Best seats are on the MAX.

    1. Reminds me of the old AMGenerals PT had that came from KCM (890-895), that had the typical metro seat for the time reupholstored with a burgundy cloth. They also had softer foam in them too, same went for the flyers Metro was using on the Seattle Express at the time. Now if you want some awful seats, try the ones in the 9092+ series of gilligs, especally the back bench. they should have torn out the rear benches of the orions, and put them in. even with the old cushions it would have still been an improvement.

  7. “The black plastic seat backs “box” people in, look really ugly when vandalized, therefore cheapening the look.”

    Graffiti vandals will simply adapt to the new surface. So now, instead of scratching tags onto black plastic seat backs, they will be scratching into stainless steel. And the light blue of these new seats will be a better “canvass” for their Sharpies. Better contrast = more visible tags.

    1. They already scratch the back windows and seats. Many windows in the back have plexiglass inserts to catch most of that damage. I’m not sure if something that simple could work for the seats.

      1. If Rapid Ride with occasional fare inspections can turn the old 174 into a high seniority pick route, I imagine Rapid Ride will do a lot of good even on the 358 or 7. Too bad we’re out of money and the 7 isn’t even on the Rapid Ride list.

      2. While we still have the free paper transfers (grrrr…), we can have have a primordial form of POP. Everyone on board a Metro bus should have an ORCA card, a flash pass, or a transfer paper (if the operators are trained to make sure change fumblers accept paper transfers for POP purposes). Having Metro security hit routes randomly, or emphasizing certain routes, with ORCA readers in hand, would be most welcome, except by the ne’erdowells.

        If the county council had promised more security for Metro buses during that tone-deaf attempt to raise the sales tax for criminal justice last year (a regressive tax for a regressive service — and they couldn’t figure out why it went down in flames), they might have found more support from the transit-riding electorate.

        At any rate, Metro has the tools to do POP emphasis patrols without waiting to convert routes to RapidRide.

    2. This is absolutely not going to stop scratch vandalism.

      Taggers generally use glass-cutters for scratching. They’ll leave a obvious noticeable line on stainless steel just as easily as on plastic.

  8. They look terribly uncomfortable. About as comfortable as seats on link light rail which is to say not very.

    What I notice on KC Metro buses is that the seats hold up pretty well except the front seats that fold up to accommodate wheel chairs. Those are starting to look pretty old in the tooth.

    I am not a fan of the new “improved” seats. They don’t look at all comfortable.

    1. No worse than the seats Sound Transit is buying for the new 9600s at East Base. Yuck. I ride the 550 into work most days and despise those seats – almost as much as I hate the adjustable brake and accelerator pedals. Ugh.

  9. I prefer the existing seats to the new design. Especially, the metal bar for the headrest. Besides being uncomfortable, it seems like an accident waiting to happen when someone bangs his/her head against it and suffers a serious injury.

    I’ve ridden buses with seats like these in other cities and they suck. The existing seats (especially the ones on the ST buses) make our system offer more comfortable rides than other city’s systems.

    A related point – planners typically care the most about the seat comfort for long-haul express buses and less for local buses, under the theory that passengers would be sitting in them for less time. The reality is that, unless the freeway is a parking lot, the average time one sits in a local bus is at least as long as in an express bus because they move much more slowly to compensate for going fewer miles. For example, getting from downtown to the U-district on the 71/72/73 local takes at least as long as getting from downtown to Issaquah on the 554. If we are going to replace the seats, I’d rather see ST-style seats on every bus than what’s shown in the picture.

    1. I love the ST style seats but the problem with them are they need to be regularly cleaned to prevent them from becoming gross; running them on urban routes guarantees they’ll become nasty real fast. Cleaning and maintaining these seats costs more. I’ve been on a ST 550 bus which smelled really bad.

      1. If we’re supposed to be in a budget crisis, why are we choosing now to spend money switching to new seats?

    2. The metal bar is a handhold for standee’s and the seat behind.

      These seats are headrestless.

  10. These new seats look a lot like the ones on the Reno busses. Hard metal with basically a towel-thick cushion to sit on. Not very comfortable. But, in Reno, the longest bus route is only about 15 minutes. I love sitting in the seats on Metro because they are comfortable, even on a long ride of 35-45 minutes.

    Are these busses any cheaper for Metro to buy? Or, are we getting less comfort for the same price?

  11. It’s about damn time. It seems that most every other city has seats like this, and they work fine. Cushy seats are good for commuter routes but they just waste space on city routes, not to mention I can’t help but think they slightly encourage loitering and other undesirable behavior. Make the seats less like couches, and maybe people won’t treat them like couches.

    Now if only we could get a 2+1 configuration with these new seats, then we’d be getting somewhere.

  12. Looking through all the photos of the new buses, anyone notice how grim the new interiors look? Light grays, light blues, and stainless steal. No warmth at all. Not even a hint of saturated color. They feel like the Link vehicles.

  13. So do these seats make the aisle any wider? It looks wider but that may be an optical illusion. Even a few more inches would let people get on/off faster.

