As anyone who's been on an airplane or any kind of public transport in the last twenty years can tell you, most seats just aren't big enough to accommodate the increasingly generous proportions of the American ass. Even if it isn't your own heft that's the problem, it's more than likely that your seatmate's will spill over onto your turf, ensuring that things are awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Apparently, this problem has been plaguing transportation companies for years now, and more and more are starting to cave into our chunky nation's demand for space.
In spite of the fact that putting in fewer, larger seats will be bad for business, Amtrak has announced plans for "designs that will be able to accommodate the larger-sized passenger," the New Jersey Transit is expanding seats by 2.2 inches, and the Federal Transmit Administration is in talks to raise the average weight per passenger in crash-test standards from 150 pounds to 175 pounds.
"It is becoming much more of an issue for transportation, trains, buses," said one expert. "You can only make the trains so wide." However the (apparently sizable) chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council countered, "Why subject my girth to other people?"
Why indeed. And there you have it, a sweaty preview of the kind of engineering quandaries that will define the twenty-first century. Is it definitely too late to bring back the space race?