BART’s future: New cars for aging fleet 

Riding on a BART train is somewhat like cruising in a 40-year-old Chevy — it was a cool ride in the ’70s, but the body is worn, the paint job is faded and the annual maintenance costs likely exceed the car’s worth.

But the agency is looking to roll out a new sleek ride in the coming years.

This summer, BART hopes to lock down $1 billion toward building 200 new train cars for the first phase of a major endeavor to replace and add to its aging fleet of 669 cars, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

All told, the $3.2 billion project includes building nearly 700 slick new cars over 25 years that feature modified interior and exterior designs aimed at packing in more passengers, reducing congestion during peak commute hours, speeding up service and chiseling into maintenance costs.

Some potential new features include three doors per car for faster boarding, wider aisles, smaller and easy-to-reconfigure seats and sleek destination signs inside and outside of trains, agency documents said.

Don’t expect your shiny new car to arrive at your station overnight — the first pilot cars aren’t expected to hit the rails until 2016, the agency said.

Nearly 440 train cars have been in service since 1972, when BART first began service, agency figures show. While those cars were rehabbed in the late ’90s, the end of their useful life is 2015 — at the latest.

The older trains get, the more money it costs to maintain them, Johnson said. That’s partly due to wear-and-tear, but also because the technology used in the vehicles is becoming obsolete, the agency said.

“Many of the older systems are out of production, the technology is no longer supported and parts are scarce — all of which makes maintenance more difficult and costly,” an agency report said.

For the last year, vehicle failures accounted for 17 percent of all system delays, Johnson said. New cars will improve overall reliability.

The added cost is tough on a transit agency that racks up year-after-year of budget deficits during down economies, which seem to hit the Bay Area at least once a decade.

Also, BART’s current cars won’t have the capacity to manage the number of riders expected to use the system in coming years, Johnson said.

While the downward economy has dipped ridership below last fiscal year’s weekday average of 356,000, that number was about 100,000 more than in 1996, with only a fraction of that growth due to the San Francisco International Airport extension, data showed.

Demand will also increase due to planned service expansions, including the Oakland Airport Connector, eBart and the Warm Springs and Silicon Valley BART-route extensions, the agency said.

Additionally, the growing trend of consolidating development in the Bay Area along transit corridors — partly driven by increasing costs of driving and highway gridlock — is expected to increase BART ridership by at least 15 percent by 2030 during morning commute hours, and 17 percent daily, a 2006 study by consulting firm Fehr and Peers said.

BART’s existing system can handle only about 500,000 people a day.

Where the funding is coming from

Funding for transit is always a big question mark, and BART plans to spend $3.2 billion building 669 new train cars over 25 years.

BART’s existing cars will meet or exceed their life spans between 2012 and 2019, spokesman Linton Johnson said, and locking down funding for the cars to ensure manufacturing gets under way is dire.

BART will ask the bidders to include in their proposals a locked-in price to expand the fleet beyond 669 cars with another 331, to reach 1,000 cars total, Johnson said.

This summer, BART hopes to lock down $1 billion toward building 200 new train cars by September 2018, and 700 by 2022.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission released a report last year saying BART was off in its capital reinvestment needs by $8 billion over the next 25 years. However, purchasing new cars for BART has been a top priority for the MTC, spokesman John Goodwin said.

After years of planning, delays to the new car project have been minimal, Johnson said.

The project was recently set back by six months, as BART learned it must wait in line to be serviced by manufacturers, the agency said. Transit systems in Washington, D.C., New York City, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are “slightly ahead” of BART in the procurement process, it said.

Funding for the first phase to build 200 cars is not yet set in stone — BART has “a couple more hoops to jump through” before the MTC can approve it, Goodwin said.

“There are a lot of different steps that have yet to be taken,” he said. “But things are proceeding in quite an orderly fashion.”

The $1 billion for the first phase will come from a mix of sources, including high-speed rail connectivity funds, other state and federal sources and possibly through the pursuit of a parcel tax, according to BART.

The MTC would provide $871 million in federal funds toward the effort through fiscal year 2019, Goodwin said. Part of the federal funding includes $150 million BART hopes to receive for connections to high-speed rail, Johnson said.

