BART on Track to Replace Train Cars by 2023

Photo: BART train cars are scheduled to be replaced by 2023 in order to account for a projected increase in ridership. The project hopes to replace 669 current train cars with 700 new ones.
Christopher McDermut/Photo
BART train cars are scheduled to be replaced by 2023 in order to account for a projected increase in ridership. The project hopes to replace 669 current train cars with 700 new ones.

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In order to accommodate for a projected increase in commuters and update a nearly 40-year-old system, the Bay Area Rapid Transit is undergoing an estimated $3.4 billion endeavor to replace BART trains by 2023 - the agency's largest project since the rail system debuted in 1972.

The New Train Car Project aims to replace BART's 669 train cars with 700 new ones to account for a projected increase to 500,000 passengers per day by 2035, according to BART spokesperson Jim Allison. The current ridership is about 335,000 on an average week day.

The project, which began in 2009, is still in the early planning stages as BART reviews five firms' design proposals for the cars. According to BART Director Lynette Sweet, the design will be chosen sometime this year.

The projected increase in BART riders over the next couple decades calls for train cars that will be able to withstand time and a great amount of use. Renovations are also necessary due to the fact that the cars are old and need updated technology, Sweet said.

Train car and seat designs could look very different from those currently in place. Changes could include three doors per car - instead of two - different seat size and material, more standing space with fewer seats and more room for bicycles and luggage, Sweet said.

"We want decent seats, we want comfortable seats," she said. "We're moving some of the seats at the front to give more standing room."

Some BART passengers said they would like to see changes to replace the old and dirty seats, which were installed in 1972 and refurbished in 1995.

"The seats need to be more comfy," said UC Berkeley student Anna Parsons. "They are dirty-looking."

She added that power sockets in the new train cars for longer rides, like those on Amtrak trains, would be convenient.

While BART is considering installing smaller seats in the new trains, Sweet said the current seats, at 22 inches wide, are large by industry standards. Boston and Washington, D.C. metro system seats are 18 inches wide, while Los Angeles metro seats are 17 inches wide.

Allison said the look and dimensions of the new seats are in the hands of whichever firm is chosen to design the train cars, though BART has been reaching out to the public to learn riders' preferences.

"Certainly input from the public is going to be a very important part of the final decision," he said.

Preliminary public input has already shown a strong preference in seat material.

"One of the things we've heard loud and clear is that the hard plastic seats wouldn't be the right thing for BART," Sweet said, adding that vinyl is a possibility.

Tags: BART

Contact Katie Bender at [email protected]

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