The seats on Prague’s metro trains have an awkward layout, with a single seat facing a double seat. This often puts strangers staring uncomfortably at one another, or more often trying to politely avoid eye contact. The new pilot pattern was launched just before the coronavirus restrictions caused a huge drop in ridership.
The Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) is experimenting with rotating the single seat 90 degrees, so the person using it no longer faces the adjacent pair of seats. Instead, they face the center aisle of the train.
Many people who use the single seats already sit this way, so the change is in line with passenger preference.
Prague Deputy Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě>), responsible for transport, announced the change on Facebook. The photo was apparently shot before the requirement of wear a face mask took effect.
“This photo is a few weeks old, and I was looking forward to showing you. When people ride the subway alone, they often sit on a separate seat opposite the double seat with their feet turned into the aisle. I have noticed this for a long time and I myself do it myself. Passengers sit this way automatically even when the double seat is empty,” he said, adding that sitting in the seat this was was uncomfortable.
“in a pilot project we turned several seats on an A-line train into the aisle At the end of April we will add another train. Then we evaluate the trial operation and decide what to do next. What do you say about such an adjustment? I wonder if you find this useful or if you think it is totally stupid,” he concluded.
DPP communications director Daniel Šabík said that by the end of April, a train on the metro B line would also become part of the pilot program.
Comments on the Facebook post have had a mix of opinions. Many welcome it as logical. Others point out that seated passengers’ legs will protrude into the aisle, though this occurs already when people sit with their backs to the wall. One person complained that the layout was visually disturbing.
The testing though, comes at an atypical time as many trains are running almost empty due to the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine restrictions. The A line has seen the biggest loss of passengers, as it goes through the most touristy areas such as Old Town Square, Malá Strana and the Castle district, as well as the stop links to the airport bus and several school areas. In the city center, ridership is one-tenth of what it usually is, according to DPP. Ridership on the metro B line has fallen the least, especially on its eastern half.
From nearly 1.1 million trips per day at the beginning of March, metro usage dropped rapidly to around 200,000 trips on work days. On weekends, the number of trips used to range from 400,000 to 500,000 per day, and it has fallen to 100,000 per day. In both cases it is a decrease of about 80%, transit officials claim.