BART to add Wi-Fi, increased security, updated control system

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The BART board of directors approved a series of updates to their transit system on Jan. 9, including Wi-Fi and cellular upgrades, increased security and a modern train control system.

The project promises improvements in cellular coverage, a reduction in dropped calls and a more reliable connection for video and audio streaming for passengers riding BART and waiting in stations. It is anticipated that these changes could lead to mobile ticketing in the future, according to a BART press release.

“We must bring our technology up-to-date and expand broadband coverage to better compete in the transportation market and provide convenient, easy to use transit,” said BART general manager Bob Powers in a press release.

The “BART digital railway” proposal is made up of four projects, according to the press release. The first will involve adding cellular coverage to the Sunset, Twin Peaks and Central Subway Muni tunnels within the next two years. The second is installing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection at every BART station within the next four years, and the third involves installing Wi-Fi on Fleet of the Future railway cars within the next five years. The fourth is the implementation of a new fiber optic cable to help generate additional revenue.

BART also plans to launch an ambassador program for a six-month pilot on Feb. 10 to help improve security. As a part of the program, 10 ambassadors will walk trains from 2 p.m. to midnight every day of the week except for Saturdays, during which additional coverage will be provided. The ambassadors, selected from the BART Police Department’s Community Service Officers, will receive additional de-escalation and anti-bias training, according to the press release.

“This team will be police employees and trained to provide a sense of safety and security for our riders on-board trains and deter crime,” said interim BART police chief Ed Alvarez in a press release. “I worked closely with our Board members, the General Manager, and police unions to develop a program that is responsive to our riders and is able to launch seamlessly, safely, and quickly.”

BART will also build a modern communications-based train control system to replace the 47-year-old fixed-block train control system. The new technology will allow trains to run closer together, enabling BART to increase the number of trains in operation and decrease travel times. The system will be installed over the course of 11 years, and the $798 million contract was awarded to Hitachi Rail STS USA Inc.

“This will be a pivotal project in BART’s history,” Powers said in a press release. “We will now be able to eliminate aged and obsolete equipment. Modernizing our train control system will help us to support future ridership in the busiest sections of our system.”

Contact Taylor Rudman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @TaylorRudman.