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June 14, 2011 > Early feedback favors wider aisles for Fleet of the Future

Early feedback favors wider aisles for Fleet of the Future

Submitted By BART

A majority of riders are telling BART they would give up two inches of seat width in exchange for wider aisles to make it easier for customers on crowded trains to reach the train doors to alight. Wider aisles will also make the new cars more spacious and comfortable for standing passengers during peak travel.

BART is hosting seat labs to gather public input on the project to replace its entire fleet of train cars, the oldest in the nation, with the Fleet of the Future. BART's current seats, at 22 inches, are among the widest of any transit system.

"It's totally OK to be a little closer if it means more space to accommodate people," said Carrie Harvilla, a BART rider who toured a seat lab on June 2 in Union City.

In a recent seat lab controlled for random sampling, about 90 percent of those surveyed said they found 20-inch-wide seats acceptable. Those customers prefer wider aisles over slightly narrower seats, which would still be fairly wide relative to others in the industry.

"I prefer the width of the current seats but understand there are trade-offs to be made," Christian Schultz, another visitor to the Union City seat lab, added.

A design with wider aisles could facilitate boarding and alighting from trains, with the potential to reduce standing time at stations. More space would better accommodate people with disabilities. According to Robin Guild, who toured the Union City seat lab and uses a wheelchair, wider aisles would make things easier for him.

Other Findings
Sixty-three percent of the controlled sample preferred forward-facing to side-ways seats; 97 percent found 27 inches of leg-room acceptable compared to the current 29 inches; and 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."

Completed surveys indicate 36 percent in favor of armrests and 49 percent against; given the margin of error for the sample, the respondents are split equally on this feature.

The results of the randomized sample will be tracked against results coming in from a series of public demonstrations, featuring a mini-version of the seat lab. The mini-version of the survey includes questions about seat width; armrests; accommodations for bikes, luggage ands strollers; passenger information; seat materials; and other design ideas.

Accommodating Different Needs
At Union City's seat lab, rider Michael Jordan said that accommodating people with disabilities should be a priority with access to available seating near the doors and more prominent signage that seats must be vacated for people with disabilities. He regards the current signs as too small.

"We ride BART every day, Monday through Friday," said Anna Sanchez who was thinking about parents' needs as she pushed her baby in a stroller down the seat lab aisles while her two older children, ages 10 and 8, helped complete the survey. "I wanted them to come and see this because they'll be riding BART when these new trains enter service." The seat labs are just one of the ways BART is gathering public input.

More Seat Labs Scheduled
Six seat labs for the general public have now been completed - one each in San Francisco, Pittsburg, Richmond, Union City and two in Oakland. Five more are planned by the end of June to complete the calendar - at Dublin/Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, South San Francisco and tentatively one for Antioch and another in San Francisco. See for the schedule. Surveys from the general public labs will be analyzed and added to the mix.

In addition, BART has already collected more than 1,000 public comments by email. The public seat labs already have collected approximately 1,000 surveys. Earlier versions of the seat lab sought comments from groups of riders with specific concerns, such as riders with disabilities, senior citizens and bicyclists. Another version was the controlled sample described above.

The feedback will be shared with industrial designers, who will use it produce three renderings that incorporate the most-requested features and try to balance trade-offs for the best possible interior design. Later this summer, there will be another round of public input on the three models for BART to give design guidance to the company that ultimately will build the train cars. Five builders have submitted proposals for the job.

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