New BART cars were unveiled Sunday at MacArthur Station during an open house event. The cars come equipped with electronic maps and brightly colored seating, among other features.

BART unveils new cars ahead of November vote

on October 24, 2016

Hundreds lined up at MacArthur Station on Sunday afternoon to get an early glimpse of the new BART trains with lime green and blue padded seats, fresh paint jobs and wheels that won’t screech. Inside the cars, children played with the toy trains they received while their parents peppered officials with questions about the improved air conditioning.

The unveiling of the new trains marked the beginning of what Bay Area Rapid Transit officials hope will be a major overhaul of the system’s 1970s transit technology. BART has faced a myriad of infrastructure problems in recent years, causing delays and, in some cases, the need for buses to route riders around broken segments of track.

The showing, along with events at other stations throughout the month, comes as BART seeks $3.5 billion from taxpayers in November’s election to give the system its first comprehensive makeover since it began running in 1972. In addition to the paying for the new cars, which cost $2.5 million each, the tax increase would allow BART to rebuild 90 miles of track and repair tunnels.

At the event, officials explained how the new cars would offer a quieter ride and put a stop to the signature screech that riders have winced at for decades. The cars will also feature more energy-efficient motors, wall-mounted electronic maps and increased standing room thanks to fewer seats.

Should testing go according to plan, the cars could begin operating early next year, according to Robert Raburn, a BART board member who spent the afternoon showing visitors around.

He said they planned to gradually phase in the cars over the next five years to replace the current fleet of nearly 700 cars. BART eventually wants to increase its number of cars to over 1,000 to keep up with the 25 percent increase in daily ridership it projects over the next decade.

To do this, the system would eventually need a modernized train control system to allow trains to run closer together.

“A new system would let trains ping each other about where they are,” said BART official Zakhary Mallett, noting the technology could shave off three minutes between train deployments. The current system allows only one train at a time to pass through a given segment of track.

Train enthusiast and software engineer Ian Rees wore a T-shirt with racing locomotives especially for the occasion. He said he came because many of his fellow rail lovers were there, too. “I’m most excited that they’re going to be quieter,” said Rees, who commutes on BART daily from Oakland to San Francisco.

Dominic Lucchesi, an occasional rider from Oakland, said the spruced up interior stood out for him. “It’s like a toy train almost,” Lucchesi said, pointing to the cars’ fluorescent green seats and clean windows without the dim yellow tint of the older cars.

The unveiling of BART’s new trains isn’t the effort in the Bay Area to expand rail transportation. At last week’s Rail-Volution conference in San Francisco, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Principal Matthew Maloney said the MTC and BART are looking into building a second tube under the bay, a project which he estimates could cost as much as $10 to 15 billion.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which operates a passenger train line from San Jose through Oakland to Sacramento, is also asking for public support as it prepares a proposal for its own multibillion-dollar expansion.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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