Riders react to side-facing seats on future subway vehicles

Interior mock-up of HR4000.

We recently shared photos and renderings — see above — of the HR4000 heavy rail cars that will be arriving next year and one of the top questions, as expected, was in regards to seating. The new rail cars have more bench seats, or side-facing seats, which many of you on social had opinions about. 🙂


First, the actual numbers. Our current A650 subway rail cars have 50 seats per subway car and 100 seats per “married pair,” allowing for a total passenger capacity of 232. The new HR4000 rail cars will have 47 seats per car and 94 seats per “married pair,” allowing for a total passenger capacity of 251. So just by removing three seats in each subway car, we’re able to increase total passenger capacity by 19. Please keep in mind you’re seeing just a portion of each car in the renderings above.

There’s another important distinction. The new HR4000 cars will have an open gangway so you can walk from one end of the car to the other. You cannot do that on our current subway vehicles. This means that you’ll have access to more potential seating after boarding.

The open gangway that will allow riders access to the full length of each “married pair” rail car.

Though more people will be able to stand, the side-facing seat configuration allows the aisle in the middle of the rail car to be wider, so standing and moving around will be more comfortable and more convenient. Those with strollers, bikes or luggage and wheelchair users will also find it easier to navigate on board.

For those concerned about handholds, the new rail cars will have hanging straps as well as stanchions with split handles, as can be seen in the photo of the mock-up. We are also not reducing the number of priority blue seats and we’ll continue to rely on fellow riders offering those seats to those who most need them (and in my experience, that happens most of the time).

Will this new seating configuration actually result in less chance of you sitting down? The short answer is: not really! As stated above, there are only three less seats. If standing is made more convenient, chances are some people who previously sat may opt to stand instead (especially because too much sitting isn’t great for your health), which opens up seating for those who want it.

And a reminder: this sort of seating configuration isn’t unique and, in fact, is the norm in many large metro areas around the world. See the examples below. Interestingly, SF Muni’s new light rail cars now use bench seating as well.

A few other fun facts about the new seats:

Personally, I like this new seating configuration — and I too would like to see it eventually on our light rail cars. However, there is a cost associated with reconfiguring existing rail cars, so it’s not something that can be done at the drop of a hat.


Some other rider reaction to our earlier post:




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26 replies

  1. Probably the best advantage of side facing seats is that one person won’t be able to take up two seats just by taking the aisle seat. And I love how wide the aisle is, that should help with the rush hour crowds where everyone just stands by the door and refuses to move to the center of the car. A design like this allows for so much more movement, especially with the open gangway.

  2. I am 5′ 3″ and I can barely reach the straps. Please remember that many users of the trains are shorter than the average American male. Please make the straps usable by people who are 5’0″ and taller. Otherwise these people (including me) will constantly have the unpleasant choice on busy trains of hoping a pole is available, or have no support at all while others around us are holding on to poles and straps.

  3. Many comments have been recorded re: the new interior concept for Metro’s subway cars. There are pro’s and con’s to the bench seating and other concerns we all have about prospective changes. I have a suggestion for Metro, and that is, to take two of the best operating “married” cars (where two “B”” ends – are coupled together) and in-house remodel those cars with the proposed seating arrangements, and create a doorless passageway between the two cars (install diaphragms for the connection for safety) and put these into service. Then, have either Metro “ambassadors” or volunteers available at Union Station, North Hollywood Station, and perhaps some others on the Red Line, handing out surveys to passengers and let’s just ask the riders how they feel about the proposed design. There may be some ideas that will surface from the actual riders that Metro isn’t aware of. The cost of the in-house “sample cars” would be much more cost efficient than spending millions of $$ on an order that might not fulfill all necessary requirements of both Metro and the public.
    Morley Helfand (Metro Art Docent)

  4. This is the seating arrangement LACMTA should adopt for heavy rail subway:

    As far as proposed design for new Red and Purple line cars: the gangway allowing movement between the 2 permanently married cars is a great improvement.

