Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, planning - surveys, economics - benefits, mode - rail


Surveys, Seats, Seating, Railway carriages, Railroad commuter service, Rail system capacity, Passenger cars, Passenger capacity, New Jersey Transit, Multilevel coaches, Focus groups, Design, Customer satisfaction, Commuter rail, Benefits


The numbers and lengths of New Jersey Transit (NJT) commuter trains accessing New York's Penn Station are currently at the limits of available capacity during peak periods, as evidenced by the significant number of standees at these times. NJT is planning to purchase multilevel coaches to address this critical passenger capacity issue. A study was conducted to determine the design of these multilevel coaches so that they will provide the extra capacity needed and also reflect customers' preferences. The study focused on interior issues, including the seating configuration and seat design, that relate directly to the amount of seated (and standee) capacity on the new coaches. A two-part research approach was used to obtain customer input. First, focus groups and product clinics were conducted to get qualitative feedback on the multilevel coach concepts and on specific seat designs. A detailed, computer-based survey was administered to customers to quantify their preferences among key elements of the multilevel concepts, and to estimate their willingness to pay for those elements. The study found that additional seating capacity in the configuration preferred by customers provides a substantial net benefit to NJT passengers, equivalent to about $2.20 fare value per trip. The benefits are higher for this application because of the crowded conditions on existing trains. The study also suggests that multilevel coaches and improved interior design have benefits well beyond increased capacity.