As waistlines continue to grow, public transportation providers have begun considering whether to adjust their regulations to improve safety and vehicle efficiency.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—a U.S. government agency that compiles statistics and makes recommendations for mass transit—has strongly suggested that testing regulations be updated to account for larger passengers. According to the docket where the recommendation is made, “Specifically, FTA is proposing to change the average passenger weight from 150 pounds to 175 pounds.” In addition, the agency wants to change the floor space occupied per standing passenger from 1.5 to 1.75 square feet, and to update the Structural Strength and Distortion test procedures.

The FTA noted that larger bodies may offset the ballast on current vehicles, resulting in increased maintenance requirements, shorter vehicle life spans and safety issues. This upgrade to its regulations may encourage—but not yet require—public transportation providers to purchase sturdier vehicles that are more likely to meet their expected length of service. Other components, like wider seats, may also become a factor.