- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Getting a seat on Metro could be tougher. The transit agency wants to find out whether trading seats for space will help people get on and off the subway more quickly.

Metro board members are considering whether to approve a pilot study for redesigning 16 cars. The proposed designs would remove between eight and 24 seats, while adding bars to aid standing passengers.

“A lot of the reaction to this is negative. It is seen as another way to stockpile passengers. It’s a way to remove comfort by removing seats,” said Jim Graham, a member of the board’s Planning Committee and a D.C. Council member.

Mr. Graham challenged whether the goal of adding space for four to 12 passengers was worth it, and also questioned whether $750,000 should be spent to study something he considers obvious.

“Let’s have the conclusion now,” Mr. Graham said. “Everyone in this room knows if we take out seats, we’ll have more room for standby.”

But Planning Committee Chairman Christopher Zimmerman said the study would be more complex.

“The value of the pilot is so people can evaluate it by actually seeing it,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “It’s not about seats, but about the differences getting on and off.”

The committee voted to approve the first phase of the pilot study. It will involve outfitting some rail cars with cameras, to look at how long it takes to load and unload passengers during Wednesday rush hours.

Metro plans to collect data over the summer and present base-line findings to Metro board members in November. Then they will consider whether to test other subway designs and fund that part of the project.

Metro Chief Executive Officer Richard A. White said looking at other ways to improve the traffic flow is critical.

“We have to do something; we can’t just sit on our hands,” Mr. White said. “Our system is stressed almost beyond our capacity.”

Metro would pay for the study with leftover money from its 2004 Capital Improvement Program budget.

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