If you've ridden BART in recent months, there's a good chance you've ridden on one of the relatively clean and sleek new 'Fleet of the Future' cars. And with all the pandemic-related supply-chain delays, etc., the timeline for when all the old BART cars will be replaced has been pushed out a bit.
The $2.6 billion fleet of 775 new train cars has been the subject of multiple delays over the years, well before the pandemic slowed the world down. KTVU tells us today that there are currently 286 new cars operating in the BART system, along with 512 old and musty cars, for a total fleet of 798 train cars — the most that has ever run on the system before. When the new fleet started to arrive in 2017, there were only 669 train cars working in the BART system.
But that means that over one-third of the trains running out there are new-car trains, which is good news all around. (And with ridership down, only 612 train cars are actually in service each day, currently.)
Originally, the full order of 775 new cars was expected to be delivered by train-maker Bombardier in mid-2022, but that has now been pushed out to Spring 2023.
BART has some worries that returning to pre-pandemic ridership levels is going to take another few years, given the trend toward remote work, and people's ongoing fears of catching COVID on public transit — even though there has not been data showing any significant spread of the virus on public transit where everyone is masked. Even as masking rules are relaxed around the Bay Area, state law will require us to be masked on public transit for the foreseeable future.
KTVU spoke to at least one BART rider who prefers the older train cars because they have more seating, but most people seemed more excited about the newer cars — which allow for more standing room and bike space, and seats that won't be so easily destroyed.
Back in February 2020, before the pandemic decimated public transit ridership around the country, BART was publicly lamenting the loss of around 10 million riders over the previous five years. Recent years saw the public perception of BART decline amid reports of rampant crime, and the homeless population often riding trains all day.
In addition to rolling out the new cars, BART has been working to convince the public that the trains are safe to ride, and there's a new Ambassador program that puts unarmed BART representatives on trains in teams of two to address quality-of-life issues and interact with homeless individuals who may be in need of assistance.
Photo courtesy of BART