Notice anything different on BART?
Fifty-one railcars out of BART's 669-car fleet are being outfitted with new cobalt blue seats, replacing the sagging, dingy cushions from the metal frames. The money is coming from $750,000 in projected surplus funds for train cleaning and seat replacement.
The money is being used also for costs associated with the project, such as Dumpster rental, cleaning materials and dry cleaning. Some of the once-blue seats had faded to appear tan or gray while others were marred with chewing gum and stains.
The new seats, in contrast, are plump and look inviting. They have "new fabric with more comfortable cushions," said Jeff Baker, BART assistant maintenance superintendent for car appearance.
Customers have given declining marks for cleanliness each of the past four quarters, according to passenger survey data contained in BART's Quarterly Performance Report. For the most recent quarter (Q4 2010, April-June 2010), customers rated cleanliness at 2.67 on a scale where 4 is "excellent," 3 is "good," 2 is "only fair" and 1 is "poor."
"The cars are cleaned every day," said Randy LaBeske, assistant shop superintendent at the Hayward maintenance yard. "At the end of the night, the cars come into the yard, and there are car cleaners that work from 9 at night to 5 in the morning. And they go through every single car and clean them."
Officials note that riders can do their part to help keep BART cars cleaner by not eating or drinking on the train, not putting their feet on seats, and not leaving behind waste such as old newspapers or used tissues.
A floor replacement project, in which carpets are replaced with a composite flooring material, is also under way.
BART's Board approved the cleanup project at its July 22 meeting. It put off a decision to use $2.3 million in other surplus revenues for a temporary fare rollback until a future meeting but it finalized plans to use much of the $4.5 million in projected surplus revenues in this current budget year as follows:
* $1 million for BART's rainy-day reserves, bringing total reserves to $25 million
* $750,000 for replacement of seats and deep-cleaning of 50 rail cars
* $200,000 to defer an increase in East Bay paratransit fares for four months
* $150,000 for emergency operations and BART Police facilities
* $100,000 to improve station agent customer service
* $75,000 for real-time information monitors to be installed at locations near BART stations
* $62,000 to convert four part-time utility workers to full-time
In the long term over the next decade, BART has a plan to replace the entire fleet of railcars. Once the design phase begins for that project, BART will seek customer input on features such as flooring and seating materials.