BART Train of Tomorrow Debuts to Mixed Reviews

April 17, 2014 10:30 am · 37 comments



Hundreds turned out in San Francisco on Wednesday to tour the BART train of tomorrow, but not everyone was on board with what they saw.

BART Board President Joel Keller proudly showed off some of the features of the new, 30,000-pound aluminum-body model train car, on display in Justin Herman Plaza.

The new cars, scheduled to begin service in 2017, will have quieter doors, easy-to-clean vinyl-covered seats with lumbar support, additional intercom systems to improve communication between riders and train conductors, and LED screens for next-stop information.

Officials are also testing a system to transmit train announcements directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants. Chief Marketing Officer Aaron Weinstein said BART is going to be one of the first transit systems in the country to use that feature.

The newer cars will also have as many as 12 priority seats for seniors and the disabled – an improvement over the eight available now.

Disabled riders were out in force, however, to protest some features of the new design.

“The new seats don’t have the right pitch,” said Lisa Maria Martinez of Lighthouse for the Blind. “If you have a service animal right now, any guide dog user can tuck your dog right under the seat. These new seats don’t allow for that. So the dog will have to be in the aisle on the floor where everyone’s standing.”

But Keller said the new seats are actually a bit higher than the old ones, to allow people to store things underneath.

Disabled-rights groups were also objecting to a vertical handrail near the doors for people to hold onto when they can’t find seats.

“The pole will be in the way,” said Roland Wang, a wheelchair-bound San Francisco resident, said after his tour of the train car. “Me getting in here, I had to really focus not to bump into anything and navigate about the train. So, it’s a big concern.”

Keller said that the BART board is sensitive to this particular concern.

“Look, this is something that we have to be mindful of the needs of a lot of different riders. I don’t think anybody in the BART system wants to deny people in wheelchairs access to our system. But I think many people want to provide an additional amenity to provide safety, particularly to seniors,” Keller said.

He also said that BART wants to continue to meet with people who are advocates for both seniors and for the disabled, to see if they can find a compromise.

San Francisco resident Miguel Peralta, who is able-bodied and rides BART every day, said he’s a fan of the new hand-hold because the trains are often overcrowded. “It splits into three, so more people can grab onto it. It’s a little more thoughtful than the old system,” he said.

The fleet of the future will hopefully help with overcrowding as well.

Though the new cars are only expected to have 54 seats – a reduction from the current 58 – there will be more cars in the fleet.

Today there are 669 train cars. BART has already ordered 775 new cars, and hopes to find the funding to order a total of 1,000. If they are successful, it will mean an estimated 38 percent increase in available seats for BART’s 400,000 daily riders.

One feature that all riders can agree on: the new cars aren’t expected to raise the cost of rides.

Weinstein says that funding for the new fleet, about $3 billion, is coming mostly from federal grants and from increases in rider fares that have already occurred.

Riders also have from now until May 9 to give their two cents on the final design of the cars.

The model will be on display in nine other locations, and the public is urged to weigh in at one of those viewings. The schedule can be found at

photo credit: Jules Bernstein

PO'd April 17, 2014 at 10:35 AM

I’d trade all the new cars for more patrols in the BART stations-what good is new hardware when you can get mugged after reaching your destination?

Mr. Pink April 17, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Will there be less crime on these new trains?

Class of 90 CVHS April 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM

You will always get people complaining. If the goal is to please all, it will never work. Somehow though, in this PC world, we seem to aim to please thr very few who scream the loudest, and not the majority decisions impact.

Rob April 17, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Looks better to me.

We're not the 1% April 17, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Will we have to pay more for Bed Bugs?

Dorothy April 17, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Remember the promise that everyone would have a seat? Remember how many people were standing last time anyone rode BART except at a very few times of a day? Notice that there are even less seats on the model? Almost surprised that there are any seats at all since you can pack more people in standing than sitting.

@#3 – Not complaining because of the goal, just complaining that there will be less seats than ever and more standees. Not exactly sure I really enjoy having a seat on the isle even now, which I try not to do, with standees bags hitting me or having their butts or crotches pressed up against me.

Guillermo Elenes April 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

As a disabled BART rider I share the concern over access.
The current setup is not ideal (limiting turning radius for Wheelchairs is awful) spending millions aon a vehicle that does not meet ADA requirement is poor policy, let’s re-design today so we don’t have to sue tomorrow

For those commenting on safety as if somehow making accessibility a priority would distract fund from addressing crime, think just a bit, who is more likely to be victimized? a blind rider or PO’d ?

ClayDen April 17, 2014 at 12:10 PM

Ryanair (an airline based in Ireland) tried to put “vertical seats” in some of its 737s to cram more passengers in. However the government wouldn’t allow it.

Joey the disabled helper April 17, 2014 at 12:13 PM

I like the new design, looks like there is plenty of room, but a few less seats are okay if the overall flow is better. I used to help a disabled lady and she would like the new cars a lot more due to the additional hand holds, especially the vertical one by the door, would help her a lot as she loses her balance really easily on her wheelchair. Will never please every disable person as each has totally different needs and problems.

Native April 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Not a fan of bike stalls. Encourages more bicycles that should be banned during commutes.

Pleasant Hill Resident I April 17, 2014 at 12:48 PM

I love the idea of the LED screens with next stop info! I don’t care much about the other features — just promise me that the AC will actually work on these new trains and I’m a happy camper!

anon April 17, 2014 at 12:57 PM

UGH. Piss and moan!!!! To the disabled: I am sorry for your situation. I really am. But for BART and every other business out there to accommodate you and spend BIG money to do it…it really has become so out of hand how far these companies have to go. Reality: MOST of the patrons don’t have issues, the majority are who companies SHOULD be catering to.

