Public Gets a Look at BART’s Future

Rain didn't stop hundreds of BART customers from coming to MacArthur Station to see the new train car. Photo: Streetsblog
Rain didn’t stop hundreds of BART customers from coming to MacArthur Station to see the new train car. Photo: Streetsblog

Yesterday afternoon, some 1,600 people braved the rain to check out BART’s new rolling stock at an open-house at MacArthur Station in Oakland. BART is doing a total of four open houses. The first one was Saturday, in Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre Station. From the BART web page:

The Fleet of the Future is closer than ever to becoming a reality for BART riders. Your chance to get an up close look at a test train for the new fleet is coming. BART will hold a series of FREE open house events in October. The Open House events will occur on a station platform at these dates and locations:

  • Saturday, October 15th at Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre Station 11 am- 4 pm
  • Sunday, October 16th at MacArthur Station 11 am – 4 pm
  • Saturday, October 29th at Dublin/Pleasanton Station 11 am – 4 pm
  • Sunday, October 30th at El Cerrito del Norte Station 11 am – 4 pm

The new train cars will expand the BART fleet and provide much-needed crowd relief.  The goal is to order a total of 1,081 cars, which would increase the number of seats in the BART fleet by 49 percent.

Also according to the BART web site, there isn’t enough spare track space to do an open house in San Francisco.

DoorOutside

Engineers, train operators, designers, BART board directors and other officials were on hand to answer questions and demonstrate features of the new train cars.

The news seats have about half the padding, but are still comfortable. Photo: Streetsblog

The trains certainly look different and are chock full of new features. The cars, thanks to LED lighting and light green and blue seats, immediately seemed much roomier and brighter. There was also a “new car” smell. The seats have two inches of cushion, but are firm and comfortable.

These nifty information boards let you know where you are. Photo: Streetsblog
These nifty information boards let you know where you are. Photo: Streetsblog

The BART maps inside the train are now digital and show the current location of the train on the map. Gone will be the days of looking up at one of the Mission Stations and trying to figure out if its 24th or 16th.

Director Saltzman points to the new bike racks. Photo: Streetsblog
Director Saltzman points to the new bike racks. Photo: Streetsblog

Streetsblog ran across two BART Board Directors, Rebecca Saltzman, of District 3, and Robert Raburn, of District 4. Both proudly pointed out the new bike racks to Streetsblog. “They’re the same ones used on the Copenhagen subway,” explained Raburn. They operate simply–a cyclist pushes the wheel into the rubber grips, which seemed to hold the bikes just fine. It’s also easy to lock a bike up, so a rider can sit down and relax without having to always have one eye on that trusty steed. Streetsblog was glad to see BART using designs from Denmark, rather than attempting to engineer a new solution.

Bikes in the rack. The racks are identical to those used in the Copenhagen Metro. Photo: Streetsblog
Bikes in the rack. The racks are a design from Copenhagen. Photo: Streetsblog
A little piece of mind for cyclists on long commutes. Photo: Streetsblog
A little piece of mind for cyclists on long commutes. Photo: Streetsblog

About the only thing that wasn’t on display was the ride quality and performance, since the train was static. But Jennifer Gordon, a BART train operator, was on hand. “It’s quieter and smoother,” she said, explaining that the train accelerates and brakes with less jarring, thanks to better computer control of the motors. Shock controlling pistons, mounted between the cars, also help smooth the ride.

Shock absorbers between the cars, plus better computer controls on the motors and brakes, help keep cars from knocking together and assure a smoother ride. Photo: Streetsblog
Shock absorbers between the cars, plus better computer controls on the motors and brakes, help keep cars from knocking together and assure a smoother ride. Photo: Streetsblog

The train, of course, also has more power, reported Gordon–which one would expect for a train that’s 40-years newer. In theory, a more standard, conical wheel design and better insulation on the doors and windows should also result in a smoother, quieter ride. Streetsblog is hoping to arrange a test ride at some point in the future.

New energy absorption safety tech means the last row of seats is replaced by a utility closet. Photo: Streetsblog
New energy absorption safety tech means there are no seats at the car ends. Photo: Streetsblog

There were also a couple of features the engineers talked about that Streetsblog hopes will never, ever get used. See the utility closets at the end of the trains (above photo)? On the older cars, there are seats at those locations. But built into these new cars is an energy management system–also known as crumple zones. The idea is if two BART trains ever crash into each other, this utility closet area will collapse and minimize the destruction to the rest of the train–and its passengers.

Of course, the timing of these open houses probably isn’t a coincidence, with the election around the corner and BART depending on Measure RR to completely modernize its infrastructure. The new cars will also go a long way in making BART better and more reliable.

Meanwhile, no doubt many Streetsblog readers checked out one of the weekend open houses. What did you like and dislike about the layout, seats and other features? BART officials were handing out comment cards at the open house, so it’s not too late to make adjustments to the design. Streetsblog suggested the addition of some coat hooks by the seats, so riders have somewhere to put a wet rain coat.

Please add your thoughts below.

A look at the rear cab...or maybe it's the front? Photo: Streetsblog
A look at the rear cab…or maybe it’s the front? Photo: Streetsblog

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