The public posterior prefers the current width for the next generation of BART seats but favors the cleanliness of plastic over the existing comfort of cushion seats, according to results of public seat tests released by BART Wednesday.
BART is replacing its aging fleet of cars — the most expensive project in the transit system's history, not counting its original construction completed in 1972. During May and June, it held a dozen "community seat labs" where members of the public were invited to try out various seat options and answer questionnaires on their preferences.
"Some 2,200 Bay Area residents put their tushes to the test," BART said in a news release Wednesday.
Testers were asked about four different widths for the new BART seats, ranging from the current 22 inches to a narrowed 18 inches, and whether or not they thought the sizes were acceptable. In BART's report on on the tests, 75.6 percent said a narrower, 20-inch-wide seat would be "acceptable," with 18.9 percent disagreeing. The most popular choice was the current 22-inch width, with 86.8 percent voting "acceptable." A large majority (77.1 percent) said the narrowest option of 18 inches is unacceptable.
In a similar question about seat width, which reminded respondents that wider seats would mean smaller aisles, the 22-inch seat was still the top choice, garnering 39.4 percent over 37.2 percent for the 20-inch size.
Asked about armrests, 39.2 percent preferred seats without them, while 36.8 percent preferred seats with them.
When queried on the trade-off between comfort and cleanliness, or fabric-covered cushions vs. plastic, patrons said both were important but gave somewhat higher ratings to cleanliness.
On reconfiguration of the car interiors, no alternative to the current design was preferred by a majority of respondents, though nearly half (48.7 percent) said they would support removing several seats to make more room for bikes, luggagea and strollers. On the option of removing seats to make more room just for bikes, however, support dropped to 24.4 percent.
The results of the tests "generally mirror separate in-depth feedback collected earlier from a statistically selected group of BART riders," BART said.
You can find out more about the BART fleet replacement and provide feedback at www.bart.gov/cars.