(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) When BART opened in 1972, its trains were ultra-modern: sleek and silver, with comfortable upholstered seats and the promise of a leisurely ride. Today, that’s more a vision than a reality. Most of the cars running have been on the tracks for decades, rush-hour trains are packed to the gills, and those comfy seats are germ bonanzas. This hasn’t escaped the attention of the agency, which is now designing what it calls “The Fleet of the Future” – brand-new cars, designed to handle more people, more effectively. They want public input, and they’re taking their show on the road: Monday morning, BART debuted its new mobile seat lab, a series of test seats that customers can try out for comfort, leg room, height, cleanliness and more. Over the next few months, officials will bring the test seats to neighborhoods and BART stations around the region to ask everyone from seniors to cyclists, parents and airport-goers, what they want from their trains.
Though they’re not explicitly testing it just yet, BART board president Bob Franklin acknowledged that cleanliness is a big issue. “They have to be easily cleaned,” he said. “Then we’ll make them as comfy as possible.”
As far as the redesign goes, this is just the beginning. In addition to reconfigured seats, the trains will likely have more doors, better bicycle accommodations, and information monitors, among other features. BART expects its fleet replacement project to take 13 years and cost nearly three and a half billion dollars. Want to throw in your two cents? Head over to the seat lab when it comes to your neighborhood (BART says the schedule is coming soon).