BART Tries Removing Some Seats to Ease Crowding on Trains

Pictured during an atypically uncrowded run, here's one of the 20 train cars BART plans to reconfigure to test a new seating layout. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

If you ride BART, you’ve noticed the crowds, right?

With trains at capacity during every rush hour — who knew so many people could become such close friends? — BART is testing a new seating layout that will allow more passengers to board each car.

“New seating layout” is a little bit of a euphemism, actually. What BART is doing is replacing seven double seats with seven single seats on a group of test cars. In other words, each of those cars will have seven fewer seats, but more room for passengers to stand.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said via email that a total of 20 of the system’s 669 cars will be retrofitted with the test layout, and seven are already in service. She adds that it’s not clear yet how many extra passengers might fit aboard BART’s aging cars with the new configuration — that’s one of the points of the test.

The agency is looking for passenger feedback on the new configuration — go to www.bart.gov/testcar.

BART's inviting feedback on experimental car layout.
BART’s inviting feedback on experimental car layout. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

While formal study results still haven’t come in, Trost says she conducted her own informal survey when she got on one of the retrofitted cars last week, on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line.

“There are those who want a seat at all cost because they travel a long distance on the train, and there are others who appreciate more breathing room and how it is easier to get on and off the train car because there is more floor space to maneuver around people,” Trost said. “One person said it will make it harder for people with disabilities to get a seat because there will be more demand for the seats.”

My own take, having been surprised to board one of the test cars well after the morning rush on Wednesday: I kind of liked the novelty of the single seats. However, my preferred mode of BART travel is asleep — I’m luckier than most in the daily BART seat scramble — and I think that sitting in those singles during a sardine-can evening commute might feel a little more claustrophobic than the current double seats do.

Of course, I’m describing what’s really a luxury commute experience. Here’s what real crowding looks like.

  • DrG

    Why not take *all* the seats out and make it a totally standing car.

    • Actually…

      Because not all people are able to stand?

      • larry

        What about on one or two of the cars?

        • Actually…

          Due to the curvature of the cars, having inward facing seats provides optimal capacity for standing passengers and accommodation for those who cannot stand. Also, during lower demand, it provides people who can stand the comfort of being able to sit. People have already thought this through and the answer is there. The current configuration is a specific choice to prioritize comfort over capacity.

    • SF Guest

      Two good reasons not to take all the seats out:

      1) Trains are only at SRO during commute hours; and
      2) No seats make it easier to pickpocket.

  • gary47290

    Just run the seats along the outside wall, like the New York and London subways?

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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