BART achieves rare benchmark in train station cleanliness

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerNo more cringing: BART has replaced 206 squalid cloth seat covers with easy-to-clean vinyl upholstery; more are on the way.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerNo more cringing: BART has replaced 206 squalid cloth seat covers with easy-to-clean vinyl upholstery; more are on the way.

For years, BART’s train interiors have been bywords for dirt, grease and other filthy things most people would prefer not to know about.

However, the agency is finally starting to make strides in its never-ending battle against grime. During the most recent quarter of this fiscal year, BART actually met its goals for train interior cleanliness — the first time in the 15-plus years of its reporting that the agency has achieved that mark.

Every reporting period, BART collects passenger survey reports in which customers are asked to rate the vehicles on a scale of one to four, with one representing poor conditions and four indicating excellence. BART passengers gave the trains a cumulative score of 2.72 between July and September, the first time the agency had ever surpassed its goal of 2.70.

Replacing 206 stain-covered cloth seat covers with new vinyl upholstery and installing new floor surfaces on 406 trains have been the main contributing factors to BART’s rise to respectability, said agency spokeswoman Alicia Trost. BART hopes to have new seat cushions on 439 trains by next July, and is currently adding the hard-surface floors at a rate of two trains per week. The goal is to have all trains outfitted with the new cushions and floors by 2015, Trost said.

“The new floors and seats are really making an impact,” Trost said. “They improve the overall experience of riding our trains. Passengers seek out the cars with the new seat decal before boarding. With record ridership, our crews are working extra hard to make everyone’s ride more enjoyable.”

The agency was able to fund the seat and floor replacement programs through the 2009 federal stimulus project and by devoting portions of its 2011 operating budget surplus to the plan.

BART will receive a fleet of new trains starting in 2017. Trost said replacing the seats on the agency’s 40-year-old trains in the interim was the obvious thing to do.

Director Tom Radulovich, who has recently made the rounds on the agency’s trains as part of his re-election campaign efforts, said passengers are clearly pleased with the new look.

“It’s great to see you invest in something and see it pay off,” Radulovich said. “I think our passengers are really responding to our efforts to improve the BART system.”

Kate Randolph, a Berkeley resident who takes BART about three times a week to San Francisco, said she has definitely noticed a difference in the trains’ interiors.

“I love boarding a BART train and seeing those new seats,” Randolph said. “Those plastic covers are a huge upgrade from the old seats.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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