BART riders will get a chance to sit in the BART seats of the future.
A "seating lab" with different types of seats, ranging from large to small in width and height, will be open to the public on Monday, according to BART spokesman Linton Johnson. Currently, BART seats are some of the widest in the nation.
BART is in the process of selecting a seat design for a new fleet of cars that's set to roll down the tracks in 2017. Earlier this year, BART held a similar event in a nondescript warehouse in Hayward for its staff, which weighed the pros and cons of different seat types.
One employee, Melissa Jordan, filed a report complete with pictures on BART’s website at the time about the trade-offs in selecting the new seats.
“Can I live with some type of seat that’s less cushiony — maybe padded vinyl instead of fabric — if it’s easier to keep clean?” Jordan wrote.
Johnson said that Monday's event will give riders a chance to try out different seat sizes. Future seating labs will also allow the public to check out different seat materials such as cloth, plastic, or vinyl.
A Bay Citizen investigation found drug-resistant fecal and skin-born bacteria as well as mold on one of BART's plush, blue and germ-friendly seats. In response to public pressure, including the article, BART is planning to spend $1.8 million this year to replace its old cloth seats with newer cloth seats on its current fleet of trains.
But that is a short-term fix. Some BART officials, including Board President Bob Franklin, say the long-term fix is to find seats that can be cleaned more easily for the new fleet of BART cars. BART has not yet approved funds to pay for those seats.
The Bay Citizen report found that the hard plastic acrylic seats on Muni harbor fewer germs and mold. They are easily wiped down with disinfectant at the end of the day.
Public transit systems are moving away from cloth interiors that hold in dirt and dampness. BART has already removed the carpeting in some trains, replacing them with a hard surface.
Johnson said that no time has been set for the seating lab yet, which will be held at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission headquarters, at 101 8th St. (near the Lake Merritt BART station) in Oakland.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that different seat materials would be tested by the public. In fact, only different seat sizes will be tested at Monday's "seating lab," although future labs will include different materials for comparison.