BART launches mobile seat lab to elicit customer feedback

Posted on May 18, 2011 by METRO Staff

To include user input, the agency has created a mobile seat lab where visitors can test out different seats and provide feedback on their favorites.
To include user input, the agency has created a mobile seat lab where visitors can test out different seats and provide feedback on their favorites.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) is offering its riders a unique opportunity to have their say in the transit agency's $3.4 billion "Fleet of the Future" plan to replace its existing train cars.

To include user input, the agency has created a mobile seat lab where visitors can test out different seats and provide feedback on their favorites. So far, the response has been "overwhelming," said Linton Johnson, BART chief communications officer.

With issues such as dated technology and strain from increased ridership, BART plans to replace the current fleet of A2/B2, C1 and C2 train cars with at least 700 to 1,000 new energy-efficient train cars. Maintenance also has been an expensive issue, considering that many of the parts are not only scarce but also out of production.

"I see this as a fantastic opportunity to actually look at a number of different designs," said Janet Abelson, chair of BART's Accessibility Task Force. "It's been a really long time since BART has had an opportunity to update and upgrade the seating."

Many of the train cars currently in the fleet have been running since BART's establishment in 1972 and are the oldest in the nation, with an average age of about 30 years. Some of the vehicles were refurbished in the late 1990s, but the fleet is nearing the end of its useful lifecycle.

"[The seat lab] was the brainchild of our chief marketing officer, Aaron Weinstein, who is in charge of ensuring that our customers have a big voice in the design of the Fleet of the Future," Johnson said. "It will be [customers], their children and their grandkids who will be riding the train cars for the next 40 years."

The mobile seat lab took several months to create and contains four stations, each equipped with several different seats. One of the stations showcases different seat heights, another showcases widths, and a third station showcases different legroom and area volumes, Johnson explained. The fourth station features three seats from other transit agencies for comparison.

"I think that everybody should have the opportunity to come out, really sit in the seats, see the closeness of the legs, see the new design of the trains [and] see the customer-friendly train that [BART is] trying to put together," said Courtland "Corky" Boozé, Richmond city councilmember.

The mobile seat lab will visit all nine BART districts and incorporate feedback from visitors, via interviews and surveys, into the design process. The agency has currently received project proposals from five companies - Alstom Transportation, Bombardier Transit Corp., CAF USA Inc., China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. Ltd., and Hyundai Rotem USA Corp. - and expects to award a contract in 2011.

The first mobile seat lab stop was held May 1, though the tour to the other eight districts will continue through the year.

"There are more labs to be done," Johnson said. "This is just the start of the conversation."


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