BART riders try out new seat options at interactive lab 

BART riders jostled for arm space and tried out sample train seats from across the country today at an interactive lab intended to garner public input for the agency’s train replacement project.

Click the picture at right to see a slideshow of the event and different seats.

The lab is taking place in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza until 4 p.m. today. Participants are being asked to evaluate the seats, including their widths, the materials they are made of and how comfortable they are.

A steady stream of people trickled through the lab stations this morning as those running the lab prepared for a lunchtime rush.

“We picked this location because so many of our commuters — over half — are in this area,” said Adam Weinstein, a BART marketing and research department manager.

John and Betty Wright of San Francisco stopped by to weigh in. They had received an email from BART about the lab and decided to bring their 3-year-old grandson to evaluate the seats because he loves riding the trains.

Her grandson liked the soft fabric seat covers from Los Angeles, she said, but she preferred what she said are more sanitary options: hard plastic seats from Massachusetts or a seat with a vinyl-covered cushion from Washington, D.C.

“I always worry about the seats’ cleanliness,” Betty Wright said.

She also said that while BART’s current seats are nice and spacious, they don’t need to be so wide.

John Wright said the couple often visits relatives in Oakland and Berkeley and takes their grandkids to school on BART.

“We ride for short periods,” he said.

The agency has already held 10 interactive labs and has one more scheduled for June 30 in Milpitas.

Weinstein said BART has collected 2,000 surveys in person and another 1,000 online. “It seems to draw a lot of interest,” he said. “People are asking good questions and seem to be engaged.”

BART’s trains have not been replaced since the system was built in 1972, making them the oldest in the nation, Weinstein said.

A $3 billion dollar capital campaign is currently under way to fund the replacement project.

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