BART board approves funding for new vinyl seats

Kevin Foote/Staff
Many BART seats show signs of wear and tear.

A portion of the wool seats in BART cars — many of which are stained, ugly and smell unpleasant — will be replaced with more sanitary and aesthetically pleasing cushioned vinyl seats in the upcoming months.

As part of ongoing interior upgrades, the BART Board of Directors voted Thursday to fund the implementation of the new seats in 100 cars beginning in April next year, according to a presentation made to the board. The total cost for buying the materials for the 200 cars is about $1,945,234, which will come out of BART’s operating budget, according to Tamar Allen, BART’s chief mechanical officer. She estimated that it would cost $500 of labor per car to install the materials.

It was concluded that vinyl — which would cost $9,000 per car and less than $100,000 a year to clean — would offer the best value, life and maintenance cost, according to the presentation.

“The cost would be worth it if the vinyl seats meant there would be better maintenance,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Julia Dendle.

If surveyed customers like the new seats, more will be installed in an additional 100 older cars, according to Allen.

“The seats are brimming with urine and other fluids,” said UC Berkeley freshman Tejomay Gadgil. “I don’t understand why they weren’t completely plastic when they were built.”

In a series of seat lab studies conducted by BART in May, 62 percent of customers expressed a preference for vinyl and 81 percent rated cleanliness as very important, according to the presentation.

Customers should not see any service interruptions and will see the new installations throughout the system, Allen said.

Of the 100 cars that are having their seats replaced, 60 will be older, hard-surface floor cars, 20 will receive new floors and interior expansion — which involves removing seats and creating more open space for bicycles — in addition to the vinyl seats and the remaining 20 will receive new carpets in addition to the new seats, Allen said.