Plans to redesign BART cars in an attempt to accommodate more people during peak commutes are on hold as more public outreach is conducted. (Gabrielle Lurie/2015 S.F. Examiner)

No wiggle room for BART car redesign

An effort by BART staff to permanently redesign trains to fit more people during crowded commutes met a roadblock Thursday: the agency’s Board of Directors.

The effort would’ve seen 380 train cars reconfigured to lose seven seats each. The loss of one seat means three people can stand, BART Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier told the board.

“They will have substantially higher capacity,” Oversier said about the BART cars.

That translates to room for about 4,700 more passengers during peak morning commutes, BART staff said — at a time when many riders have complained in surveys that trains pass them by, full to the brim with passengers.

But the board voted to delay the decision to reconfigure the fleet in order to allow for more public outreach.

The delay was requested by BART board director Joel Keller, who complained that the surveys BART staff used for outreach didn’t specify which BART district a rider lived in, or if they were people with disabilities, or other demographic data.

Keller chastised staff sternly, saying, “I have never experienced something this significant handled so informally.”

BART board director Rebecca Saltzman, however, contended, “Some of us want this to move forward.”

Still, Saltzman requested further outreach be done, and the issue may come back to the BART board’s next meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 15.

The modifications would cost $4,700 per train car, for a total of $1.7 million, staff said, but the increased ridership would have a “positive impact” on fare box revenue due to the additional passengers BART could carry.

BART cars are increasingly crowded, staff reported, so earlier this year the agency tested 60 cars with three different new seat configurations, with 20 in each configuration.

One configuration had seven seats in a row removed along one side of the center of the car, whereas the second layout had four seats removed on each side of the car in the center. In the third configuration, eight seats were removed in a block in the center on one side.

The first configuration — with seven seats removed — proved to be most popular among surveyed customers and also eliminated “choke points,” staff wrote, where riders tend not to walk past a certain point and leave ample standing room in the middle, unused.

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