It's been a long time, but today, BART was ready to take the media on a 'shakedown cruise' of it's new $2.6 billion Fleet of the Future.
Our own Tom Vacar was one of the first to ride the rails on the much-anticipated and badly needed new generation of cars that will replace the 40 year old current fleet None of the new fleet is off the shelf or one size fits all technology. It was specifically designed for the Bay Area's specific needs.
What I got a chance to do is now only weeks away for riders. We rode from South Hayward Station to Fremont's new Warm Springs Station and back. The five cars, fresh with that new train smell, are much quieter and smoother riding than the current aging fleet. They have a top speed of 70 miles an hour, 10 miles an hour faster than the current fleet.
But after a year of testing, these high-tech trains, are still on shakedown test rides. "We've actually made about 3,000 modifications on the cars since they arrived here Now a lot of that is software; little tweaks and so on. None of those are huge things," said Paul Oversier, BART's Assistant General Manager.
Most of those modifications are being made by the manufacturer on site in the Bay Area because BART's unique track width, is not compatible with the many tracks at the manufacturing site back east.
Grade-wise, according to veteran operators, they're way better that when the fist car showed up a more than a year ago. "F to an A. F was actually a pretty car that didn't move, to a car that runs in automatic and pretty smooth," said BART Train Operator Kirk Paulsen.
"All the operators, no matter if they're a three-years operator or a 25-year operator, every one is just they can't believe how much information they have to learn," said Durga Krummer, a BART operator instructor.
One of the things you'll notice is that the new cars have way fewer seats,. But they have poles in the center and a lot more straps which means they can get a whole lot more people on each car and capacity is huge when it comes to commutes.
BART's growth projections require seating and bike space be limited, but not eliminated. And, for those who are concerned about security, there are cameras, six of them in each and every car.
The new proposed passenger start date of late September, while likely, is not set in stone.
What is set in stone is that the new cars won't run until all major glitches are resolved.