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Steering BART toward train car of future?

By dcuff
Friday, May 8th, 2009 at 6:03 pm in BART, Misc. Transportation, Planning, rail, Safety.

When a family buys a new car, the mom, the dad, and each of the kids typically wants a say on the model, sound system, upholstery and other features.

When BART buys new cars, it’s got some 360,000 daily riders to think about – a mobile village of varying tastes, needs and politics. 

Are you tired of conservative blue seat colors? Are there too few seats for long rides? Not enough space to get in trains in rush hour? Is more space needed for bicycles and wheelchairs? How about televisions on trains? Do the floors and seats smell like overused sleeping bags because they soak up grime and odors? 

The rapid transit system is trying to find out what BART riders really want in the design of the train car of the future. BART is preparing to order up to 700 cars to replace its aging fleet of cars. 

The BART Board gave and got samples of the design concerns Thursday in a special workshop to unveil some alternative conceptual models for the $3.4 billion car order.

Under some options, BART cars would have a third door, fewer seats and more standing room to carry more passengers and unload them faster. This is a big plus for increasing BART’s people-carrying capacity in a growing region, but a potential bummer for travelers who get stuck standing on a long ride from the suburbs.

“We can’t make them stand that long,” said Gail Murray, a BART board member from Walnut Creek. “That’s my bottom line.”

The long distance riders, she said, supply most of BART’s fare revenue money under a fare structure that charges more for longer trips. 

Despite the recession that has cut into BART’s passenger growth this year, some trains still are very crowded during rush hour. The crowding will only worsen in the decades to come as the region’s population increases, BART planners say.

Positioning of seats is another design concern. Most BART seats face forward or back, but positioning more seats to face sideways would open up more standing room to handle more passengers.

To improve comfort for standing passengers, BART proposes to look at installing poles in the center of cars with cushioned pads for people to lean against. This concept is borrowed from London’s subway.

In other thoughts from board members, Murray said she wants to do replace the “staid” blue seat colors for “21st century” colors. Lynette Sweet of San Francisco wants stain resistant, easily cleaned seat and floor material to preserve her dream that BART cars some day may permit drinking beverages from leak-resistant containers.

BART has posted drawings of alternative models at, as well as offering viewers a chance to submit comments.

One BART rider from San Ramon who read my story about the train design called me up to express his priorities.

Quieter cars, clearer public address announcements, and easier to clean seats and floors are on Moises  

Ostrovsky’s list.

“You can hear the public address announcements, but you can’t understand them,” Ostrovsky told me earlier today.

His ideas reflect what many BART riders say in surveys.  In the new trains, train arrival announcements will be automated for the most part, BART officials say, and there may be lighted maps on walls to show train locations and stops. 

So what are your ideas for the train car design? Let us know below, and visit to submit your ideas to the transit agency.



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6 Responses to “Steering BART toward train car of future?”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    BART’s new cars will have the bells and whistles–auto announcements, station signage on board- as on the last several New York subway car orders.
    The much more relevant issue is between cushy seating for people who insist on living too far from their jobs and enough doors and stsnding space for the larger ridership in the urban core. BTW, the fare structure actually favors the longer distance riders on a mileage basis so claiming they are the major fare payers is inaccurate. If one believed the estimates of ridership for the Warm Springs extension(I don’t) then rush hour Fremont route trains will be overstuffed before they reach Bayfair given current designs. The transbay tube is near maximum Trains Per Hour in rush hour thus full length and higher capacity per car are the available capacity increase options. I don’t like the “standing pads” but I expect fewer net seats.
    And yes the insane carpeting must go, along with the perennialy dirty seat cushions.

  2. Mike Says:

    Standing is better than not being able to get on the train you want.

    Easily cleaned is the way to go. People track in stuff on their shoes on stormy days, and people do eat and drink on the trains, despite the policies.

    Agreed that per mile, short rides actually cost more. And they always want to sock those of us who frequent SFO with more surcharges. I think I spend half at least half my BART money going to and from the airport. Sigh.

  3. Scott Mace Says:

    Listen to my recorded audio of all the discussion that occured at Thursday’s BART meeting about new train cars at

    Scott Mace

  4. Andy Says:

    The correct link is The illustrations are here:

    I agree that easier to clean cars, get rid of all the fabric, are a no brainer. And the layout need to be changed so that there is more room for people even if it means more standing. The designs with the seats up against the sides, like most NYC subway trains, seem like the way to go.

  5. Queen Says:

    David, I love the carpeting. But I guess the reasoning is that it gets stained and dizzgusting, eh?

    (On another topic, David, would you be willing to be interviewed for a story a colleague of mine is writing about BART? She’s

  6. Chris K. Says:

    Auto announcements? Oh, no! I always enjoy riding BART, partially because of the nice announcements you get from operators. Replacing them with computers won’t be very satisfying. I hope they do a better job than AC Transit, they’re announcements are pretty crappy. However, the other elements of these cars are good!

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