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'Cattle-car' subway, metal seats get the bum's rush from TTC

Go back to the drawing board, commissioners tell the designers


After months of anticipation, Toronto transit commissioners finally got their first look yesterday at the interior design plans for their new subway cars.

They told the designers to try again.

“It looks more like a cattle car to me,” TTC chairman Howard Moscoe bellowed during a discussion of the design presented by Chris Heald, manager for the $750-million subway car project to replace the 30-year-old H-4 and H-5 cars being used now.

Mr. Heald showed the subway car designs of 11 other large urban centres around the world — including New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong — which use the perimeter seating design, as a comparison for what the new Toronto subway cars could look like.

Multiple seats would be grouped together along the walls with support beams running down the centre aisle and handles dangling from the ceiling.

Passengers would also be able to walk between cars while the train is in motion.

Mr. Heald listed the advantages, derived from an internal survey: passenger comfort and flow, reduced stop times in stations, lower costs associated with cleaning, reduction of the potential for vandalism, elimination of dead space, safety and security.

He emphasized the latter two and, citing the Madrid bombings of 2004, noted that metal seats with no space beneath them are better suited for a post-9/11 world.

But the plan landed with a thud.

Commissioners did not conceal their disappointment; they shook their heads and sighed often and audibly through the presentation.

While scoffing at the value of the internal survey, Mr. Moscoe roared to Mr. Heald: “Why didn’t you ask any paying customers?”

Commissioners told the designer to conduct a new survey.

The commissioners also objected to doing away with the T1 model subway cars with padded forward-facing dual seats.

“I mean really, how do you expect people to get comfortable on a metal seat?” Mr. Moscoe asked.

Mr. Heald responded that he personally would not prefer to use metal seats, but suggested them “as a last resort with … only safety in mind.”

“The ‘cattle car’ might be safer but our cars are safe right now, why change a good thing?” Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker asked.

David Fisher, a member of the Rocket Riders group, told the meeting he liked the perimeter seating design but was appalled by the metal seats.

For riders interviewed after the meeting at three downtown subway stations, comfort seemed to top their list of priorities in a redesigned subway car.

“I definitely don’t like the metal seats. What’s wrong with the ones we have now?” rider Sanni Yu asked.

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