OAKLAND (CBS SF) — About 15 percent of BART cars will have a new look, touch and smell after the transit agency’s board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to replace the familiar fabric seats with vinyl seat covers in 100 cars.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican said fabric seats were considered an attraction when the transit agency began service in 1972, but the agency now believes vinyl seats are easier to maintain, more resistant to germs and cost less.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

In addition, BART spokesman Jim Allison said 62 percent of those who participated in interactive seat labs earlier this year preferred vinyl seats, saying they offer better cleanliness than fabric seats.

BART’s board voted to award a $1.9 million contract to Sedia Inc. of Glendale, Wisc., to supply vinyl seat covers for 100 cars.

The new seats will be installed gradually between April and July next year.

If BART riders like the new vinyl seats, the transit agency will have the option of buying more such seats for another 100 cars.

BART currently has a total of 669 cars.

Paul Oversier, BART’s assistant general manager of operations, said the transit agency didn’t use vinyl seat material in the past because it didn’t meet smoke, fire and toxicity standards.

But he said the technology for vinyl seats has improved dramatically and such seats are now fire-resistant and durable.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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