How absurd! I read the San Diego At Large column on Nov. 17 and was amused at Amtrak's seat-direction dilemma as faced by Harry Griffen, director of the Metropolitan Water District. I think I have a solution.
After spending four years in Japan, a train country, I am of the opinion that trains are the future for California. To deal with the seat reversal problem during turn-around trips, all you need to do is 1) empty the train at destinations; 2) using an air-pressure device, reverse all seat backs so that they conform with the new direction of the train; 3) allow customers to reverse seats manually if so desired to face each other. The seat base never moves.
This system has been used by Hankyu and Keihan railway systems (Osaka-Kyoto express) for many, many years. Perhaps the stone age Amtrak could profit from a Japanese visit.