The BART board of directors voted unanimously to fund a trial of vinyl cushioned seat covers that will replace the familiar fabric seats in 100 train cars. The board authorized the general manager to award a contract for $1,945,234 to buy easier to clean, vinyl cushioned seats for 100 train cars with an option to purchase seats for another 100 cars.
"The fabric seats were considered a real attraction when BART began service in 1972, but we're now carrying 370,000 riders each weekday and those seats are getting much more use now," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said. "This trial should give both customers and BART staff a chance to see if vinyl, cushioned seats strike a modern balance between cleanliness and comfort — an important consideration as we move toward replacing our oldest-in-the-nation train cars with the fleet of the future."
During a series of seat labs earlier this year, BART staff collected hundreds of comments from the public about what features they'd like to see in future seats. BART staff then sought a vinyl product that met customer's expectations while addressing the agency's standards for durability, safety and environmental properties. BART's research led them to a product called Prevail made by Omnova, a company which designs PreVail specifically for mass transit.
"In years past, we didn't use vinyl seat material before because of smoke, fire and toxicity standards; however, Omnova's product has demonstrated how dramatically vinyl production technology has changed," BART's Assistant General Manager of Operations Paul Oversier said. "Just as important is BART's sustainability standard. Omnova has distinguished themselves as a leader in 'end of life' strategies for its product. When the material is no longer useful, instead of trashing it as landfill, this company will reclaim the vinyl for other purposes."
BART will begin replacing new seats in 100 cars with the most need next spring and will survey customer response. If riders like the new seats, the seat replacement contract has a 100-car option so BART can quickly expand the order.