Several months ago, the SFMTA conducted a survey, both online and in person, to ask riders their opinions of various options for the new Siemens-built LRV cars that will replace the failing Breda fleet in the near future. While not a final say, the results, along with recommondations from SFMTA staff, make it clear what we will be getting, barring some radical shift in policy.
First off, the LRV body will liekly be the one nicknamed “Skyline.” You can see it in this link to the SFMTA blog – it’s the red one. Regardless of body type, these new cars offer significant advantages over the heavy, loud, disaster-prone Breda cars Mayor Willie Brown saddled us with in the 1990s. They have fewer parts, use less energy, have reliable doors, and are much easier to service. Since they’re being built in Sacramento, they don’t have far to go to get to work here in SF.
The more controversial decision on these new cars is the decision to use what’s called “longitudinal” seating. That’s a fancy way of saying the seats will have riders with their backs to the window, sitting facing inwards to the streetcar. If you’ve ever seen a New York City subway, that’s pretty much the same set up. The “Milan” streetcars on the F-line also have seating like this.
Not everyone surveyed was thrilled about this – interestingly enough people living further from the city center (i.e. L and N riders) as well as seniors preferred a seating setup more or less like we have now (seats facing front or back). Reasons offered for the “longitudinal” seating boiled down to a few main arguments – LRVs would weigh less, save more energy, and allow for more people to board in and out of the LRVs during busy times.
I’ve been on enough transit systems around the US and overseas, and frankly, either one is fine with me. I do find that with the current Bredas, a crowded car is hard to navigate, and it’s easy to get stuck in the middle while a pack of people in the way refuse to yield so one can leave.
If lining up the seats along the sides fixes this, fine. I would be curious to see how seniors/disable seating would be accommodated to ensure that those that need said seats can get to them easily and without a lot of hassle.
Most importantly, with modern, reliable LRVs on the street, we won’t have to listen to the infamous “Godzilla Mating Call” horns ever again.
Read the report and the survey here: SFMTA 14-1201 LRV Design Survey Results w attachments