Given that summer in SF (and to some extent Oakland and Berkeley too) is usually pretty cool, we don't tend to have the same sweaty public transit woes of our friends in, say, New York. But riders on BART know all too well that when it gets legitimately hot around here which it actually does in the summer in places like Pleasanton and Concord you do NOT want to get stuck on a car with an air conditioner that isn't running on full blast. Or one with a totally broken air conditioner, of which there are many.
KRON 4 talked to some weary BART riders this week who spoke about cars with totally broken climate control systems, or some that only barely work. Says Christine Landry to the station, "It is very often not working, and it’s miserable. When it’s working, it’s a whole different experience."
Another rider, Christina Gavie, tells them sometimes it feels like "there's no ventilation at all" and she says, "I feel like more often than not all these medical emergencies are people just keeling over and passing out due to heat exhaustion."
In February 2014, BART announced that it was replacing the HVAC systems on its "most problematic cars," explaining, "There are 230 'second generation' cars and these have far more HVAC problems than the 439 earlier generation cars that were modernized in the late ‘90s."
BART also suggested at the time, "If you are on a BART car that seems to have no air conditioning at all, you can use the intercoms on either end of the train to let the train operator know (the car number is located at either end of the car above the door) so the problem can be reported for maintenance attention." And they added, "Climate control in each car is independent, and automated, so the temperature can't be adjusted by an individual train operator, but he or she can report the problem."
Or, helpfully, they say you should just "Try moving to another car," in case you didn't think of that.
They were also looking forward at the time to that Fleet of the Future being put into service "in 2017" and we all know how that's turned out. An estimated 35 new cars, or just about four trains' worth, are supposed to be rolling out by the end of this year god willing with another 166 put into service by the end of 2018. In total, 775 new cars that are being assembled by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier will replace the train system's current, age-worn 669 cars.
In this 2015 news release about the new fleet, BART explained that the HVAC system on the new cars will distribute air via the ceiling, rather than ducts near the floor as is done on the current fleet, "providing better air flow throughout the space overall and bringing relief to standees with vents at the top of the car." Also, an energy-saving system will prevent doors from opening at stations unless a passenger is standing in front of them.