In the 1944 musical film Meet Me In St. Louis, Judy Garland sung these famous words:
Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
From the moment I saw him I fell
Fell she did–into our hearts, and into the seat of a turn-of-the-century streetcar. But if you’re like me, you’re left wondering: “What if Ms. Garland, a Minnesota native, had sung the Trolley Song today?”
Why, you’d have to assume she’d still be falling into our hearts but also into the seat of a modern Metro Transit light rail vehicle, or LRV. What would that experience be like?
We have two distinct types of LRVs in the METRO system. The older cars, which run exclusively on the Blue Line, are Bombardier Flexity Swifts, which are delightfully named. The newer cars are Siemens S70s, named by the less imaginative but ever practical (there are 70 seats incl. the operators’) Germans, and they run on both the Blue and Green Lines. There are 27 Flexity Swift vehicles and 59 S70s.
Both run in two and three car configurations, and have a pleasant electric “whirr” as they zip along their routes.
But how are the seats?
Let’s review in chunks here. Originally the plan was a sort of deadpan ranking of all seats but there are just too many seats and the I couldn’t find the schematics for the Flexity Swift cars at a high enough resolution to sensibly label them all on a diagram. Here is an S70, though.
They are actually quite large! Three of those in a row can easily carry several hundred people in relative comfort, more after sporting events in less comfortable arrangements. You’ll note that one bus and one three car train both require one operator, and people are Metro Transit’s largest expense.
So, we could divide LRV seating into four categories: Primo Seats, Middlin’ Seats, Awkward Seats, and Why? Seats.
Your Primo Seats
You know them–the good ones. The best seats are:
- Face-to-back, not face-to-face
- Already down
- Not jammed up against a bulk head for some reason
So I think we all know what we’re talking about here, but if you need the image, here it is:
Of course, these seats will face the other direction exactly 50% of the time, knocking them down to Middlin’ Seats, which we will discuss below.
Middlin’ Seats are okay–they’re alright, really. Unlike most buses, train cars move in two different directions, and they don’t really have a “front.” So it makes sense to not make all the seats face one direction. Still, it reminds me of drawing the short straw on road trips as a kid and having to sit backwards in the station wagon, which definitely made sense for me to do as the brother who got motion-sickness; thanks Tom. Your Middlin’ Seats will:
- Not face forward
- May require some effort
- Barring motion-sickness issues, be equally as comfortable as Primo Seats
Here are some Middlin’ Seats:
This technically makes some sense! Having the middle area open in the LRV is probably good when it is very full. But the extra effort associated with folding them down, as well as the sideways orientation, makes them not Primo Seats. Shout out, though, to the love seat in the Flexity Swift accordion:
Even more so than the accordion love seats, the ones that face each other are just awkward and not great. As mentioned above, there is maybe a benefit in having half the seats face one direction and half face another, seeing as the train can go both directions. But staring at someone and bumping knees with them is the worst. As if we needed another reason to bury our terrible heads in our terrible phones.
I remember when the University of Minnesota switched out all the Campus Connector buses to face-to-face seats. Why even have Welcome Week if you just have to stare at random people all day? It’s redundant. Also, everyone puts their feet on the seat and that’s kind of gross, especially in winter. Here is someone doing it last night!
These are bad! A special guest appearance by the author’s regular-sized legs confirm that this is a bad situation. The scrunching is to simulate an adjacent passenger; my right thigh is approximately along the middle of the seat.
It should also go without saying that wrapped advertising over windows is terrible–even a primo seat on any LRV (or bus) is automatically really bad. We have to pay the bills, of course, but it’s just the worst when the windows are covered. An awkward face-to-face seat on a crowded train with a wrapped window? Not great. Where do you look!
I am not a fan of bus wraps. This is what I see from my seat. pic.twitter.com/vEmaaKr5U2
— Paul Mogush (@paulmogush) July 14, 2015
You are now familiar with the relative quality of different LRV seats! Choose your seats wisely, as Ms. Garland would.