BART wants riders' opinions on train upgrades 

So BART riders want clean and comfortable seats, do they? Well, pull up a chair.

A diverse assortment of tall, skinny, wide and stubby seat options will be on exhibit for commuters in a series of BART seating labs that are intended to let riders decide which ones best suit their needs. The public input will help BART officials sort their ergonomic priorities while pursuing a $3.4 billion plan to replace all 669 trains in the fleet, 439 of which are each nearly 39 years old.  

Would-be participants can sign up for project updates through email and text on BART’s website if they want to know when the seat lab will be open to the public in the coming months.

Today, a disability task force will be visiting the seating lab.

Despite the undeniable comfort of BART’s current seats, agency officials said commuters are often appalled, because of hygienic concerns, by the fact that the seats are upholstered.

“It’s about time,” said one such rider, Joan Columbini, who was taking BART from Richmond to the Montgomery Street station Sunday. “Anything is better. Who knows what’s living in there.”

But there are several other factors that officials want riders to consider.

Vehicle capacity, quick boarding and exiting, and how to provide more room for luggage and bicycles are some of a few trade-offs BART wants its riders to consider when weighing whether one more inch of legroom is worth it.

“Just one small change can affect a whole segment of our ridership,” BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.

For instance, BART President Bill Franklin said the agency wants to add a third door to each train for easier boarding and exiting, even though that will probably mean sacrificing seats.

A 29-question survey that participants will be asked to fill out is broken into five sections: width, height, legroom and train features, then personal questions. The questions ask riders to select from a number of specific seat widths, heights, locations and designs. Only two questions specifically ask about seat materials, even though the lab has examples of vinyl, fabric and stainless steel as well.

Despite the advance planning, BART doesn’t expect to test new cars until 2016, and only 10 of them at that time. The first widespread introduction of the new cars will be in 2018.

Johnson said commuters should check to figure out when and where they will be able to participate in a seating lab.


Laying new tracks

BART officials say their transit fleet is the oldest in the nation. They are working to secure $3.4 billion in funding to replace all train cars by 2024. Here is a comparison of average ages with other major transit systems, and a timeline for the replacement project:

Agency/city Cars Average age
BART-San Francisco 669 30.1
CTA-Chicago 1,190 26.3
MBTA-Boston 431 21.0
NYCT-New York 6,442 20.6
WMATA-Washington 1,132 19.7
SEPTA-Philadelphia 371 16.9


  • 2010: Proposals from train car suppliers received
  • 2011: Contract is awarded; design process, including public outreach, begins
  • 2012: Target for full-scale train car mock-up
  • 2013: First train car arrives for testing
  • 2014-15: First 10 train cars delivered as pilot cars
  • 2016: Preproduction design review; approve production
  • 2018: Complete acceptance of base order of 200 train cars
  • 2021: Complete acceptance of additional 250 train cars (option one)
  • 2024: Complete acceptance of additional 250 train cars (option two)

Source: BART

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