    1. I think the aisles are still a standard 36″. The only space savings from these are in legroom.

  14. The new seats in CT buses are quite bad. Sometimes I’ll miss a 113 on purpose if I see it’s one of the new buses. The problem is that you feel like you’re sitting on a muffin instead of sitting IN a seat. Whenever the bus turns you start to fall over. You definitely won’t be sleeping in them. The Metro versions look slightly better because at least the seat cushion looks flat.

  15. Oh no, my worst fears have been realized…

    Since Metro doesn’t change seat designs often (there is a very significant cost involved beyond simply changing bus specs, they have to train the upholstery shop how to resurface the seating, as well as stock parts), I have to assume the change is due to inavailability of the unique style Metro had been using, based interestingly enough, on a commuter rail seat.

    Oh well, Tri-Met (screw those stupid trustifarian marketing types that came up with TriMet) has been using this style of seat for a few years now. The seats are significantly better than American’s Insight seating that Pierce and IT have become infatuated with. The padding is adequate, although I can imagine an increase of hemhorroid cases as a result, especially if the buses are placed on long routes such as the 131/132. Interesting how those are the only Metro routes I can think of that use a 40ft coach that can run more than an hour from terminal to terminal.

    There was the rumor going around that the 7000’s are going to South, but I’m gauging they’ll find their way to Central and Ryerson, with 3600’s going to North and East. Someone at Metro who reads this could give better insight.

    1. i prefer the USSC Aries over the InSight. Insights look cheap to me and are horribly uncomfortable. I have to wonder though, had agencies not gone to more expensive seating styles years ago (Metro, PT etc are all guility of this to some extent), how much would have been saved by simply using what they had (American 6468/6484, and metro’s equivilant national) instead of going with high backed seats, etc. Now i know passenger comfort is importaint, but when you consider that amount of effort that goes into cleaning and maintaing the seats, especally after someone urinates on them, deficates in them, spills only god knows what on them and whatever else they do is having all those fancy seats really worth it? If you really thing about it, You probally dont want to know what you’re sitting on the next time your on a bus. All the bio’s are cleaned up but still…

  16. Their website suggests they provide improved knee room because of the curvature and thinness of the back. I’d appreciate that if it’s true. I’m 6’5″ and other than the back row, there are exactly two forward facing seats on an artic that I can sit in properly, none on 40′ coach.

    1. Amen to that! These new seats look so much better then the current seats in terms of leg and knee room. And I bet I won’t miss the extra padding either, I find Link’s seats to be plenty comfortable.

      1. I suspect Link’s seats are more comfortable because the rails are nice and smooth. That said, thin padding can work well if implemented correctly.

  17. I’ve ridden on these seats in L.A.

    On the plus side hey do hold the urine in the seat bottom better.

  18. I wonder how handicapped accessible these chairs really are. Not wheelchairs, but rather those who have other difficulties in getting into chairs. Also, pregnant folks as well…

  19. No no no no no no no.

    Give me back my headrest. Local or express, I’m sitting on the bus for a half hour or more. I was always pleased that Metro stuck to a high-back seat all these years, so that my 45-minute lurching, bumping ride on the 48 from the CD to Green Lake had at least some semblance of comfort (provided I can get a seat between the front 2 axles). I can just put headphones on, lean back, and pretend I’m not on the 48.

    I know the current seats are bulky, they cut into leg/knee room. There’s plenty of room for improvement there. But there must be a bus seat that Metro can buy that is both high-backed and that isn’t a foot thick.

    At least these are just going on the Orion’s. They are just going on the Orion’s, right? We’re sticking with high-back seats on the artics? Please?

      1. Oh wow. Yeah those. Seems like they got it backwards… the inward facing seats are high-backed and the forward low-backed!

        I might cry. Tears are possible.

      2. Nah, the high backed ones make sense there because no one (at least in theory) is going to want to use it as a hand hold.

        It’d be nice if the seat next to the window was high backed, but given that these things come as a unit the manufacturer would have to redesign it.

      3. They are the same height, the only difference is they don’t have the handholds above them.

  20. It’s about time the seats caught up with the times. These look clean, durable and safe. I think they are also more economical that the olders seats. Good job Metro!

  21. Is not a single person concerned with safety that design these things. Any crash and your head is straight into a metal bar. Fantastic!

    1. As opposed to a crash and your head is straight into a piece of metal covered in plastic?

      These seats are already out there, and I’ve actually been in a very minor crash while sitting in one of these seats. (We were driving along at dusk, a horny deer jumped out and right into the bus. The deer spent about 15 seconds on the side of the road, then hopped up and ran off. The Bus? It was done for the night given the cracked windshield. My head? Intact from the experience.. (Physically at least.)

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  23. It is my understanding that the new buses will first be assigned to south base and its used buses will be dispersed throughout the rest of the bases. This is typically what Metro has done with new buses. I don’t think they realize, or even think that tax money paid for the buses and that everyone would like an opportunity to ride on a new bus. I know I’d love the opportunity to drive a new one myself.

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