From my principles of transit usability
"The people should not be stressed or uncomfortable" is the
subject of this
test of the usability of the transportation network of the Minneapolis -
St. Paul Metro Transit. My experience is that no one can accuse the
Metro Transit of being too comfortable. Although the newest conveyance,
the LRT, is clean, serviceable and gives a smooth ride, "comfort" is not
a word that leaps to mind.
The typical 40 passenger mass transit bus is just not built for comfort or speed and the newer articulated double long low entry buses really rattle and bang, a spine jolting experience. I have seen a few smoother ride buses usually used for express routes, nice cushy seats and a better suspension system. Unfortunately, the number of times I have ridden them I can count on one hand.
As far as the comfort of most transit buses are concerned I have had smoother rides hopping freight cars in the rail yard down by the hobo jungle. When the seats do have some cushion in them the spine crunching is less, but many of the "newer" buses and the LRT have the "minimal cushion" stainless steel seat, a little fabric welded to the steel. These seats are bolted to the frame of the buses and each bang and crash transmits up the spine and out of the top of your head. Windows shake, the bus frame booms like a drum and work is impossible to do. Forget writing by hand or on the computer when your teeth rattle around in your head. It is a relief to come to a lurching stop but the rattling and banging starts in earnest at about 15 mph and at 30 mph it is full cacophony as you shake rattle and roll down the street. It is no wonder people prefer trains to bus service.
So where is the shock absorber on these transit conveyances? Well, take a look at the driver seat and you see a real attempt at not hurting the worker. Do I begrudge the driver comfort so they can do the important job of negotiating traffic? No, I want the driver uninjured and comfortable! But it does illustrate the lack of comfort and safety of the passenger, the driver has a giant shock absorber and the passenger has nothing. One thing that drives people away is the real discomfort of riding the bus, a smooth ride helps usability and is one of the real advantages of most rail transit. Nothing says we don't want you to ride transit like a lurching, banging, spine jolting bus that is really saying, "We treat you like route 16 is going to GITMO." Stress positions and the pounding taken by passengers clearly are a violation of the comfort standards I listed in my article on "Transportation Usability Testing, A New Field."
Public conveyance is not a prison, so why is the austere, ugly and uncomfortable accepted in public transit? Why do we have these clapped out buses that jar the teeth? I am driven by experience to say it is part of the social conditioning to move people to the car. If you have a choice between a car and the bus, for most people it is no contest, not only do you spend about twice as long on mass transit to commute, you are uncomfortable most of the time. It looks like choices were made in purchase and maintenance to make bus transit uncomfortable, extremely so.
Let's contrast the typical transit bus experience to a competitor, the free First Class level bus to the local casinos. "The Bus of Broken Dreams" will take luggage, has cushy seats, working air conditioning, windows that you can see out of, (not covered with advertisements,) and a real suspension system. It is part of the casino web of manipulation, hoovering up the suckers and hurtling its happy passengers to bankruptcy. Too bad the same level of social manipulation is not used by Metro Transit. Someone might actually ride it, Metro Transit, that is.
I suggest testing the following:
- refitting the minimal pad steel seats with something more comfortable.
- retrofitting better shock absorber systems in the bus suspension.
- retrofitting better shock absorbers where the seats connect to the bus. It is the solution used by the drivers.
Unfortunately, retrofitting a prison conveyance is probably an expensive
option that will not ever make a comfortable ride. What really must be
done is move usability comfort standards testing much earlier in the
process, that is where the best payoff is for comfort.
- replacement buses should be tested for passenger comfort and choices made to get a comfortable ride rather than " a prison style" ride.
- accelerate replacement of uncomfortable buses.