Unscientific survey results of the day: CTA riders supposedly split on new seating arrangement

The Chicago Tribune had a story on the front page of its website a day ago that says Chicago residents are split on the new seating arrangements in new CTA cars. Unfortunately, the story has a fatal flaw: it is based on an unscientific poll.

The aisle-facing, bucket-style seats on the new CTA rail cars have prompted strong reactions among riders — though evenly split pro and con, an unscientific survey suggests.

More than 2,500 people participated in the online poll conducted this month by the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago-area group that promotes safe transportation, bicycle use and other alternatives to automobiles.

Forty-nine percent said they would prefer New York-style benches with no defined separation between passengers instead of the individual “scoop” seats that are on the CTA’s new 5000 Series rail cars, the Active Transportation Alliance reported.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they prefer the scoop, or bucket-style, seats, and 3 percent said they had no preference, the poll found.

“While the poll results are unscientific and it was nearly a draw, one clear conclusion is that transit riders have strong opinions when it comes to issues of comfort and convenience,” said Lee Crandell, director of campaigns for the Active Transportation Alliance. “We’ve shared the results with the CTA and encouraged the agency to always seek input from the transit riders about significant changes to the system.”

While the newspaper perhaps should get some credit for acknowledging in the first paragraph that this was an unscientific poll, it then makes no sense to base the story on this information. One could talk about some divergent opinions on the seats without having to rely on an unscientific poll. Why not interview a few riders in the “man-on-the-street” style newspapers like? Should the CTA listen to those poll results provided by the Active Transportation Alliance? No – they suggest at least a few people don’t like the new seats but they aren’t necessarily a large number or a majority. In the end, I find this to be irresponsible. This poll tells us little about anything and even with the early disclaimer, is likely to confuse some readers.

I also think this story will blow over soon enough. New York riders seem to have done just fine with these seating arrangements and Chicago riders will get used to them as well.

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