New York Today: Seatless Subway Cars

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Inviting, isn’t it?

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Harrison Hill/The New York Times

Good morning on this cloudy Thursday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently released its roughly $800 million plan to fix our beleaguered subway system.

Among the plan’s measures: seatless subway cars.

That’s right. Subway officials will remove seats from a few trains on certain lines — starting with a pilot program on the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan and the shuttle train between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal — possibly later this year, to accommodate more passengers.

The thought of losing seats encouraged us to visit the New York Transit Museum to understand the evolution of the seats inside New York’s subway, and to sit in them, too.

In the early 1900s, wooden armrests lined springy, cushioned seats covered with rattan, a material similar to bamboo. Sitting in the bench-length seat — with its surprising lumbar support — was like sinking into a well-worn rocker, musty smell and all.

In 1915, riders were treated to new drop-down cushioned seating, or benches that could be lifted up if a train were crowded.

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By the 1950s, the rattan on many seats was replaced with Velon, a type of plastic fabric, and in terms of comfort, it was mostly downhill from there.

It wasn’t until 1972 that New York City Transit began running cars on the lettered lines with plastic contoured seats, similar to what you sit on today.

We’d also like to point out that this week’s announcement isn’t the first time that seatless train cars have been proposed.

In 2010, flip-up seats that could be locked upright during rush hours were installed on the E train,…

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