BART will be staging a sit-in of sorts over the next few months.
Between now and the beginning of summer, BART is bringing a mobile lab filled with seats of different heights, widths and materials to communities around the Bay Area.
The goal is to get feedback from commuters on what kind of seats they would like to see in a fleet of BART cars scheduled to start hitting the tracks in 2018.
"What I might like might be different from what the public might like," said BART Board President Bob Franklin. "So, we're going to get a range of opinions from a wide variety of people."
Patch was one of the media outlets that got a sneak preview of the seat lab Sunday at BART's offices in Oakland.
On Monday and Tuesday, senior citizens and disabled riders will test the seats at the BART offices.
After that, a sampling of the seats will be packed into a trailer and taken to at least nine communities over the next two months. The schedule for the lab tour hasn't been released yet.
The seats are divided into four groups.
One is seats of varying widths. Right now, BART seats are 22 inches wide, one of the widest of any transit agency in the world. The lab seats are 19 to 22 inches across.
Another is seats of different heights. BART seats now are 16.5 inches high, lower than most transit agencies.
The third is seat rows with different leg room. Currently, BART trains have 29 inches of leg room between seats. That is one of the most expansive among transit agencies.
The fourth is material. BART seats now are made of cloth, which is comfortable but difficult to clean. Earlier this year, lab tests showed bacteria and mold on BART seats, even after cleaning.
Possible replacement materials include vinyl and plastic. The balance is between cleanliness and comfort.
"We want to get seats that are easily cleanable but also as comfortable as possible," said Franklin.
The seats will be part of a $3.4 billion contract BART is awarding this year to build up to 1,000 transit cars.
The cars have to be built from scratch, so the seat specifications need to be figured out from the beginning.
BART has 660 cars on the rails. About 460 cars are originals from when BART opened in 1972. Two-hundred cars have been added over the years. Most of the cars were upgraded between 1995 and 1997.
"We're riding the wheels off of these things," said BART spokesman Linton Johnson.
BART expects its daily weekday ridership to increase from 350,000 to 500,000 over the next 12 years.
Johnson said the system needs a minimum of 700 cars to meet that demand with 1,000 cars a more likely figure.
Ten pilot cars are expected to be on the tracks in 2016. The first group will debut in 2018. The cars will then be added in stages until 2024.
BART directors right now are discussing how to spend a projected budget surplus this year of $10 million to $28 million, depending on how much money they get from the state.
This money will not be used on the new cars. However, it could be spent on new seat covers and other upgrades on the current fleet.