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Metra conductors Thomas Nichols, (standing) and Glenn Wagner check out the test seats in 2016. The new seats Metra is going to start installing as old seats wear out will be similar, but have bigger cupholders and armrests on the aisle; they’ll also be changed to allow wider aisles. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

New Metra seats are here to stay, not to swivel

SHARE New Metra seats are here to stay, not to swivel
SHARE New Metra seats are here to stay, not to swivel

Despite some negative customer feedback, Metra announced Wednesday that they will replace their bench-style seats with stationary ones featuring armrests, headrests, built-in cup holders and better lumbar support.

After receiving input from a customer survey on their yearlong pilot program, Metra will make several changes to the initial design, including bigger cup holders and armrests on the aisle. They’ll also be changed a little to create more space in the aisle.

But Metra will not budge on the stationary seats; instead of flippable seatbacks that allow riders to change the direction they face, the stationary seats will leave half of the riders in each car facing backward.

“This was not an easy choice to make because we know that many of our customers like the older, bench-style seats,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno in a June press release. “But we received some great input from our customers that we will incorporate into the next design that will make the new seats even more comfortable.”

After testing these airline-style seats in a limited trial, Metra will make slight modifications before installing them. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

After testing these airline-style seats in a limited trial, Metra will make slight modifications before installing them. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Metra officials tested the new configuration over the last year in a limited trial. Most survey respondents were unsatisfied with the direction the seats face, Metra says. Unlike the old, forward-facing seats that could be flipped in the opposite direction to allow passengers to see each other, the new seats remain stationary; they’ll be divided in half, each facing one end of the car.

Officials said that the new design will save money, while also saving those who “pinch their fingers and strain muscles flipping the older seats back and forth.”

Metra will replace the seats on an ongoing basis as it refurbishes older railcars and will include them in future railcar purchases. Because the new design is more common, Metra said, competitive pricing should keep the cost of replacement down.

Metra also will continue to install USB ports and power outlets.

“The reality is that these new seats have become the standard for the vast majority of commuter railroads,” Orseno said.“We are excited to take this step forward with railcars that feature a more modern seat design.”

The airline-style seats have armrests and built-in cup holders, though the ones on the new seats will be larger than that seen on this test model. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The airline-style seats have armrests and built-in cup holders, though the ones on the new seats will be larger than that seen on this test model. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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