    As far as these so-called other world-class transit systems are concerned, let’s remember that they have voluminous consistent than even visual field complaints from its regular riders. In fact, those so-called world class systems have significant shortfalls and problems themselves, which any regular writer of those will tell you. It seems the closest to Ideal it would be Japan’s example, but it too does suffer from some complaints, but in my personal experience fewer complaints compared to European systems. And as far as comparing anything to NYC Transit: please NYC is an example for no one to follow, and has the most negative remarks and complainers with a host of problem after problem after design for laughter design flaw many if not most of the regular Riders will tell you about in my personal experience.

    • “It seems the closest to Ideal it would be Japan’s example, but it too does suffer from some complaints”

      What complaints have you heard about Japan? IMO, Asian mass transit systems are far superior to any system in North America or Europe with the most stable and fair fare systems with hardly any fare hikes for decades, with the cleanest mass transit stations, wide variety of amenities and shops, and yes, even fare profitability. OTOH, it’s also worthy to note that they’re also not public transit systems, they are privatized for-profit mass transit corporations, so that tells you a lot that government ran transit as it is the case in North America and Europe are far worse compared to profit driven privatized mass transit in Asia.

  5. In my experience, riders are not offering priority blue seats to seniors. Selfish people take them and immediately stare at their phones.

  6. How bout just give us the facts & less of your personal opinion on butt dents & whats good or not good for our health.

  7. A feature I want to see in metro trains is light up dots along the maps above the seats showing which stop you’re currently at! The notice boards in the front and back of cars like on some expo or gold line trains are fine, but not visible when the car is packed. Paris has the standard line maps on the wall above the seats, and has dots underneath that light up when you’ve reached that stop. LA should do that.

  8. Personally, I feel that new light rail trains that will serve LAX need overhead racks for people to store luggage. You want people to take the train to the airport; but presently it is difficult on both buses and trains when people have no where to store their luggage. Some thing for Metro to consider for the future.

  9. Open gang way is a great design feature and should finally and long last be adopted here in LA.

    The bench sitting could be ok on the red/blue/A line BUT is desperately needed on the Expo Line. These trains can be packed like sardines on their LONG and SLOW ride between Union Station and Santa Monica.

    Bring back the the butt dents………..please!

    Steve, regarding those horrible stories that women have shared, Metro should be able to kick these people off the buses and trains, perhaps even for a period of time; the police should be able to note who these people are. Perhaps some laws need to change, but they should not be able to harass anyone and be shielded from any repercussions because of the lack thereof. If there aren’t any consequences to their actions, they will continue it.

    • Hi Vic,

      Metro seats have never had butt dents to begin with. So we’ll be able to avoid that controversy, at least, unlike SF Muni 🙂

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  10. Once again, Metro has decided to “spring” a MAJOR CHANGE TO ITS LONG EXISTING PRACTICE on its long-suffering passengers, without giving us regular Metro passengers any reasonable warning or effective advance notice of the change so that we can express out opinions.

    In case Metro Management and Board members have forgotten, according to the Wall Street Journal (August 2019), MetroRail ridership has fallen 5% since 2013–despite the recent substantial extension of BOTH EXPO AND GOLD LINES! [Also, Metro bus ridership has fallen by 24% in the same period!!!]

    When are Metro;s bureaucrats and/or its uncaring or indolent Board Members going to get a clue about the need to treat like real “STAKEHOLDERS” those of us who actually ride Metro (ESPECIALLY the 7% that Metro’s own research shows utilize the largest portion of trips on Metro)?

    Anna Chen, of course, persists in fulfilling her historic “Panglossian” role [see Voltaire’s “Candide”] as a paid shill for whatever arbitrary decision Metro chooses to inflict on its passengers: One can almost hear her say, “Truly, this is the best of all possible worlds!”

    Ms. Chen actually has the unmitigated gall (A.K.A. “chutzpah”) to tell us that “in HER experience” . . . “fellow riders” offer the “priority blue seats” [i.e., seats intended for senior and/or physically challenged passengers] “to those who most need them . . . MOST of the time . . . ” [emphasis supplied].

