A Tale of Two Transit Seats

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It was the best of decisions for the worst of bus seating covers. In July of 2018, The Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles County Metro system switched their seating from fabric to vinyl. Citing years of consumer complaints, exorbitant dry cleaning bills and millions of dollars spent on fabric replacement, the L.A. Metro decided to change its subway seating from fabric to vinyl.



But the reason they switched goes beyond the financial issue. It had just as much to do with sanitation. Everything from blood and human waste to bed bugs and lice –not to mention spilled food and beverages— was found in the seats.  It’s enough to turn your stomach.

So why isn’t vinyl installed in all mass transit systems as a matter of practicality? The fabric industry has done a remarkable job convincing mass transit designers that fabric is good and vinyl is bad, when that’s simply not the case. There’s a time and a use best fitted to each material.

In mass transit, when the product has to withstand extraordinary use from thousands of people on a daily basis, an impermeable, cleanable barrier provided by vinyl is essential. Especially in the time of COVID, you need something that can be wiped clean and withstand the ingredients from the harshest of cleaners, while maintaining product integrity.

For years, designers and architects have blindly rejected vinyl because they’ve been taught that all vinyl is bad. But the truth is that vinyl manufacturers have made big strides in reducing waste and emissions and creating phthalate-free products.

Indeed, Morbern has long looked for ways to reduce environmental impact. We were among the first manufacturers of coated fabrics to completely eliminate heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. We ensure that the water flowing out at the end of the manufacturing process is clean enough to drink. And we have installed a new coater to better control our emissions and improve the air quality of our surrounding community.

When it comes down to it, nothing does the job like vinyl. Vinyl lasts X times longer in the field than fabric, which often ends up in landfills because of the need to replace fabric often, and requires the use of dry cleaning products to keep it in service.

Vinyl’s durability, impermeability and affordability make it the best choice for mass transit seating.