FAQ: Next Generation BART Trains
A big thanks to those of you who have filled out surveys or emailed comments to us about the next generation of BART train cars. Below are answers to frequent issues. To comment on BART’s new train cars, click here.
Q1: When will the new BART trains arrive?
A: The first ten train cars will be delivered to BART by Spring 2016, after which they will go through intensive testing to confirm safety and reliability. If the tests are successful, these first ten cars will go into service for BART customers as early as Fall 2016, after which more new cars will arrive monthly over a period of about five years. By 2019, BART's fleet size is expected to grow from 669 cars today to a target of 905 cars. This will provide enough cars to run 10 car trains on all peak service into San Francisco, and will increase the number of seats in the fleet by 26%.
Q2: Will new seats and floors be cleaner than the ones you have now?
A: Yes. We have heard loud and clear that most customers want seat upholstery and carpets removed in favor of easier-to-clean materials.
Q3: Will the cushions on the new seats stay firm?
A: Yes, for the new train cars we switch to silicone foam, in part because the compression of silicone foam over time is much less than the previous type of foam we used.
Q4: Will the new cars be less noisy on board?
A: Yes, BART is requiring the car builder to meet the highest standards in the United States regarding train car interior noise and noise absorption. To achieve this requirement, the new cars will have plug style doors that better seal out the noise.
BART is also working on ways to make the tracks quieter. BART recently bought new track maintenance equipment to improve the condition of the track and reduce the screeching noise heard by riders and neighbors. BART has conducted a number of experiments with different wheel metals and sound dampeners, and has found track maintenance to be the most effective solution so far.
Q5: Will the new train cars have as many seats as the old cars?
A: No, there will be a reduction of up to 4.6 seats per car. The new cars use thinner seat backs to help maximize seat count, and will be outfitted with as many seats as can fit within the available space.
Available space for seating is limited by new buffer zones at the ends of each car required for crash safety, and a third door on each car to make it faster and easier to get off the train. To increase the number of seats in the fleet, BART has set a goal to obtain funding to increase the number of cars purchased from 669 currently to 1,081 train cars in the future. This would increase the number of seats in the fleet by about 49%.
- 905 car plan is based on a mix of old and new cars, and could only be sustained after old cars are retired if additional funding and contract authority are identified. Current contract is for 775 cars.
- Use of 1,081 cars requires companion investment in train control upgrade.
Q6: Will you have open space to accommodate wheelchairs, luggage, and bikes?
A: Yes, the current designs include designated spaces for wheelchairs and bikes. In addition, by popular demand, BART seats will be mounted higher off the floor on the new train cars, making the seats more comfortable and increasing the amount of space under the seats to stow luggage. Also, designs for the new fleet include open seating areas designed to accommodate riders who want to keep their luggage close to them, customers with strollers, and customers who want a little more legroom.
Q7: Is it viable to have dedicated bike cars in set locations on BART trains?
A: No, BART cars reverse directions at the ends of the lines, and moreover are continuously coupled and uncoupled in between runs throughout the day. For these reasons, it is not possible to keep a “bike car” in a predictable position on a train. For example, a special car at the front of a train might be end up being at the back of the train later in the day. Or two 4-car trains might be joined to make an 8-car train with bike cars then in the middle as well as on the ends, greatly reducing seating for our riders. Instead of a dedicated bike car, the current design calls for one or more bike racks on each car to provide a predictable and convenient place to hold bikes during times when bikes are allowed on the trains.
Q8: Will the new car have more places for shorter people to hold on?
A: Yes, BART plans to increase the number of poles, handholds, and/or hand straps to better meet the needs of those who cannot reach overhead stanchions, as well as elderly and disabled customers who have told us they want more handholds near the doors to avoid losing their balance as trains accelerate or decelerate.
Q9: Can we have digital screens that tell us what station is the next stop?
A: Yes, we plan to have digital screens on the new trains to enhance passenger information. The new train cars will include six interior digital LCD screens, one next to each door, that will display a dynamic system or route map, next stop and transfer information, as well as travel advisories and other announcements.
Q10: Will the new cars be faster?
A: No. The new cars will still have a maximum speed of 80 miles per hour. To go faster than that, changes would need to be made, not only to the rail car propulsion systems, but also to other BART infrastructure. Still, the new cars can help reduce travel times by having more doors, which will lessen the time needed for passengers to board and alight the train at stations.
Q11: Why can’t you save money by delaying the purchase of new cars, or refurbishing the existing cars?
A: BART's existing fleet is the oldest fleet among large domestic transit agencies, according to the American Public Transportation Association. See table below for comparisons:
Over the next decade, BART train cars will continue to degrade and become more obsolete technologically. Most of the cars have already been overhauled, but are now approaching the end of their useful life.
Many BART car components have weathered over a million miles of travel over the last four decades. If we don’t replace the BART fleet, trains will break down more often and create delays for BART riders. Also, the cost to maintain the old fleet of cars will become a larger and larger burden on BART’s annual operating budget, making BART less affordable to riders. Time is of the essence to get new cars in operation.
Q12: Will the cars be "made in America" creating U.S. jobs?
A: Yes, Federal contracting provisions prohibit BART from placing any requirements on where in the U.S. assembly takes place or parts are manufactured, however final assembly of the car will take place in the United States and the cars will contain at least 2/3 American manufactured components, including the propulsion system, the brakes, the raw aluminum used for the body, and much of the electrical wiring.
Q13: Can BART require the new rail cars to be built locally, right here in the Bay Area?
A: No, federal contracting provisions prohibit BART from placing any requirements on where in the U.S. assembly must take place, or where parts must be manufactured. Nevertheless, jobs have been and will be created locally to support the design, commissioning, warranty and other activities associated with the project.
Q14: Will the new train cars be WiFi equipped?
A: Yes, the new train cars will be "WiFi ready." But for customers to enjoy quality WiFi service, coverage in BART stations and tunnels needs to expand. BART continues to work to extend WiFi coverage in the BART system.
Q15: Will the new train cars have charging stations for phones and other devices?
A: No. BART recognizes that charging stations would be a valuable feature, but does not plan to have them on the new cars because of the ongoing maintenance costs involved. Moreover, battery technology for mobile devices is expected to continue to improve dramatically in the coming years, reducing the need to charge devices during a typical BART trip (average travel time is approximately 20 minutes).
Q16: I heard the new trains use Seattle Seahawks colors? Is that true?
A: No, the primary Seahawks color is a dark navy, whereas the BART train cars use a traditional BART blue. The greens are also different. A 2014 survey of more than 7,000 customers showed that over 80% support the proposed color design for the new train cars.
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