Seat lab for BART's Fleet of the Future hits the road to gather public input

Seat lab for BART's Fleet of the Future hits the road to gather public input

Linda Drattell tries out a seat

Linda Drattell tries out a seat

First of nine meetings is Sunday, May 1

By Melissa Jordan
BART Senior Web Producer

The public gets its first look this week at an interactive seat lab where riders can give feedback on what they'd like to see in new BART train cars. It's part of the research for the Fleet of the Future -- the long-range project to replace BART's aging train cars, the oldest in the nation. (For more info visit

"I see this as a fantastic opportunity to actually look at a number of different designs," Janet Abelson, chair of BART's Accessibility Task Force, said as she toured the seat lab on Tuesday.  "It's been a really long time since BART has had an opportunity to update and upgrade the seating."

The first round of public input was on Monday and Tuesday from elected officials and groups with special needs such as senior citizens and riders with disabilities. Now, a mobile version of the seat lab will hit the road for a series of nine meetings for the general public -- one in every BART District. The first one is this Sunday, May 1, at Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, from 11 am to 3 pm.

Courtland "Corky" Boozé, Richmond city councilmember, was among those touring the seat lab on Tuesday.  "I think that everybody should have the opportunity to come out, really sit in the seats, see the closeness of the legs, see the new design of the trains, see the customer-friendly train that you’re trying to put together," he said. Boozé said some of the concerns he is hearing from constituents are about seat coverings, for cleanliness, and about features such as bars to hold on to, for senior citizens and others who may need added stability. "I’m really concerned about the seniors," he said. "I want to make sure that they’re comfortable."

Boozé's chief of staff, Jackie Thompson, also toured the seat lab. She said that as a larger person, she hopes BART does not choose narrower seats. At 22 inches, BART's seats are now among the widest of any transit agency in the world. Thompson tested out an example of a 17.5-inch-wide seat.  "I’m not comfortable" in this seat, she said. "I think the thing that would bother me here is if somebody else my size got on, we both would be uncomfortable even though we need to be seated."

Linda Drattell, a support specialist with the Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency, toured the lab, which seeks feedback not only on seats but also on other features of the new BART trains, such as passenger information. "I understand that there’s going to be electronic signage, and something like TV monitors that are going to offer information, and I would like very, very much if they would caption that and if they would also translate that to ASL (American Sign Language)," Drattell said.

Walter Gonzales, Alameda County representative for BART's Government and Community Relations department, said it's important to get public input. "We want to know what the public thinks, what do they want, what’s going to make the best ride for them on BART," he said.
BART is collecting surveys from all the people going through the seat lab, and will use that feedback for guidance on designing the new fleet of train cars. The schedule for all nine of the upcoming meetings is not yet set, but when it is available it will be posted at You can also access an email form there to send in your feedback, or sign up to receive news about the Fleet of the Future project.

For Sunday's seat lab at Fruitvale BART Station, enter at the corner of East 12th Street and 33rd Avenue.