New Muni Trains: Our doors trap old women and drag them along the tracks.
New BART Trains: Hold my beer.
It is never without a few hiccups when a San Francisco public transit system rolls out a new, more modern fleet of vehicles. The problems can be as minor as slippery seats, or as major as trapping an elderly woman and dragging her along the tracks. But a possible new problem on BART’s “Fleet of the Future” trains is a real show-stopper. The San Francisco Examiner reports that a BART driver has noticed a design flaw that could trap and kill passengers if there were an emergency on the train. While originally only one driver was making the complaint, the Ex says that “more operators have joined his cause.”
As KQED also explains, the entire “Fleet of the Future” has not been rolled out yet, and there are still new cars with new features in the pipeline. One of these new vessel varieties is called a D car, whose train-coupling doors are locked by default and can only be opened by a train operator.
You probably have the experience of getting on a BART train that seems too crowded. You walk to another train, opening those very heavy doors. Now imagine those doors are locked. Now imagine the train is on fire or there’s some other sort of life-threatening emergency on the trains. You can see a possible problem here.
“I can safely say that very few things here at BART frighten me, but the practice of operating trains configured where passengers could be trapped in a car while an emergency is going on terrifies me,” veteran driver Mike Granat said at a July BART board meeting, according to the Examiner. Then at Thursday’s meeting, at least two more mechanics and union members backed up Granat’s assessment that the cars are unsafe.
BART argues that the vessels are fine, and the issue can be fixed with a workaround. “The cars are safe, and our current emergency procedures are safe," BART spokeperson Alicia Trost told KQED. She said they could remedy the problem with "different evacuation procedures and we continue to work with the union to refine these procedures."
We should point out that Granat was named in a civil lawsuit against BART, filed by a man who was struck by a train in October 2018. But that collision may have been more because of infrastructure and technology issues, and BART is also named in the suit.
And as a footnote, the Chronicle reports that starting Saturday, the BART platform signs will tell you if a three-door train is approaching. As Curbed discovered last week, the signs now all say “2-door” for a train. The “3-door” designation will kick in Saturday, signifying trains that are friendlier toward wheelchair riders. A BART manager said in a statement that the change would “make taking BART easier and more enjoyable,” and you’ll certainly enjoy riding in trains that will not trap and kill you in an emergency.