We all know the smell: That musty, lived-in, uncomfortably sour odor of the seat on a BART train. Well, get ready for some relief.
Thanks to a $750,000 surplus, BART is replacing seats in 51 cars -- or about eight percent of the fleet. Originally, 300 cars were slated for maintenance, at a cost of $2.7 million.
The replaced seats have "new fabric with more comfortable cushions," said Jeff Baker, BART assistant maintenance superintendent for car appearance.
Replacing those seats isn't cheap -- in addition to buying new cushions, the transit agency also has to rent trash bins and conduct dry-cleaning. But hygiene is a high priority for the agency, particularly in light of a recent Quarterly Performance Report in which customers gave low marks for cleanliness.
In a separate project, BART is also replacing the flooring on the train. Currently carpet, the new floors will be a hard composite material, much easier to clean.
When BART opened in the 1960s, it was seen as a luxurious way to travel and was decorated accordingly, with plush carpets and chairs. But decades of heavy use have weighed heavily on the original specifications. When BART replaces the fleet over the course of the next decade, new car designs will probably be far more utilitarian. That re-design process is still in the very early stages.