Same seat, new surface: Metro goes from cloth to vinyl bus seats

The new, easy-to-clean vinyl seats being rolled out on Metro buses.(Courtesy WMATA)

It’s been in the works for a while, and WMATA announced this week it’s moving ahead with plans to shift the current cloth seats on its buses to easy-to-clean vinyl seats on its entire fleet.

So far, 40 buses have the new look and feel.

WTOP asked some riders if the seat surface was ever an issue for them.

Daniel Pintard, a college student and regular bus rider, said he’s happy to hear Metro’s making the change.

“Sometimes, I’ll go on the bus and I want to sit down and I want to make room for anybody else, but I don’t want to shift over if I’m going to be sitting on what looks like vomit, you know?” Pintard said.

He added that he imagines the vinyl will be a lot easier for the transit cleaning crews to work with.

Zoey Arbor, who prefers Metrorail over Metrobus travel, said she’s always been a little grossed out by the cloth seats on the buses. It could be because she’s a chemist.

“I think about things on the microscopic or chemical level, and so I think about bacteria, about viruses. I think about bugs. I just think ‘they’ve got to be in there,'” she said with a slight shudder.

In a news release, Metro called the move to vinyl seats “a major customer improvement,” and said besides providing a surface that’s easier to clean and less likely to absorb odors, the long-term cost of cloth over vinyl will be lower. No information about the cost of the change was laid out in the release.

“We believe strongly in providing customers a welcoming, comfortable, and clean environment while riding buses,” said Shushil Ramnaress, Metro’s chief fleet officer, in a statement. “This is one of several steps we are taking to show our customers that we are listening and seeking ways to make Metro a preferred option for customers traveling throughout the region.”

The transition to vinyl seats will continue throughout 2025 until all 1,500 buses on the transit system’s fleet have been outfitted with the new seating surface.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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