The first seats were too old and the second had puny cupholders. But Metra directors hope its newest train seats will be just right, especially for riders who don't flip out.
Board directors Wednesday approved a contract of up to $16.9 million with Kustom Seating Unlimited of Bellwood to replace the railroad's outdated seats as railcars are rehabilitated.
The modern seats will be separate and more comfortable with armrests on both sides of a chair and will feature cupholders, officials said. But they acknowledged some riders will miss the originals that could be flipped forward or backward.
"This was not an easy choice to make because we know that many of our customers like the older, bench-style seats," Executive Director Don Orseno stated.
But Metra has listened to comments passengers made on a survey of the trial seats and will incorporate their suggestions into the final version, he noted.
Some commuters complained they couldn't squeeze drinks into cupholders and called the aisles too narrow. As a result, Metra will order large cupholders and modify the seats so aisle widths stay status quo.
A majority of people said the test seats were sized right, "easy to get in and out of and that they were attractive," officials said. However, most respondents balked at the idea of fixed seats, as half will face backward when trains reverse direction.
There are fewer manufacturers making the older seats and replacement parts are easier and less expensive to find with a modern style, Orseno said.
But don't expect an instant makeover. The changes will be gradual as Metra rehabilitates its fleet of railcars.