Vinyl Seat Trial: Frequently Asked Questions


Vinyl Seat Trial: Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Why is BART doing a trial of vinyl seats?
A. BART passengers have concerns about the older wool fabric seat covers. BART’s trial will give customers and BART staff a chance to judge whether or not vinyl, cushioned seats strike a modern balance between cleanliness and comfort – an important consideration as we move forward toward replacing the entire fleet. In an earlier series of seat lab surveys, respondents indicated a strong preference for vinyl, cushioned seats.


Q. Why not just wait until the whole new fleet arrives?
A. This interim step lets us try out the vinyl seats before committing to them in the entire fleet, and it also gives the public a chance to try them out sooner, rather than waiting several years for the new fleet to arrive. 


Q. How many vinyl seats will there be?
A. For the initial trial, there will be vinyl in place of fabric on the seats in 100 train cars. If the response from the trial operation and the public feedback is positive, BART has an option to purchase another 100 car set of new seats. 


Q. What will this trial cost?
A. The Board of Directors has authorized a contract for approx $1.9 million for the trial, including both the initial 100 car sets and the option to purchase seats for another 100 cars.


Q. What is the funding source for this project?
A. The funds are BART Capital funds.


Q. Which lines are going to get the cars with the vinyl seats? How will you make sure everyone gets a chance to try them?
A. Cars with the new seat covers will be rotated throughout all BART lines.


Q. Who will manufacture the new seats?
A. The Board awarded the contract to Seda, which will manufacture the seats. The company that designed and manufactures the vinyl material is Omnova.  Omnova specifically designs vinyl for transit. Omnova’s product meets BART’s strict standards for durability, safety and environmental sustainability.


Q. What is the life cycle for the new fabric?
A. One of the most important aspects of this seat covering option is that the company that manufactures it -- Omnova -- has distinguished itself as a leader in “end of life” strategies for its products. When the material is no longer useful, instead of trashing it, the company reclaims the vinyl for other purposes.


Q. When will the trial begin? 
A. The first cars with the vinyl seats will be in operation April 21st, rolling out as the seats are installed at a pace of several cars per week until the full 100 are in service. 


new seat decalQ. How will public input be gathered?
A.  Each car with vinyl seats will be marked with a special decal (see PDF). On-board survey takers will interview riders on the cars with the new seats and collect their input, which will be analyzed and reported back to the BART Board, and the public, so BART can decide whether to buy another 100 car sets. Comments can also be submitted through an email address or text messaging, which will be used as factors in considering the overall feedback; however, the scientific, random on-board survey results will be the key factor driving the decision whether to buy another 100.


Q. What about the issue of people who have sensitivities?
A.  Omnova is aware of this concern and has employed techniques to address these concerns.  The material is heat treated and also aerated during freight. This allows the material to arrive ready for installation.


Q. You’ve said the new vinyl seats will be easier to clean than the current wool fabric ones. How will the new process be different?
A. The existing wool fabric seat covers are removed in whole and dry cleaned when necessary, a time-consuming and expensive process. The new vinyl seats will be cleaned in place using an antibacterial cleaner.  


Q. How will you deal with the issue of vandalism and is this type of seat more susceptible to vandalism?
A. Any seat type can be susceptible to vandalism.  We will continue our efforts of enforcement and ask for the public’s help in reporting any problem. You can always contact BART Police at 510.464.7000.


Q. How will these seats perform in warm weather?
A. The seats will be comparable to vinyl seats in a personal automobile. They are likely to be hotter in warm weather and cooler in cold weather than fabric seats. If you have sensitive skin, are wearing shorts, or supervising children or infants with exposed skin, you may wish to test the temperature of the seat with your hand if the seat appears to be in direct sunlight on a hot day. 


Q. How will visually impaired riders know which cars to get on to test out the new seats, if the decals are only printed on the sides of the cars?
A. Train operators will make public announcements on the train to let the passengers know which cars in the train have vinyl seats.


Q. Why were Seda and Omnova selected?
A. Seda was the lowest-priced, qualified seat manufacturer. The vinyl is manufactured by Omnova, which was selected because it met BART’s engineering specs for durability, foam density and environmentally safe; including passing BART’s smoke, flame and toxicity tests.  


Q. Will this vinyl seat trial bring any new job benefits to the Bay Area?
A. The new seat installation provides continuing jobs for workers who install, clean and maintain seats on BART.


Q. Is there any reconfiguration to the cars getting the new vinyl seats, or is it the exact same configuration simply with new seats?
A. The configuration and number of seats will be the same.


Q. When will you announce the results of the survey and how you will make them public?
A. The deadline to make a decision on whether to order another 100 cars is approximately June 8, 2012, which is 90 days from the product shipment date of the original order. Before then, the results of the survey will be analyzed, announced and posted on the website.


Q. What happens if the trial indicates the vinyl is not preferred?
A. We will go back to wool until we find another alternative.