Timelier service schedules? Added trips through the Transbay Tube? A far more reliable BART commute? All that’s promised (and more) to come from the rapid transit agency spending a mind-boggling $798M to update their aged train control system.
KPIX reported that BART will put near as much $800M toward its Train Control Modernization Project (TCMP), allowing for the installation of a modern-day train control system. Because...yes: The one they’re currently operating is 48 years old.
ICYMI BART Board awarded a contract to design & build a modern Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system. This is a key step to help run more trains more frequently thru the Transbay Tube.— SFBART (@SFBART) January 10, 2020
Check out this explainer video on how BART runs trains -- and what CTBC promises. pic.twitter.com/WtbIkqrNYA
BART board members and officials believe this will allow more trains to run on tighter schedules, while also providing additional service opportunities through the Transbay Tube. Thursday, BART’s board of directors approved the multi-million-dollar contract with Hitachi Rail STS USA, Inc. that will span over the next 11 years.
The current system — which was installed in 1972 — operates on antiquated technologies and sensory metrics. This "fixed-block" system relies on the spaced signal blocks to gauge a train's location and footprint on the track. However, the newer system is entirely "communications-based," improving flexibility and shortened distances between trains, thus increasing service frequency.
“This will be a pivotal project in BART’s history,” BART General Manager Bob Powers said in a statement published by the news outlet. “Modernizing our train control system will help us to support future ridership in the busiest sections of our system.”
And "[supporting] future ridership" is increasingly important, with 30,000 Transbay riders expected, per hour, by the year 2030, Powers added.
According to BART's official website, the project will work in phases, with runs first being conducted at a test track before the technology is phased into BART service. And, should all go according to plan, it appears more frequent train services can be expected through the Transbay Tube by late 2026.
The capital for this new modern-era train control system will come from a myriad of scources — including $400M from Measure RR — courtesy of local, state, and federal funding.
Image: Flickr via Schaffner