CHICAGO — The CTA is testing out new plastic seats on buses and "L" cars that could make your ride less cushy but more hygienic.
The transit agency is using the "hard-back seats" on some buses and trains instead of the fabric-covered seats the transportation agency has used in its fleet since the 1990s, a CTA spokesman said Monday.
Since May, 50 new buses and 14 rail cars with the hard seats have been put in use under a pilot program, said Jeff Tolman, a CTA spokesman.
The pilot program is the standard way for CTA to test new technologies in its buses and cars, and the agency will wait until there is more feedback before rolling out more of the new seats, Tolman said. CTA bought 125 new buses in August of 2015, including the 50 with hard plastic seating.
The new plastic seats are more resistant to stains than the fabric-covered seats, Tolman said. They are also more germ resistant, easier to clean and are harder to tag with graffiti, he said.
"We'll continue to test them out," Tolman said. "We're seeking customer feedback, and employee feedback as well."
The 50 buses with hard seating can be found on a number of bus lines, Tolman said, whereas rail cars with the new seating can be found on the Blue and Orange lines.
Fabric-covered seats have been a fixture on CTA buses and "L" cars since the early '90s, Tolman said. The seats have gone through several iterations since then, he said.
Current fabric seats include a woven Kevlar fabric that aids comfort and has anti-slide properties, Toman said. They are also antimicrobial.
The seats have been derided by some riders as unclean and too absorbent of fluids. At least one Red Line car had to be removed from operation after potential bed bugs were found on a seat in late September.
The CTA is not necessarily looking to move away from the fabric-covered seats, Tolman said, but rather is testing out "state-of-the-art" technology as it seeks to improve its fleet with every new purchase.
"Overall, our current seating has performed very well," Tolman said.
A few CTA riders who have used the new seats have taken to Reddit with mixed reviews.
One Reddit user said they sat in the new seats on a No. 77 Belmont Avenue bus, and found the new seats too slick.
"It was horribly slippery," they said. "My back hurt after just a 5 stop ride. But I guess it's a trade off of having cleaner seats."
One rider said the new seats appear to angle downward, making one feel as if they will slip out of their seat even while stationary.
"[It] makes me feel like I'm constantly falling out of the seat," they said.
Another poster said the new seats will likely take some time to get used to.
"It was weird, but better than an unknown stain," they said.
There is no timeframe for when the new seats might be expanded, Tolman said.
The CTA has rolled out 50 buses and 14 rail cars with new, "hard-back seats" that are more stain resistant and harder to deface. [Photo: Kathryn Meade]