via Bay Citizen
BART will replace its notoriously grimy cloth seats with brand-new, easy-to-clean seats much sooner than anyone thought.
In a surprise announcement Thursday, BART officials said the transit agency is set to spend $1.3 million to order more than 5,000 padded vinyl seats that it will install in 100 BART cars in the next six to nine months.
“Whenever we make a major change like this, we want customers to try it out and get their feedback,” said Paul Oversier, assistant general manager of operations. “We hope the cleanliness and aesthetics will be better.”
The existing blue fabric BART seats have been in the spotlight since a Bay Citizen investigation found drug-resistant fecal and skin-borne bacteria as well as mold on them.
In response to the public outcry, BART promised spend $2 million next year to replace some of the current cloth seats with newer ones. But BART officials had repeatedly said the customers wouldn’t see seats made of an easier-to-clean material until the transit agency ordered its fleet of new trains in 2018.
Now, commuters will have a good chance of sitting in the brand-new seats, since one of every six BART cars will soon have them.
The new blue-and-gray seats are similar to those used in Washington’s metro system. Oversier described them as a “high-end” combination of comfort and cleanliness. BART’s signature cushions will remain, but they will now be shielded by a nonporous vinyl cover that can be easily wiped down and disinfected every night.
The design meets the desires of riders who overwhelmingly told BART they wanted cleaner seats in a series of seating labs held earlier this year.
Oversier said BART could have gone with cheaper hard plastic seats, but said the agency wanted to fight filth while still maintaining a comfortable ride. He said the vinyl seats are actually less expensive than new cloth seats, which cost $15,000 for a car’s worth.
BART officials have acknowledged that the carpeted floors and cloth seats are a relic of a bygone era when the trains carried fewer passengers and were built to draw suburban commuters out of the cars. Now, BART carries about 350,000 people every day, many of whom use the trains to travel short distances.
Oversier said that the timetable for installing the new seats was accelerated because it took less time than anticipated to find materials that complied with strict safety regulations implemented after a deadly 1979 fire in the Transbay Tube.