BART Howl Becoming a Whisper?

Streetsblog rides "Fleet of the Future" through Transbay for a true test of noise insulation

The new BART train about to leave Civic Center station. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The new BART train about to leave Civic Center station. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

BART’s new “Fleet of the Future,” whatever other problems it may have, is really, really quiet.

When Streetsblog took a review-ride on one of BART’s new train sets when it first went into limited service last year, it was hard to evaluate one of the most important differences between the new fleet and the old: noise levels. There’s a big distinction between how a train sounds running on a viaduct or through a short tunnel in Oakland, versus cooking along at 80 mph in the 3.6 mile tunnel under the Bay.

Obviously, the latter generates far more noise and reverberation. So riding the new train in the East Bay only says so much about its noise performance. And for a long time, that was the only place BART was running them.

Peering out the front in West Oakland, moments before the moment of truth--the Transbay crossing
Peering out the front on approach into West Oakland, moments before the moment of truth: the Transbay crossing

But the agency is now running them under the Bay to San Francisco as well.

The first time I set out to ride one under the Bay last month, the run was cancelled due to an unspecified glitch. Yesterday, I finally got to go for a trip through the tube, on an off-peak train assigned to the Green Line between Warm Springs and Daly City.

What a difference 40 years of sound-proofing and wheel-on-rail interface technology can accomplish! The ride was smooth, quiet and–well, the only thing I can liken it to is riding the Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel. There’s just a whirring sound.

BART has also been working steadily to replace and grind rails and wheels on the conventional fleet to make them quieter too. Once that’s done and the new fleet is fully deployed, the BART howl will become just something to read about in history books.

Well done, BART.

IMG_20181212_112609
The interior of a new BART train, in service, in San Francisco

BART is spending a reported $2.6 billion for 775 new cars, which will be delivered over the next several years. “As of November 2018, 45 new cars are available for revenue service, with two 10-car trains in regular service,” according to a BART release. “By end of year 2018, BART expects to have at least three 10-car trains in regular service on the yellow, green and red lines.”

Have you ridden the new trains across the Bay? What were your impressions? Post below.

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