I know there are things we should help you with, but did you see that in one post above? The threat of suing. It’s so out of whack, I can’t stand it.

Whine Whine April 17, 2014 at 1:14 PM

They look fine. I’m not worried about these at all. Less seats is weird, but the reality is most riders spend most of their day on their ass anyway. It’ll do your muscles good to stand for an hour. When I have a seat on a crowded train, I’ll make it available for elderly people, fat people and blue collar workers that look like they’ve been on their feet busting their butts all day. Me I can survive a 45-minute ride from Oakland to N. Concord standing. No problem, no complaining.

gratt April 17, 2014 at 1:14 PM

some people should just retire if they are older than 60 and obese

oldman April 17, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Agree with you. We live in a minority entitlement culture.

Wayne Landana April 17, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Easier to clean… but will they? The train cars they have now are always filthy – the outside and inside. Much of it is a result of people who eat and drink on the cars even though signs prohibit this. I doubt the new cars will cause people to change. Give a year or two max, and we’ll be looking at the next fleet because this one will be trashed.

anon April 17, 2014 at 1:35 PM

The train is no designed for use by disabled people only. It’s for use by everybody. Enough compromises have already been made.

Guillermo Elenes April 17, 2014 at 1:44 PM

How bold of you to troll my post with a Anon comment, fact remains that disabled riders have no options but public transportation.

I don’t need you to feel sorry, just accept that I am a person that has a right to access,.

don’t wanna get dragged into court? only solution is to respect the law (ADA)

Also you might not know that BART is not a company, it’s a quasi-government agency (special tax district) basically they are obligated by the constitution (US and California) to take action to prevent access discrimination.

Julio April 17, 2014 at 2:24 PM

My brother says this does not add seats. There are fewer seats and more standing/bike room in the new cars.

anon April 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM

@18 How’s Carlos doing?

Whine Whine April 17, 2014 at 2:36 PM

What are you on about Guillermo? I saw someone in a wheelchair just the other day roll herself all the way up the ramp at the station, down the elevator, onto the platform and into and ultimately out of the train, no problemo. I noticed all this because she ended up in my train car and despite having no legs, she was pretty darn cute. I digress, the point is, turn radius shmurn radius. Maybe you need a better wheelchair, because the only problem this girl had on BART was when she dropped her cell phone and it slid under one of the seats. Of course half the guys in the car jumped to get it for her, so it worked out okay.

Whine Whine April 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

And another thing Guillermo (if that is your real name), I frickin hate BART soooooooo much it makes me warm inside, but I think they actually do a pretty decent job accommodating disabled persons. There always letting you know when an elevator is out of service and I’ve never seen my cute wheelchair crush or the blind guy from my neighborhood have any problems or complain about anything. If you’re in a wheelchair, things are going to be a little tough. That’s a given, but I didn’t think BART makes them any tougher.

Thanks Joel April 17, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Joel Keller from up Antioch way, how quickly they turn their back. Antioch and East county after all those years of paying BART taxes have been repeatedly given the dirty end of the BART stick.

I can see already April 17, 2014 at 4:17 PM

that those dark curtains are going to be a problem. Not only will they get in the way of connecting to the third rail, but they’ll be stolen. There is a huge black market for black curtains these days.

@ 7 - Guillermo April 17, 2014 at 4:18 PM

…”let’s re-design today so we don’t have to sue tomorrow”

I would hope you would make your voice heard today instead of tomorrow. Not here but a simple email to the BART website.

Jerk April 17, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Yeah, that skirting is not going to last 🙂

Silva April 17, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Uh, In case you haven’t noticed, ALL DISABILITIES AREN’T THE SAME. Everybody, and this includes ALL PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES are guaranteed access everywhere, thanks to the Americans with disabilities act.

anon April 17, 2014 at 5:25 PM

How much money did it take to build a model train? What a waste of money! Are they going to recycle the 30,000-pound aluminum-body?

FRANCIS BARKER April 17, 2014 at 5:51 PM

The homeless people are just gonna miss up the trains with the same stuff of what they do to the trains today.I guarantee in like a month after the new trains open the homeless people are going to trash those trains.

incoming April 17, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Seriously, aren’t the black curtains
a little overly dramatic? They’re
going to get shredded at higher

BART April 17, 2014 at 7:42 PM

I’m going back to driving. I love the skinny people sit by the window and fat people on the interior design. I refuse to become a cow in a crowded death-trap BART cattle car. The new cars should have as many seats as the old cars; we are not muni riders, BART passengers have long commutes. Quit trying to make BART like MUNI. I love the bile green so you can’t see the puke.,

BART April 17, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Yeah, and if Joel Keller runs for anything don’t VOTE FOR HIM. E-BART what a rip off on east county taxpayers.

How rude.. April 18, 2014 at 7:03 AM

I would love a vertical pole by the door to hold on to when I can’t find a seat. That’s so rude that handicapped people only think of themselves and what’s convenient for them. Obviously BART designers tried to cover all rider aspects (i.e. ease for handicaps).

I worked a standing 16 hour shift at a 49’er game and had to stand the entire way home on Bart. From SF- Concord. It was whatever, I didn’t mind, but it would have been nicer to have a hand rail that I didn’t have to hold my arms above my head to use.

Handicapped people probably forget how much legs hurt when you’ve been standing on them for 18 hours. (16 hour shift, 2 hour commute [standing])

@26 and 30 April 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

The new car is clearly a hovercraft and the skirting will look much better when it inflates.

Mustang Sally April 18, 2014 at 8:55 AM

What’s up with the us and them stuff? Anyone can end up with a handicap overnight! Silly.

RunDogRun April 18, 2014 at 10:08 AM

If there’s a vertical pole,
will there be strippers?

gratt April 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM

give up politics and get a real healthy life, anyone can do that job blimp

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