Just as a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that rates of obesity in the U.S. are not declining, the New York Times reports that major transit operations are working to increase the size of commuter seating to accommodate the number of obese Americans.
The study, titled “Prevalence of Obesity and Trends in the Distribution of Body Mass Index Among US Adults, 1999-2010” revealed that despite widespread efforts to improve the health of Americans, obesity rates among adults have remained roughly the same for more than a decade—about 35 percent. And children—particularly boys—have become obese at a higher rate over the same time period. Eighteen percent of boys and 15 percent of girls under age 19 are obese. Obesity-related illnesses include heart disease and diabetes and are responsible for an estimated $147 billion in health care each year according to the study.
The epidemic is also taking its toll on transportation operations, from airplanes to buses and subways, who now must foot the bill of adjusting their seat offerings. Seeking to make customers as comfortable as possible—whether an obese person aiming to squeeze into a too-small seat or a healthy-sized person sandwiched next to one—public transportation operations have begun adjusting their seating for the expanding passengers. The Times reports that New Jersey Transit is working on a five-year plan that would give passengers another 2.2 inches of room per seat on trains, but will cost the trains one seat per aisle to do so. Other outfits such as Amtrak are also adjusting seating capacity, and the FTA has proposed new standards for crash testing to account for the excess weight contributed by heavier passengers.
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