Improving Seat Comfort in a Commuter Train 2001-01-3460
TNO’s ergonomic innovation group in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands participated in the design of the seats for new commuter train carriages. They conducted a research project focused on improving the comfort. The project involved studying the commuter’s sitting behaviour and it involved several tests in which subjects representing the commuter population tested the seats.
In a field test commuter’s sitting behaviour was studied. A unique number of 2000 measurements were taken to chart the passengers’ activities, posture, size and movements.
Back in the Netherlands existing seats serving as benchmarks were tested under controlled conditions. 18 test subjects were asked to sit for 1 hour while maintaining specific postures that resembled postures observed in the field test. Data was collected by using video, questionnaires (e.g. about local perceived discomfort) and expert meetings.
Based on the test results modifications were made to the existing seats. They were tested again leading to the final design recommendations. From the benchmark seat, using the design recommendations, the prototype was built. The benchmark and prototype differ regarding seat angles, lumbar support and headrest.
In a paired comparison test the prototype was tested against the existing benchmark seat using methods described above. The results were positive: 83% of the subjects preferred the new seat for commuting 1 to 2 hours. The seat scored better on important features like resting and sleeping possibilities, leg stretching and ingress – egress. The method of evaluating an existing seat to build a new seat appears to have worked. The American commuter will get a comfortable to very comfortable seat.