Look for New BART Train for the Evening Commute

Anybody see the shiny new train cars?

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
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

It took a while, but BART’s “Fleet of the Future” is about to become, well, the train of today.

Back in March of 2016 the first new blue-and-white BART trains started making their way by flatbed truck from the factory in Plattsburgh, NY to the Bay Area to begin performance testing. The first cars arrived at BART’s Hayward facility a month later. And the public got to look at the new train cars in October of 2016, when they were displayed at MacArthur Station in Oakland.

They were supposed to go into service several months ago. But thanks to delays and some problems clearing testing with state regulators, the trains haven’t been available to the riding public…until now. From BART’s release:

We’ve been given the go-ahead to put our new Fleet of the Future cars into service. That approval came from the California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday night after a comprehensive testing process. You can expect to see the first train in service as early as Friday afternoon. This is exciting news for BART and our riders as it allows us to move forward with replacing the oldest big-city fleet in the nation. The new cars will offer BART passengers a quieter and more comfortable ride while expanding our capacity. Perhaps you’ll be one of the lucky ones to ride it. What a surprise it will be when it pulls up at the platform!

The new trains should be much quieter, with a more standard, conical wheel design that causes less friction between the wheels and the rails (in other words, it should eliminate the otherworldly howling noise from today’s BART trains). The new cars should also mean fewer breakdowns and fewer of those maddening electrical faults.

Of course, the new trains are part of a system–and ongoing improvements to track-side electrical systems and rail replacement should make BART more robust and reliable (and did we mention quieter?). It will be years until the full contingent of 775 new cars is here and running, although now that state regulators have approved the first set, the rest of the batch will get into service much more quickly (in theory). Currently, BART has 10 more cars at its yard; once they’re certified, they too will join the fleet for passenger service, according to the BART release. Additional cars will start being shipped from the factory in February.

The timeline for getting the new cars into service. Image: BART
The timeline for getting the new cars into service. Image: BART

“Thrilled that the first new BART cars will begin carrying BART riders tomorrow! Huge improvements in the new cars,” wrote BART director Rebecca Saltzman, in yesterday’s Facebook post about the news. “My favorite is three doors instead of two for quicker loading and spreading people throughout the cars.”

Somehow this thyristor pack, which should be able to handle 3x the voltage it should ever encounter in the BART system, is getting fried. Photo: Streetsblog.
A fried thyristor pack from one of BART’s 40-year-old rail cars. The failure of these little units has caused major delays on the BART system. With luck, the new trains will see fewer problems such as this. Photo: Streetsblog.

If you get a chance to ride the new cars, please post about the experience. What do you like, what don’t you like, and what would you like to see altered on future train orders?

  • crazyvag

    So the first cars arrived in August 2016. And nearly 18 months later, we only have a total of 20 cars?

  • Edward

    The first cars were shipped for testing to find any problems. Why would you not wait for the problems to be found before manufacturing more cars? Remember when the original cars arrived (if you are old enough) and a train ran off the end of the track in Daly City because the fail mode was to speed up not to slow down?

  • Affen_Theater

    @Roger: BART’s notoriously deafening wheel noise associated with the foolish decision to use a cylindrical (vs. conical/tapered) wheel profile is chiefly one of rail corrugation — not friction. This 18-page 2016 conference presentation goes into excellent detail.

  • Roger R.

    Thanks Affen. Interesting link (I think I’ve seen that presentation before). We’ve written about this before, https://sf.streetsblog.org/2017/10/16/bart-makes-some-progress-on-noise/ You’re right of course (although friction is what leads to the corrugation). I was just trying to keep things simple for this post and not get too far off on a tangent.

  • p_chazz

    I thought that happened in Fremont…

  • Edward

    I checked. You’re right. The train went into the sandbox at the end of track when the electronics misinterpreted the speed signal and the train sped up instead of slowing down. The operator hit the emergency button but it was too late. BART trains were designed to be run without an operator and will merrily run from station to station doing their job without anyone in the cab. It has happened on occasion and nobody but the operator (who had left the cab) noticed.

  • Affen_Theater

    @disqus_xAyKh6iUKV:disqus I wanted to better understand your “friction leads to corrugation” statement and tried to read up further on corrugation. Turns out it’s not at all that simple.

    It seems rail corrugation going back for at least 100 years, has been a poorly-understood, complex, vexing and increasingly costly problem:



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