To replace all cars and add more, the MTC will provide $2.4 billion of the total cost, with BART providing $805 million, the agency said.

— Mike Aldax

The BART car of the future

The designs for new trains, though not finalized, will feature several technical innovations:

  • Three doors per side for faster passenger boarding and disembarking
  • Wider aisles
  • Modular seating arrangements that can be reconfigured
  • Exterior color-coded destination signs
  • Interior destination-information signs
  • Automatic audiovisual announcements for stations
  • Lower energy consumption requirements
  • Dual-platform loading and unloading capability
  • Higher performance for future needs

Source: BART

How BART cars evolved 

A timeline of events in the history of the transit agency’s vehicles:

1957-62: Engineering plans develop for trains that would run at speeds up to 80 mph and average 45 mph

1969: A contract is signed with Rohr Industries to deliver 250 revolutionary electric transit cars, the first 10 to serve as test prototypes; the cost of the cars is $80 million — $18 million more than the estimate for the 450-car fleet; 200 more cars were ordered for another $80 million

1970: Rohr delivers the first prototype car, with the 10 prototype vehicles delivered

1971: Transit cars operate on the Fremont line in round-the-clock testing on the new design before full-scale production can begin; first revenue cars are delivered in November

1972: On Oct. 2, the first accident occurs when a component failure causes a two-car train to run off the tracks at the Fremont station

1976: Commute-hour trains are extended to 10 cars, seating 720 passengers

1980: On May 16, the contract for new seat cushions is awarded to WAM, a San Francisco company that bid $118,267

On May 27, the board of directors approves a deal with Kaiser Engineers to assist BART engineers in developing a new transit car called the C car; it will be a combination of A lead cars and B midtrain cars

On Dec. 8, a full-scare fire test is made at McDonnel Douglas Corp.

1981: The California Public Utilities Commission approves the “Cut-Out-Car” program, allowing the system to continue train operation even if any one of the cars has a friction brake problem; cars previously operated at half-speed in such situations

On Oct. 21, BART receives a $6.7 million federal grant for the new C cars

On Dec. 17, the BART board approves sending out for bid the purchase of 60 to 150 C cars

1982: On Aug. 19, BART moves forward with the sale of $65 million in sales-tax revenue bonds for the purchase of new transit cars

On Sept. 7, the contract for the C car is awarded to France’s Societe Ferrovaire de Valenciennois, the largest contract BART will award in the next decade

1985: On Feb. 15, four C car prototypes will be delivered June 30, then be tested for six months

1986: On Sept. 16, $65 million in bonds are sold to pay for 60 of the C cars

1987: On June 23, BART announces a savings of more than $50 million on its contract to purchase 150 new cars, bringing the C car contract down to $228 million

On Nov. 17, the first production version of the C cars is delivered to the Hayward maintenance yard

On Dec. 10, C cars were dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony

1988: On March 28, first revenue run of C cars is made

1990: On Feb. 20, board President Nello Bianco testifies at a state Senate hearing that it is imperative BART begin purchasing additional cars to serve planned extensions

1992: On March 17, approval is given to buy 80 C cars from Morrison-Knudsen Corp. for $141.6 million; this follows a contract dispute with Societe Ferrovaire de Valenciennois, although other reasons are cited

1994: On June 8, a $651 million deal is brokered with BART, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and AC Transit to rehabilitate BART’s transit and other facilities

On Aug. 31, the new C2 transit cars are delivered to the Hayward facility; the new cars can serve as either a lead car or midtrain car

1995: On Feb. 13, the new C2 cars are put into operation

1996: On June 26, a $330 million contract is approved with Adtranz, which will upgrade the entire original fleet

1999: On Jan. 14, renovated cars are unveiled


Rider input

BART plans to involve its passengers in the selection of new trains:

  • Once the supplier completes three design options — scheduled for next year — riders will have a chance to weigh in on new car features, including amenities such as seating design and bike storage.
  • If the project remains on its timeline, riders could be sitting inside full-size mock-ups of the trains by 2012. The design — which will include the car shell, doors, interior seats and proposed material — should give the riders a lifelike feel of the new train.

Source: BART

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