Pondering riders' bottom line
GABE GONDACITY HALL BUREAUIt's a weighty question for the Toronto Transit Commission: are subway seats wide enough for the city's rear ends? The answer, according to big-boned TTC chair Howard Moscoe, is no way.
"As a person who has long legs and a wide tuchas ... I have never felt quite at home in a TTC vehicle," the 275-pound, 6-foot-1 Moscoe wrote the TTC yesterday, using the Yiddish word for bum in urging his fellow commissioners to consult citizens on the issue before putting in a major order for subway cars.
The TTC will finalize the purchase of about 600 cars early next year, at a cost of between $3 million and $5 million each. In the meantime, Moscoe wants the system to put up write-in cards so riders can submit their opinions on the question.
An informal poll conducted along the Yonge-University line yesterday suggests most people see it as a matter of perspective.
"Our population is getting bigger, so I think it makes sense," said Jim Gray, a 6-foot-5 1/2-inch media consultant, while waiting to catch a train at Bloor station. "I'm a big guy — I find the seats really cramped."
Current subway seats are 43 centimetres (17 inches) wide. With national obesity rates rising — StatsCan calls a quarter of Canadian adults obese — Gray's point about a growing population resonates, even with the horizontally challenged.
"My butt's not that big," said David Cremer, a 5-foot-7 former flight attendant with a slim build who was waiting for a northbound train at Queen station. Cremer, who worked at Canada 3000 for seven years, said his airline, like many others, made life difficult for wider folks by charging people double if they didn't fit into single seats.
He remarked that working at an airline with cramped, charter-sized seats had also made him sympathetic to the plight of the long-legged. "You see people whose knees are up to their chins," the 39-year-old said.
While seats are cramped downtown, they're even slimmer in the suburbs.
York Region's Viva rapid transit bus system, which launched Labour Day weekend, is expanding its fleet to 85 from 42 by year's end. All its new high-tech buses have 41-centimetre seats and a spokesman said width had never been an issue.
"There have been no complaints," said Dan Miles, a svelte 200-pounder who stands 6-foot-2. "I just got off a bus; there were people of all builds and I didn't see any problems."
At Bloor station, though, there was broad support for Moscoe's call, with riders complaining that triple banquettes along the sides of subway cars were far too narrow to fit three people.
"The pole goes in my thigh," said 16-year-old high school student Ashley Nippalow, who at 5-foot-11 towered over a classmate on the southbound platform.
Lawyer Selwyn Pieters agreed on the need for more room.
"I think they ought to have special seating," said Pieters, an imposing 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds. He suggested a novel approach for engineering new seat specifications. "They might want to take an impression of Moscoe's butt so big-ass people like he and myself have room to sit."
Moscoe liked that idea. "Then everybody will be seated comfortably. There aren't many butts bigger than mine."