This daily decision may be the most important in any journey on the city's main public transit line: Where to sit?
Each rider has about 49 choices on the Market-Frankford Line. But which one is optimal?
From an informal poll of about 30 transit riders, the favorite may be the most obvious: the single seat — the lone seat found to the right of the double doors. But why the single seat?
Many called it "easy to sleep in." Others said they would sit there regardless of having a companion.
"Alone," said Michelle, a Center City resident. "I want to sit alone."
Among the responses, about 10 percent said they would rather stand.
"I avoid the seats even if there's room," said Taylor, who commutes on the El everyday.
And a deciding factor was the upholstery.
Two weeks ago, in his monthly "Ask SEPTA" Metro column, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey said the blue, mixed-polyester seat-lining was as good as gone.
Plastic and fiberglass backings similar to what's used on the Broad Street Line cars will be tested at the end of the month.
"If all testing and color is satisfactory, delivery will start on or about Dec. 30," SEPTA spokesperson Manny Smith said.
The new backings would be installed gradually until the entire fleet is outfitted. SEPTA overhauls about 44 train cars per year, where the car is dissembled and reassembled.
Since the Market-Frankford Line is SEPTA's busiest line — it carries about 192,000 passengers every week with 144 train cars in rotation — the cars and seats are housecleaned every day and detailed twice a month. If the seat backs are soiled, it's changed, Smith said.
Others' tastes are little less profound.
Jeannette, who doesn't drive, was less particular.
"I want an empty seat," she said. "Next to someone who don't stink!"
The 'phone charger seat'
The "phone charger," a single with a foldable seat, is armed with outlets at the base.
Mostly younger riders like to charge their cell phones and text simultaneously. The outlets are used by cleaners who plug in their equipment when the train is stationary. So it could be dangerous to use while the train is in motion and power fluctuates.
"You never know," Smith said. "It's not like a wall outlet."