A BART train heads toward the Transbay Tube from West Oakland Station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A BART train heads toward the Transbay Tube from West Oakland Station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

BART seeks proposals for reusing old train cars

Majority of older cars will be recycled as agency transitions to ‘Fleet of the Future’

By Eli Walsh

Bay City News Foundation

BART will soon allow members of the public to submit proposals for how to use some train cars after they’ve been decommissioned, agency officials said Thursday.

The transit agency is currently in the process of swapping its old train cars, some of which have been in service since BART’s founding in the 1970s, for new, upgraded cars with features like modular seating and better air flow. While many of the old train cars will be dismantled and recycled, the public will have the chance in January to propose turning some of the cars into options like museum exhibits, restaurants, training tools for law enforcement and public safety officials and a potential BART merchandise store.

Multiple BART Board directors said they have seen constituents expressing hope that the old cars will stick around in some capacity and not be scrapped altogether.

“I think it’s efforts like this that we should really keep pushing out and using this opportunity to build up that branding and build up that love,” BART Board Director Janice Li said.

Board Director Mark Foley suggested the decommissioned cars could also find a second life as shelters for homeless residents or displaced fire victims.

“I know these are not very mobile but if we could think outside the box and identify a way – these are enclosed shelters, if you will – that we could repurpose,” he said.

The agency has, to date, sent 15 cars to be stripped and shredded by companies like Schnitzer Steel in the Port of Oakland. The board is expected to vote on a contract to recycle many of the remaining train cars later this year.

BART collects about $310 per recycled train car, according to agency officials. The fair market value for the cars is also less than $5,000, meaning a requirement to pay the Federal Transit Administration a percentage of the sale price will not apply once the cars are sold to public and private entities.

BART officials expect to open a call for proposals to purchase old train cars and equipment in January, with a selection of applicants scheduled for June 2021. The cars would then be delivered to their new owners in the first quarter of 2022.

The agency expects fewer than 100 old cars to be bought by members of the public. Other transit agencies that have run similar programs to repurpose old train cars reported selling fewer than 10, according to Special Projects Manager for Decommissioning Brian Tsukamoto.

“It’s a shame that we don’t have an empty station we can use as a transit museum like the wonderful museum in New York,” Board Director Rebecca Saltzman said, referencing the New York Transit Museum.

BART officials expect a significant majority of the agency’s current fleet of roughly 650 legacy cars will be recycled or sold to the public to make room for the so-called Fleet of the Future cars.

Members of the public will be able to express interest in purchasing one of the old train cars by emailing legacycars@bart.gov. The agency requires all proposals to meet certain guidelines like having a positive representation of BART’s brand and little to no negative impact on the environment.

“We’d like to see proposals that make a positive contribution to the community,” Tsukamoto said. “There are a lot of creative people in the Bay Area, and we’re excited to see the ideas for giving these cars a new life.”

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