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Metra Begins To Modernize Seats, Adding Armrests, Large Cupholders

CHICAGO (CBS) – Metra announced Thursday plans to start modernizing its seats – and that means losing and gaining some conveniences.

Metra has been testing new seats for a year now, as part of a pilot program to test a new style of seats with armrests, built-in cup holders and better head, neck and lumbar support.

Metra gathered feedback from riders about what they liked and did not like about the new and old seats. While not everyone was in favor of the new design, Metra said the new seats will save the system money.

CEO Don Orseno said the new seats will be stationary and riders will not be able to flip them back and forth in order to face the direction the train is going; therefore, half the riders will be facing backwards. But there are some benefits - armrests included in aisle seats, headrests and large drink holders.

"This was not an easy choice to make because we know that many of our customers like the older, bench-style seats," said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. "But we received some great input from our customers that we will incorporate into the next design that will make the new seats even more comfortable."

Metra will continue take feedback of the new seat design, to further enhance the seats.

Armrests and headrests for example fared better on the new design, but customers requested an armrest be added on the aisle seat. As a result, the extra armrest will be added to the new design.

"The majority of respondents who had an opinion about the new seats agreed that the seats were easy to get in and out of and that they were attractive. However, Metra received some comments stating that the aisles were too narrow. Therefore, the seats will be modified slightly to widen the aisles to their original width," a Metra release read.

In addition, Metra will continue to install USB ports and power outlets in its railcars to allow customers to charge their phones and mobile devices while onboard.

"The reality is that these new seats have become the standard for the vast majority of commuter railroads," Orseno added. "We are excited to take this step forward with railcars that feature a more modern seat design."

Metra is not spending any extra money on the new seats. The seats cost about the same as the older seats and are being installed in the railcars that need replacements.

The new seats will also be included in future railcar purchases and will become the standard for Metra's fleet moving forward.

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