The Problem of Large Americans and Small Seats on Planes, Trains, and Buses

NEW YORK - JUNE 18: A subway conductor looks out his window June 18, 2003 in New York City. A new report by the New York Police Department (NYPD) reports that felonies are down 15 percent this year on New York’s subways. The NYPD credits an increase in officers at subway stations for part of the drop in crime on trains and stations. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo: Spencer Platt/2003 Getty Images

Americans’ growing bottoms are impacting the bottom lines of transportation providers, from Amtrak to New York City subways to airlines. Agencies must decide whether to fit new planes, trains, and buses with wider seats, reducing capacity, or disregard the needs of wider passengers to keep a greater number of spaces available. Metro-North settled on an optical illusion in some of its newer cars, sewing seats together to make them appear wider and “more appealing.” Discussing the seating dilemma with the Times, one transportation expert remarked, “You can only make the trains so wide.” What a sad, accurate comment.