New BART Cars on the Way

BART's new fleet begins the slow journey west from the factory in New York. Photo: BART.
The first car of BART’s new fleet begins the slow journey west from the factory in New York. Photo: BART.

As regular riders are aware, BART trains are quite old. Some have been running for more than 40 years, and date back to when the BART system first started operations in 1973. And although additional cars were purchased in the 1980s and 90s, the average age of a BART train is 30 years.

Of course, that’s a little bit misleading: any BART train that’s been running that long has undergone some pretty extensive overhauls–more than once. Still, the fleet is showing its age, and BART is now running train cars that, on average, are older than any other major system in the US. The problem, of course, is the older a train, the more often it ends up sidelined for repairs.

But shiny new train cars are finally on the way. “The new cars were designed with input from our riders, and we can’t wait to show them off and put them on the rails once cleared for service,” said Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman, in a release. “BART riders will get the benefit of at least 50 new cars added to service throughout next year, which will go a long way toward tackling our crowding problems.”

The new, modern-looking train cars will have more head room, better air conditioning and–important to Streetsblog readers–dedicated bike racks. They also will have doors that seal better which, if they work as advertised, should go a long way toward quieting BARTs interior noise levels. There are 775 new train cars on order, but the goal is to fund the purchase of 1,081 in total. The new cars will trickle into the Bay Area from 2016-2021, with the 10 test cars arriving in 2016 and an additional 54 cars arriving in 2017. BART will begin to retire the oldest cars during that time.

BART is hoping to get over 700 new cars over the next few years. Image: BART.
BART has over 700 new cars on order. Image: BART.

BART’s first new train car is now starting a cross country journey from Bombardier’s Plattsburgh, New York to BART’s test tracks in Hayward, California. The train car’s number is 3001 and it was strapped to a flatbed truck to start its slow 3600 mile road trip. Bombardier Transit Corporation is building BART’s “Fleet of the Future.” Notice the “wide load” signs in the top image? That will probably seem redundant to any passing motorists, since the train is 70-feet long, 10-foot-six-inches tall and weights 65,500 pounds. Once it arrives in Hayward it will undergo a testing regime before entering passenger service near the end of 2016.

It might strike one as a little inefficient–and maybe even risky–to deliver train cars by truck. But BART trains use wide-gauge tracks, so they can’t roll on the national rail network (even if they were the right gauge, there are a host of regulatory and technical complications). They could potentially be placed on flat bed railway cars instead of trucks, but Bombardier decided “The air ride on a truck is better than the vibration the cars would get via rail,” explained Trost.

Of course, once they arrive in the Bay Area they will still be running on BART’s aged infrastructure. It’s going to take the passage of a new bond to get signals up to modern specification to allow an increase in the number of trains. Just getting new cars won’t help with that at peak times, except in terms of reliability. And then there’s the question of the second BART tube. But, for now, it’s nice to see things are finally moving along with the new car orders.

BART put together this short film of factory workers getting the cars ready to roll.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Can they run trains consisting of old and new cars? Or are they incompatible?

  • gary

    I may be dense but why BART cars built in NY?

  • Michael C.

    They’re actually built in Canada (There are no US railcar manufacturers or weren’t at the time) but assembled in NY to meet Buy America requirements. It’s illegal to require assembly in a particular state or city for a project using federal funds.

  • Michael C.

    They’re not compatible.

  • BBnet3000

    So are some of Muni’s buses. I saw a Muni bus driving west on I-90 near Syracuse, NY years back.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Shipping train cars by truck cross country is pretty bizarre.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The can run on the same lines and use the same stations, which is the key thing.

  • murphstahoe

    But it means we can’t go from 8 car trains to 10 car trains once we get the first few new cars.

  • From the article: “Bombardier decided “The air ride on a truck is better than the vibration the cars would get via rail,” explained Trost.”

    I can’t say I necessarily agree with the reasoning, but I’m also not responsible for shipping millions of dollars of train cars across the country.

  • joechoj

    Ah, they’re not even here yet, and they already feel outdated! Would have been nice to add open gangways to the design.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Missed that, thanks. Doesn’t say much for the state of the rail system.

    True story: The guy who lives across the street from me was sending 60K tons [sic] of high quality steel a month from Duisburg to Youngstown OH during the fracking boom. They could have sourced it from the US, but it was cheaper coming from Germany because the shipping costs were lower.

    That’s why you invest in infrastructure.

  • runn3r85

    But they can run the new cars as a set, freeing up the older cars to extend 8 car trains to 10 cars, which is their plan until they can all be replaced.

  • murphstahoe

    This is all splitting hairs and the perfect being the enemy of the good, but train sets are broken up and put together all the time. If 2 four car trains arrive in Millbrae, and one is new and one is old, and we would otherwise send it back as an 8 car train…

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    1,081 New Bart cars being trucked from NY to Hayward is going to require some insane logistics. That’s going to take a dozen of those huge trucks with drivers ferrying these new bart cars full time over 5 years. What a gig!

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Bart trains don’t use standard railroad gauge. They’re wheelbase is wider than most railroad cars, which is probably preventing them from being transported by trains. It’s easier to have wide load trucks on freeways then it is to have wide load railroad cars.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    They can just run these new car in 10-car trains on the lines that require those trains all day long, like the Pittsburg / SFO line

  • Jeffrey Baker

    If they shipped them by rail they’d need to be repainted on arrival.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • Jeffrey Baker
  • DragonflyBeach

    It will be like when Muni first got their Breda LRVs at the turn of the century. They ran a mixed fleet. But different LRVs werent attached to each other.

  • mx

    In terms of a mixed fleet, yes, but I very much hope it won’t be like the Breda LRVs, as they’ve been an utter disaster for the agency since day 1.

  • neroden

    Seriously, what is wrong with BART that they’re trucking them?

    Everyone has their subway cars delivered by freight rail. Sitting on flatcars, and wrapped in plastic to protect the paint.

    Oh, wait, I think I know. BART’s subway cars are too *wide*, aren’t they? They’re wider than normal subway cars.

  • neroden

    That’s a very silly reason.

  • Do you transport train cars for a living? It sounds silly to me as well, but I’m not an expert in shipping, nor rail vehicles, so I’m inclined to accept that my understanding might be lacking.

  • You wouldn’t need wide load railcars, given that a BART car is not wider than a standard mainline rail car.

  • Flatlander

    “I’m not an expert…so I’m inclined to accept that my understanding might be lacking”

    Clearly, you’re new to the internet.

  • On the internet one *has* to be arrogant in their ignorance? I’m not new to the internet, I just try not to let it go to my head.

  • sugarntasty

    …due budget has BART trained the engineers and drivers before new cars. Place in traffic lines or simply, retain former until problems of new cars? This haven’t been define just externals, new cars concur, should been protected against damaging. Forgotten covered by “insurance policies” BART incurred to
    tax payers besides new cars. Lobby for 3 new “underground tunnels due, to
    increase population in Bay Area Caltran and CALSTA fully aware urban decay!


BART parked a new car from its "Fleet of the Future" at Warm Springs Station when it opened. But the new trains haven't been available for customers to ride--until today. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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