OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Bay Area Rapid Transit managers showed off new cars and new interior designs featuring better seats and handholds on Thursday, as they begin replacing all of the agency’s 669 cars, some of which are 40 years old.
The first of 10 new demonstration cars will be in the BART system by 2015, with every car being replaced by 2017 for a total of 775, initially, and up to 1,000. That’s an improvement in capacity to handle the additional riders clogging the current system.
“It’s the oldest fleet of rail cars in the entire United States,” said BART spokesperson James Allison. “But there’s only so many times you can redo the interior of your house before you need a new house,” he said.
The public played, and continues to play a huge role in the design, with 17,000 people weighing in on everything from the new, wipe-clean seats, silicone foam cushioning, and the “branched” handrails, allowing more people to share the vertical bars without that awkward hand-touch, or armpit sniff.
“We’re trying to work as hard as we can to incorporate their input,” Allison said. “Among the things we’ve learned is that people love the easier to clean seats, instead to the 1970s cloth seats.” He added that the comfortable “airline style” cloth seat back in the 1970s was en vogue, but today, hygiene is commuters’ primary concern.
Besides accessibility improvements, better signs, and a new look, the ride will also be more enjoyable, and not just because of the longer trains.
“The door technology will result in a quieter ride because BART plan to use with ‘microplug‘ doors to help seal out noise,” said BART marketing officer Aaron Weinstein.
And for the hot days heading out to the East Bay? “The cars will also be cooler because the cooling system is designed to vent air from the ceiling on hot days, making riding more comfortable for standees,” said Weinstein.
The cars are being manufactured in upstate New York by Canadian firm, Bombardier, and then will travel to the Bay Area either by rail or truck, once they are ready for delivery.
A final prototype will be unveiled in April. Riders can get alerts about seeing the new car on BART.gov.