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.
In BART's report on the tests, 75.6 percent said a narrower, 20-inch-wide seat would be "acceptable," though even more (86.8 percent) said the current 22-inch width is acceptable. A large majority (77.1 percent) said 18 inches is unacceptable.
The questionnaire told respondents that wider seats meant narrower aisles, but the 22-inch seat also was the top choice in a closely related question asking rider preference, garnering 39.4 percent over 37.2 percent for 20 inches.
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, luggage 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.