Metra train cars getting new seat design

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Wednesday, Metra will debut its first car with new seats as part of a pilot program to give passengers more input on their commute.

Most of Metra's passenger cars are feeling the wear and tear of age. A select group of them are being refurbished with a new look and a most-definite new feel.

New seats are being installed on 30 Metra passenger cars, giving them something of an airline look. It's part of a pilot program to gauge rider reaction to something Metra says its passengers have asked for.

"We went out to the industry and looked at it. A lot of railroads have gone to this - migrated to this, so I can't claim we're the pioneers, but we don't want to miss the boat on it either," said Don Orseno, Metra CEO.

The new seats have a higher back and better lumbar support. They have moveable arm rests and coffee cup holders. What's not to like?

"These look executive, sophisticated," said passenger Mary Stokes.

This, however, will be the point of discussion. The old seats flip. The new seats do not. Yes, you say. It's always been that way. Seats that flip - to engage conversation, or accommodate direction of travel. The new seats are fixed. To flip is not an option.

"I like the flexibility of going backward and forward because I don't personally like to ride backwards," said passenger Nancy Coleman.

But other passengers said flipping the seats wasn't important.

"Change is a challenge, you know. What are you gonna do? Once they do it, it's done," said passenger Pete Valencia.

Actually, Metra wants to know what its riders think and will be getting reaction over the next couple months when the 30 new seat cars are phased into service on Metra's 11 lines. Anticipating the flip as an issue, each refurbished car has six spots where four seats face each other in a fixed position.

"This provides you with the four seaters - so we tried to accommodate everybody's needs into the car, and that's why I believe when people experience the ride on this car, and the comfort, they're gonna love it," Orseno said.

The love test now begins, and if it's sufficient, Metra will begin a long-haul switch to a new look and feel.

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