And now my opinion that the lean rests are a bad idea is also based on actual experience.

January 28, 2008, 9:38 PM

It seems that January is the month for the Red Line to get all of Metro’s test cars. You may remember that I got Alstom 6105 on the 17th. Well, this morning, I got Breda 3283, which, you may recall from an earlier Journal entry, was being used to test a new seating pattern.

Let me quickly refresh you: All of the side seats next to the center doors, as well as the two rows beyond those on both sides of the center doors, were eliminated in favor of sets of six side-facing “cloth-based” bus seats. Metro also removed eight seats from the blind end of the car and installed leaning rests for standees, ran a ceiling grab bar back into the blind end (which normally has no grab bar, making it a no-man’s land for standees), installed spring-loaded metal “straps”, removed all the windscreens except for those around the center doors, removed the railfan window seat near the cab, and added two three-handled grab bars at the cab end of the car. They also recarpeted the car in the same style used on the newer rail cars, and changed all the seat cushions to the “colonial burgundy” color. Because of that color change, doing away with all the orange that Metro loved so much during the 70s and 80s, it’s somewhat ironic that the new bus seats that were installed were what color? That’s right – orange. Then Metro also slightly refurbished Breda 3282, which is 3283’s mate, as well. All of 3282’s seat cushions were replaced with the “Potomac blue” color, and it was also recarpeted. However, 3282’s floorplan was unchanged, as it is likely a control car in Metro’s experiments. 3282 has been refurbished at least since late September, as Katie and I saw it on the Green Line at Fort Totten with the blue seats on that weekend that she was in town.

Now with the seating pattern that is presently being tested on 3283, my usual morning seat, which is two rows behind the center door, in front of the double-ended seat, was eliminated and replaced with the side-facing seats. I decided, having just ridden a bus with the same “cloth-based” seats that Metro was using here, that I would try out the leaning rests. And here I am:

Ben Schumin on Breda 3283

And my thanks go to the anonymous fellow morning commuter that agreed to take my picture with my cell phone.

And my verdict? The lean rests suck. I will admit that they were at behind-height, which was good. However, they’re angled way back, so you’re kind of forced into a feet-first, standing-reclined position. Witness:

People using the lean rests on Breda 3283

Notice the gentleman in the far left of the photo. That’s what I’m talking about. I found it less than comfortable. If Metro had placed the pads more vertically, then we might have something more workable, since then one could lean on something padded, but not have to almost lay on it.

And then here they are from within the grouping:

Breda 3283 lean rests

Four pads on each side, but from a practical standpoint, only three people can lean on them due to two pads being placed next to each other at right angles to each other. Thus Metro essentially deleted two “seats” from the blind end of the car.

Outside of the lean rests, I noticed a few other things. The three-handled pole is not a great idea, and its positioning on the test car is definitely not. Observe:

Breda 3283's three-handled pole

Seeing the pole in person, it’s still a bad idea. It’s more complicated for not enough benefits. Plenty of people can grab a single pole comfortably, and it’s not spread out enough to where more people can get around it than with a single pole. Plus its position near the door is still unfortunate, as it doesn’t encourage people to “please move to the center of the car”.

Otherwise, though, the bus seats:

Orange bus seats installed on Breda 3283

My opinion of them has not changed much. I still think that more sideways seating is a good idea, but I hate their choice of seats.

And lastly, not a soul used the metal “straps”.

So there you go. It’s a valiant effort on Metro’s part, but a lot of these things are bad ideas. The three-handled pole is more complicated than things need to be, and the lean rests are just a bad idea. Then as for the bus seats… at $4.00 a ride after Metro’s recent fare increase (grumble), I want something better than a hard bus seat for my ride into DC.

So I’ll be interested to see what Metro ultimately does with the results from this, but I think more testing is in order here.

Web site: Metro's Riders Advisory Council - considering I've been so vocal in this venue over changes and such, do you think I should try to join should they look for more people?

Song: *ding ding* Doors opening! Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car.

Quote: So that was fun this morning. I like riding the test cars, even if I do think that the ideas contained within aren't always the soundest.

Categories: WMATA