    One can only conclude from this remark about HER experience that Ms. Chen must be riding Red/Purple heavy rail cars (not to mention light-rail lines and Metro buses) in some alternate dimension. In MY experience, I cannot count the number of times that I have seen relatively younger persons with no evident physical handicap who persist in occupying these “blue seats” like squatters (often spreading out to adjoining seats with backpacks or other baggage) while other Metro passengers who clearly appear to be well above normal retirement age and/or to have obvious physical challenges have to stand nearby and desperately try to brace their bodies against the swaying and jerking movements produced by careless Metro train/bus operators.

    To further insult those passengers who truly need (and deserve) the “blue seats,” Ms. Chen goes on to express her hope–whether personal or in her capacity as paid cheerleader for Metro Management is not clear–that Metro similarly will reduce available seating on its light-rail lines as well!

    Let me point out (what should be obvious) that the present two-seat pairing of Red/Purple Line cars makes it quite difficult for such a single boorish passenger to occupy more than two seats. By contrast, the mostly single-row “in-line” seating along the exterior walls that Ms. Chen loves so much will allow such anti-social riders to stretch out to occupy three or more seats.

    Has anyone ever seen the scarce law enforcement personnel or Metro’s fare enforcers who occasionally board trains try to suggest to boorish riders that they occupy only one seat per passenger–instead of chatting with colleagues or consulting their personal smart phones?

    I have not . . . but then again, maybe I’m living in a different world from Ms. Chen.

    • “regular Metro passengers any reasonable warning or effective advance notice of the change so that we can express out opinions.”

      You’re being given an 18 month heads up, and here you are currently expressing your opinion as well. Anything missing? Also, so what if people conformed to one thing for a long time. That’s suddenly an excuse to not make any changes to the system for better improvement??

    • I think the whole point of this post is to serve as effective advance notice. Plus as a rapid transit service, I think the goal should be to rapidly transport as much people regardless if they are standing. The global consensus is that this seating mode is most efficient, so why would they keep repeating a method that about half of the comments keep saying isn’t working? If you’re asking metro to take our opinions into account, then sorry but I agree with them on this change.

      From my experience on the A/Blue line, even though I tend to stand when i find a seat i rarely feel the need to give it up for a passenger in need due to the excessive amount of seats throughout the train. I might be reading the situation wrong but maybe having less seats can help increase the value of the seats so that people begin to feel inclined to let those in need use them (only 3 less seats though so not really that big of a deal).

      Also, please relax on insulting anna or anyone else. She didn’t choose any of this she’s just reporting what’s going on. I think we’d be worse off without her and at least she did report on both sides. What other cities do you see reporting so transparently about their transit system?

  11. Love the new configuration! Will definitely be more comfortable than the narrow aisles when standing!

  12. If there’s more seating on these new subway cars then maybe metro should reconsider the Santa Ana branch as a heavy rail option. Same applies to the Sepulveda Pass as well as Van Nuys. Reduced travel times and a one way seat between the westside and santa ana doesn’t sound so bad considering that there are tracks already available for right of way use.

    • Hi Harlan;

      West Santa Ana is being planned as a light rail line — we feel that’s the best mode for this project, which will include many segments at street level. Sepulveda is being planned as heavy rail or monorail.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  13. I really hope Metro would reconfigure the same seating pattern on the existing light rail cars. At least configure some cars as a pilot program to evaluate if that works on the light rail lines.

  14. lets stop trying to be like every other transit system and keep some of our own identity.
    I know this is needed though as the system grows 🙁

    • But how has that worked out for us? The fact that every other city that actually a respectable transit system that people take pride in riding their system say a lot about how “keeping an identity” wont work here as well. Not to mention PE and LARY also had bench style seating.

  15. one thing I really like about the Breda cars is that they don’t *feel* old. They seem to have aged remarkably well.