NJ Transit's three-seater trains don't mesh with personal space

Published in the Asbury Park Press 11/03/03

NEWARK -- NJ Transit officials who want more commuters to be able to sit and relax on their way home are finding that middle seats aren't cutting it with most.

Pamphlets titled "Why Stand When You Can Sit" have been distributed, but some commuters say that transit officials just don't understand the dynamics of riding the rails.

"They should come and try to sit there," Piscataway commuter Carnetta Barnes said. "Those seats aren't big enough for three people."

Over the past 17 months, NJ Transit has worked to increase the railroad's rush-hour capacity, producing an extra 20,000 seats, according to the official tally.

From armrest to armrest, the cushions for the three-seaters on NJ Transit's newest trains are 53 inches wide. That's slightly more space per person than the two-seaters. But for some reason, they're not most commuters' first choice.

"It's really about personal space," said Jeffrey Hoerger, a licensed professional counselor at Rutgers University. "People like to have this bubble around them to keep the rest of the world out and then try to keep that bubble intact even in a crowd."

By 2005, NJ Transit expects to get the first order of its new bi-level rail cars, which will not come with three-seat rows. "The will have two and two seating, which is clearly what people prefer," said NJ Transit spokeswoman Lynn Bowersox.  In the meantime, many commuters expect they will have to stand.

"Some people give you a dirty look if you ask for the middle seat," said Andrew Galinsky of High Bridge.

"They close their eyes and hope you think they're sleeping and don't want to disturb them," agreed Jackie Ruegger of Long Branch.

© copyright 2003 The Associated Press

back to article page