Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus riders will get a less cushiony ride over the next year as the agency replaces all its fabric-covered seats with plastic seats.
The agency’s board approved a $1.3 million contract Thursday with bus manufacturer Gillig LLC to buy the inserts to replace fabric-covered seats.
Don Rivetti, the agency’s chief operating officer for maintenance, said this will be the first of two phases in the project. Gillig will replace about 6,500 seats on buses bought from 2017 forward.
In the second phase, the agency will review 335 older buses and replace the seats on those that aren’t scheduled to be taken out of service soon because of their age. Under Federal Transit Administration rules, buses bought with federal funds must be replaced within 12 years or 500,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Fabric-covered seats may be slightly less expensive, Rivetti said, but they are harder to maintain and the cloth has to be replaced at least once over the life of their use.
“Once we approve this, we shouldn’t have to replace them again,” he said. “It should be a one-time change-over.”
CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman suggested trying plastic in early 2020 after receiving several complaints from riders who sat on wet spots that they didn’t see on the fabric seats.
The agency tested two buses at its East Liberty maintenance garage as part of its annual new bus order and after receiving few complaints began ordering them on all new buses. The plastic seats are easier for drivers to wipe down in a pinch during their trip and easier to clean in the maintenance garage at the end of the day.
About 100 of the agency’s 720 buses have plastic seats now, and 69 new ones that should arrive in the next few months also will have them.
Rivetti noted that the agency’s crew that handles reupholstering seats will continue working on the canvas seats on the agency’s 80 light rail vehicles.