Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A closer look at "demo" cars

We've all seen the demo cars. They are indeed much better than the original. I like the plastic floors, fewer seats, full-length handle bars, and overall, I just like having more standing room altogether. With the recent ridership surge however, I took a much closer look today at the demo car I was in to see if it truly will make a big impact.

A few things I noticed that needs to be addressed:

1) Why are the overhead bars still so high? And if they must remain high, why only 6 hanging straps for those who are under 5'5" or 5'6" to comfortably hold on to? I am around that range and unless I'm wearing high heels (which seems to be rarer these days), I cannot comfortably hold on to the overhead bar. Yes I can over-stretch to do so but with my big computer bag, it's not the safest or most comfortable position.

We need more full length bars that run from ground to ceiling. Those are thin and don't take up much room!

2) Why are the cloth seats still around? This demo car was new but already, I saw white and yellow stains spread around the "new" seats!

3) In my opinion, still way too many seats. BART seats take up a lot of room. Why not just a single row of bench seating parallel to the windows? Or just much fewer seats all around? Like Muni trains? Keep a couple seats by the door for handicapped and maybe a couple others where it makes sense but that's all we need. In Asia, Europe, and other places I've travelled to, that's the way to do it when mass transit is THAT widely used! It's about standing room, not seating comfortably in cushioned seats. BART is past that now. With gas prices soaring and most of the Bay Area population being so green-conscious, BART needs to serve its purpose well.

Max capacity standing room only trains sometime get so crowded that you are practically attached full body to the person in front and in back of you. Something needs to be done.

Other thoughts on this?


Anonymous said...

People will argue too few seats in the current configuration. This system isn't a subway, its a regional transit system which covers more territory. The design was to have comfortable seating because most travelers weren't going Embarcadero to the Civic Center.

Pittsburg to Powell is long enough, its what, 45+ minutes? That's a long time to be standing depending on people's conditions.

Plus imagine the fighting over seats with less of them. And you're just asking for homeless to LAY accross a bench like structure as you described.

No thanks. Honestly, the notion of seats probably helps keep some riders. Take those away, some people will sacrifice their $ for comfort of their car.

Erik said...

Yeah, people trying to compare BART to subway systems in other cities forget that its job is to get people (mostly commuters) to and from outlying cities on relatively long trips, not shuttle people around inside of cities.

bartmusings said...

But the point is...whether it's intended for that use or not, people are finding themselves standing 40-45 minutes regardless! And if they are already standing, why not help them stand more comfortably? More room to stand? more safety bars?

Perhaps the side bench idea is not a good one, it was just a random thought to make standing room more plentiful, but something does need to be done because during commute hours, there are almost always more people standing than sitting!

Anonymous said...

People are standing regardless so take even more seats away? No. More handles and bars for holding on is fine as there will always be people who stand, but BART should not inflict standing on even more people when the system travels such long distances. And, rather than remove seats in many cars for bicycles, I'd prefer BART designate a car on each train for bicycles and maybe have the bench seating along the sides of the cars in those cars only.

Anonymous said...

One must look at the big picture, since new cars are not in the short term plan the district must implement changes that will be the most cost efficient and beneficial to the ridership.

Since the system is already nearing its capacity, especially going through the Trans Bay Tube and adding more trains (especially long ones during commute) isn't a possibility, there needs to be alternative solutions.

The idea of reconfiguring the cars is really the most beneficial, until new cars can be purchased, which is still years away, as I understand it.

Along with the new floors and more grab bars and handles I do think the seats need to be reconfigured. Of course any reconfiguration will most likely decrease the total available seating in each car.

I do agree that BART is not the subway, but light rail and paying a bit more for "comfort" is something many riders will do. But if cars continue to pack more riders, what other options does BART have in order to handle this increase? With no relief in sight for gas prices, ridership will continue to trend up...

bartmusings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bartmusings said...

All I am saying is there is a big difference between standing so close to someone that you can practically kiss him with a jerk of the train, than standing with a small but reasonable amount of personal space around you.

Trains are not set up for standing right now, that's obvious, and I understand the need for comfort for some and the initial intent of BART (not being a subway and all).

Times are changing and at least during prime commute hours, we need some solutions. I don't enjoy being elbowed in the head every few minutes by someone whose arms sit right above my head while holding on to a safety bar above, nor does a person next to me enjoy being accidentally pushed by me at every stop because everyone is piling and rushing onto an already max capacity standing room only train, causing me to lose my footing.

Perhaps a couple cars with each arriving train can be "commuter cars" for those who don't mind standing, but would prefer to have standing room.

Also, keep or not keep the seats, BART train seats are HUGE! They can definitely make them smaller.

Max capacity standing room only trains sometime get so crowded that you are practically attached full body to the person in front and in back of you. Something needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

Solutions would be 10 car minimum trains, period, during rush hour. None of this, mechanical BS. It shouldn't take NASA to figure out which lines are more popular than others.

There's absolutely NO excuse for 9 car trains going to Pittsburg Bay Point at 5:00.

If there really is a shortage of cars, then more concessions need to be made. Run more concord trains, and then run a concord to pitt train that can be 4 cars or something.

Trains are appear more crowded than they are because people happen to love being near escalator/stair stops. Then they pile near the door (I'm guilty, to some extent) and don't move toward the middle. The issue I have is when in the middle its hard enough to avoid hitting people sitting as people coming from other train cars pass by.

There's no question that ridership is up and more people are standing, more often. Its an issue that has to be addressed pro actively for when the the new cars come rather than reconfiguring the cars we have now (more so than they have).

Max capacity trains is definitely an issue that works both ways....
1) Do you always go to the same car? Does it happen to be near the middle? Those tend to be more crowded.
2) If its during rush hour, why get on that train? There's been may times where I've sacrificed the first train knowing there's one 3-6 mins behind that is 9/10 less full.
3) BART needs to be better about when these cars get full either continuous announce it, stop stoping at certain stations because of capacity (but let people know ahead of time 'This train will NOT be stopping at ______') or they need to implement a seat system/capacity system electronically (similar to parking spaces) that allows people to spread out to different cars more easily.

Anonymous said...

not sure what time you all go to work but during peak hours (arrival around 8-9am, and departure around 5-6 pm), it does not matter which car you're in, front, middle or back, it's hard to find comfortable standing space by the time the train reaches embarcadero.

Anonymous said...

I don't think every train on the C Line needs to be 10-cars During commute there are extra trains running between the regular schedule. Would it be nice if they were all 10 cars? Oh hell yes it would! But would it be a full 10th car? You betcha!

Concessions were made when the schedule changed and the Dublin line stopped running to SFO and the Concord line started back up. Dublin was running 9 and 10 car trains to the airport. Talk about wasted seats and unused cars!

Now the Dublin trains are 8 cars (sometimes 9) and all the C Line trains are back to being 9 or 10 cars.

I sympathize with those of you who must commute standing 5 days a week on a crowded BART train. Looking at it realistically, you won't get all 10-car trains on the C-Line, not even during commute. So there must be some decisions made in order to increase the number of patrons who can ride per car.

Mechanical issues are part of any vehicle in the transportation industry and is something that must be dealt with, regardless of "if" you think it is being used as an excuse. Hell, I would love if we didn't break trains at Bay Point and ran all 10-car trains all day. But realistically that won't happen. Not cost effective.

As for running through a full station it could happen if the train is very, very full, but not likely. BART would then be doing a disservice to those patron who wanted to get off at that station you just ran through.

Solution? I don't have one that will please all parties involved. I still believe configuration is moving in the right direction. Curious to see what the district does.