New BART seats mean cleaner ride

Cushions make commute more comfortable, too

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.

Xuan Lam, a BART Website intern, contributed to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of Foothill Place
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:26 am

Why does BART continue to try and keep cloth seats? Wouldn't it be better to install more of the fold up seats in a hard plastic? More seats per square foot and easier to maintain, right?

Like this comment
Posted by Daniel Bradford
a resident of Foothill High School
on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

Those new seats will be clean for approximately one day. At the end of the day, they will have grime from people's shoes (used as footrests), spilled drinks, ground-in food, heaps of trash, and...a couple of other things I'll not mention but leave to everyone's fertile imaginations.

I agree with Member: cloth seats on public transport are not a good idea. Airlines use them, of course, but airplanes are also cleaned after each flight.

I don't think the flip-up seats, such as the ones on Tokyo's subway, are necessarily the best idea: I can imagine the hinges getting worn over time and if the seat falls down onto somebody's hand or foot, you know there will be a lawsuit!

Yes, hard plastic seats are not very comfortable, but BART riders have nobody to blame but themselves; the trains are rolling trash bins and the "no food, no drink" and "don't leave trash" rules are honored more in the breach than the observance.

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Posted by Grace
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Aug 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

I agree that the padded cloth seats are really not the choice for BART with its heavy daily ridership. The trains may indeed be "cleaned" every night, but I imagine that this involves a cursory floor cleaning and a possible occasional vacuuming of the seats themselves. I'm not the only one who has sat down quickly to gain a seat on the train, only to find it disgustingly damp with urine... GROSS! You soon learn to tentatively put your fingers on the seat to test for dampness before sitting. And if you slap the back cushion, plumes of dust and dirt come flying into the air... also quite disgusting.

Most other subway/rail systems have the hard plastic seats and non-carpeted floors that make for easier cleaning, maintenance, and a more pleasant atmosphere for riders. A little more uncomfortable in the tush, but a lot more hygienic. BART could also put in straps for those riders who aren't tall enough to reach the top rail comfortably when standing... women going to work in skirts or waist-length tops have quite a dilemma when there are no seats and no wall available to lean against. May be amusing or titillating for the males around, but it's really not very pleasant.

Like this comment
Posted by Paula
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm

The train servicing the suburbs of New York City has high-backed leatherette booth-like seats. You can buy a ticket on the train from the conductor when he comes through. You don't have to risk missing your train if you don't have time to buy a ticket, you just jump on and buy one on board. You can bring food and drink on the train, in fact, Grand Central Station is full of bakeries, pizza places, you name it, and you can bring it all on board.

Like this comment
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm

My limited usage of BART is primarily to attend Giants' games, and an occasional trip to The City. Last week was one of those times, and I'd like to share my experience with you.
When my grandson and I boarded in PL, we were seated across the aisle from a young couple; the girl was apparently quite pregnant, and she and the young man were sharing a beer bottle. Don't truly know if it contained beer, but it appeared so. Right over their heads was the "No Food or Drinks" sign. Three seats in front of them, an Asian woman boarded at about the San Leandro stop. She immediately opened her bag, and began eating her dinner, with chop-sticks. She had a salad, on which she had poured dressing of her choice, some pork or chicken, and that was not a pleasing sight with chopsticks. As I embarked at Embarcadero station, I did point out the sign I referred to above, and her response was to pull out a granola bar for desert!
I know it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce the rules a bit more, but it is obvious BART needs to try! Perhaps some "advertising" campaign would be appropriate and beneficial. I look forward to the the "new/cleaner" cars.

Like this comment
Posted by Pro-Law
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I find it amazing Cal-Train is able to be clean while allowing food and alcohol to be consumed on trains. Maybe BART can ask them what their secret is?

Like this comment
Posted by zale
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

The cloth seat is a comfort...I wouldn't want hard squeaky plastic to sit on. What has to happen is BART police needs to get off their duff and work the trains! In addition, the morale of the cleaning crew is down because of bad management. I won't mention any names but Dave is a non-inspiring manager.

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Posted by Lee
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2010 at 8:31 am

The cloth seats are a problem. Dirt, dampness..yuck! Why don't we go to the highback leatherettes, like in NY? And the Bart police could work on the trains, enforcing the no food and drinks rules until people got used to that.

When I do ride to SF, I see trash and empty bottles everywhere.I try to pick up trash, bottles etc. and dump it in a trash can at the station when I get off. But the seats and floors are always dirty!!

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I use BART and RARELY sit on the dirty seats. I don't mind standing and I always wash my hands after a ride. Handy wipes!

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Posted by Daniel Bradford
a resident of Foothill High School
on Aug 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Any public transit authority that permits food and drink on trains or buses would be the exception rather than the rule, not only in the USA but around the world.

The difference is, public transit authorities in Europe and Japan and Taiwan actually enforce the rules. I saw a conductor on a British train put a young man off at the next stop for violating the "no food" rule (over his vigorous protest); same thing in Sweden. I never saw any Japanese or

But even without such enforcement, Europeans seem to value the cleanliness of their public transport more, or at least in the European countries I've visited. Perhaps others who have experience in other nations would share their experiences so we can do a little non-scientific sampling?

I'm not sure why BART riders are such slobs, but there are a lot of people who sneeze without covering their mouths, who eat, drink, and even smoke (I thought that was punishable by the death penalty in California!) on BART, practically grind the soles of their shoes into the seats, etc. I am by no means a germophobe, but I have taken to carrying a light blanket to cover BART seats because they are that disgusting.

Yes, I would prefer the comfort of cloth seats, but hard plastic is the only viable alternative unless someone can think of a way to keep our fellow BART users from befouling the trains.

I hadn't thought of the inconvenience and embarrassment caused to some female passengers by the lack of longer straps for them on BART; I hope when BART buys new carriages, they will take the opportunity to get ones that are re-designed to meet these concerns.

Like this comment
Posted by Grace
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Right, there are NO "rail straps" at all on the BART trains, while all other transit systems I've been on have some.

Like this comment
Posted by Expect Honesty from BARTD?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Originally the BARTD was built without ANY grab rails or straps.
They promised a comfortable seat for every passenger. They also promised a quiet ride. The rugs were much quieter than the new sprayed on flooring.

Remember, this is the same group that promised Livermore a station, and has been taking their money for over 40 years. Now they claim they want to build in such a way that they could get federal money for development nearby. They also tried to sell off the land that they bought for the Livermore station, near the 580, now used as a Park and Ride.
What happened to the federal and tax money they got in the first place?

Like this comment
Posted by Do the new seats burn?
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

The original seats and interior finish of the BARTD Cars was extremely flammable, and led to a huge fire that killed a firefighter during a fire in the Bay Tunnel.
It took years, but they claimed to have replaced with fire retardant materials-
Q> Are the new seats fire resistant?
Or have they "forgotten"?

Like this comment
Posted by Plastic seats are better
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Plastic seats would be better. If people are indeed as careless as some posts say (sneeze without covering their mouth, etc), then they are probably at risk of worse things, so you could get lice, etc. What is wrong with plastic seats?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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