BART opens doors on its ‘Fleet of the Future’

A two-thirds majority in three Bay Area counties will be needed to approve the $3.5 billion Measure RR bond measure in November to rehabilitate and update the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

Something much more certain in the near future are new BART cars, three of which officials invited the public Saturday to see, touch, sit and ask questions about at the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre Station.

The new cars, called the “Fleet of Future,” looked similar to a model version that the transit agency displayed in 2014 along the Embarcadero, but there were changes made since then, said Paul Oversier, assistant general manager of operations for BART.

One of the big changes was keeping the middle door free of any poles so that wheelchair users can have easy access to enter and exit trains. and adding two wheelchair slots near the middle door, said Oversier.

Seven more cars will arrive later this year so that transit agency can have a full 10-car train to test.

Oversier said the transit agency plans on testing the 10-car train around December on the main BART tracks without passengers.

Alicia Trost, a spokesperson for BART, said the transit agency will have a better time frame on when trains will be ready for revenue service after testing is complete.

Trains will go through 282 tests on BART property and on the manufacturer’s site, said Oversier. So far, 82 percent of the safety and reliability testing of the three cars displayed on Saturday are complete.

The new BART cars could not have arrived at a better time, as the Bay Area’s population continues to grow with more and more riders using the system to commute. BART currently averages 440,000 daily weekday passengers.

Oversier expects that number to increase over the next 10 years:

“With the regional plans that are in place for concentrating housing and jobs near transit station, we’re anticipating over the next 10 years our ridership will exceed 500,000, go up toward 600,000.”

Gail Murray, a member of BARTs Board of Directors,  said the transit agency wants to go beyond the 775 cars, which  Bombardier Transit Corporation is manufacturing in a contract with the transit agency for $2.5 billion:

“Our goal is 1,081 cars, and when we got that goal, we will have 49 percent more seating.”

Murray added:

“It’s really the public’s Fleet of the Future.”

Amenities for riders

Features of the new BART trains include an air conditioning system in the ceiling that will better circulate air, micro-plug doors to seal out the loud noise, new seating materials, and digital screens inside each car.

The digital screens will display the route in the same color coded scheme the transit agency uses on its maps. The screens will also display the next stop information, and automated messages will call out the next stop.

Officials said seats are also getting an upgrade too. The new vinyl seats are 50 percent lighter and using a silicon cushioning that will hold the shape of the seats longer. The seat’s material will also be easier to clean.

Each car has three doors on each side.

New bike racks were available for bicyclists to try them out, though a final decision has not been made yet on the design, said Aaron S. Weinstein, chief marketing officer for BART.

The bike rack shown in the new cars Saturday allows for three bikes, but they must follow a specific configuration in order for them to fit. Bicyclists parking their bikes would need to park front, back, front in order for each bike to fit.

The back rack is a “universal design” that fits any width of the bike tire, said Weinstein.

He said the transit agency is testing a second option of a horizontal bar with straps so bicyclists could lean their bikes against the bar and strap them in. A third option would combine having the bike rack and horizontal bar.

The first 10-car train will feature all three options so that BART can solicit feedback from riders, said Weinstein.

BART rider Kenji Yamada brought his bike to test out the new rack. He said the new bike rack was:

“Better than what it currently is on BART trains.”

He said he did have some concerns about the grip not being secure enough to the bike. His bike was also partially blocking the door.

One of features that BART rider Nicky Pyne liked was a pole in between the seats that are designated for seniors and persons with disabilities. He said the new pole will make easier for seniors to get out of the seats.

Pyne, who is from the East Bay, also liked the spaciousness of the new trains:

“I ride the old BART a lot and it’s really crowded. The aisles are too close together.”

Another rider, Rosena Kruley, said she liked the new seats, but wonders how long the seats will last.

Kruley said she was fond of the new digital displays:

“I love the digital screens. We need that. We really need that.”

As soon as the first 10-car train meets BART’s requirements and tests, officials will tell the manufacturer to start production, said Oversier.

By the end of 2017, the transit agency expects to have a total of 60 cars delivered. That will increase to 230 cars by the end of 2018, and all 775 cars delivered by 2021.

More open houses

  • Oct. 16 at MacArthur Station 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 29 at Dublin/Pleasanton Station 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 30 at El Cerrito del Norte Station 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.