HAYWARD (CBS SF) — As BART continues to test its new train cars, media in the Bay Area got a chance on Monday to take a closer look at the new fleet.
New BART cars are expected to start carrying passengers in late September following final testing this summer, BART officials said.
Last week, crews began another phase of testing when they started running 10 new cars on the main tracks during business hours. On Monday, the agency brought members of the media for a ride.
Before the latest phase of testing, crews ran tests on the main tracks between midnight and 4 a.m. and before that on test tracks at the Hayward Maintenance Facility.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night at 8 p.m., crews will be running the new cars between the Bay Fair and Warm Springs stations.
“Right now we’re still in the testing phase. It’s been a long journey,” explained new car project manager John Garnham. “We’ve made significant progress in the past few months.”
The media was given a test ride in one of the new trains on Monday afternoon.
The cars have increased floor space. Seats have been removed and handles added so more standing people will fit into each car during the crowded commute.
“We don’t want to leave people at the station, so we want to make sure we can get everybody on,” said Garnham. “So less seats means more people can get on the train.”
The padded seats are smoother and easier to clean and air conditioning comes from ceiling vents to keep the cars cooler.
There is even technology to reduce noise for people with cochlear implants. The propulsion and brake systems are all new and each train contains more than 16 miles of cable and 9,000 connectors.
“It’s far more complicated,” said Garnham. “When it’s working it’ll be great but to get it working it takes a little bit more time.”
There have been some problems along the way.
BART got the first new cars in March of last year and are 16 months behind schedule because of all the glitches and modifications that had to be made.
But testing operator Kirk Paulsen says the bugs are slowly being corrected. Compared to the old trains, he says the grade has improved from an “F” to and “A.”
Paulsen said operating the new train is “like driving a Tesla,” compared with the old ones, which he described as a Model T.
“It’s smoother,” Paulsen said. “It’s quieter.”
Crews have 391 tests to perform on items like the brakes, lighting, propulsion and the passenger information system.
The testing has prompted officials with BART and manufacturer Bombardier Transportation to make 3,000 modifications, most of which are software-related.
“You have to make sure it’s right,” Garnham said.
He added that he appreciates the patience of passengers awaiting the new cars.
35 new cars are expected to be in BART’s possession by the end of the year. BART has 669 cars now and 775 will make up the new fleet.
BART officials are replacing the cars because they are at the end of their 40-year useful life.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost attributed the quieter ride to a different wheel interface and the doors, which should seal out the noise better than the doors on the older cars.
Crews are in the process of measuring the noise and the results will be made available to the public.
Paulsen also said the visibility is better in the new cars, especially at night.
Trost said other improvements include a digital passenger information system, a modern public address system so passengers can hear announcements better, and the signs on the outside of the trains, which will make it easier for passengers to know the train’s destination.
BART officials hope to have all 775 new cars in service by 2021.
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