BART plans to replace "gross" carpeting with plastic
- Published Friday, November 24, 2006, by the San Francisco Chronicle
BART pulls the rug out
Agency will swap out dirty carpets for easy-to-clean plastic floors
in 80 of its cars before gauging whether to revamp entire fleet
By Rachel Gordon
Savvy BART riders keep their chins up -- because if they look down,
they might not like what they see.
"It's gross," conceded Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general
manager of operations.
Stained, foul-smelling, mildewed. Those are the nice terms used to
describe the blue-gray carpet. BART regulars know it, and so do BART
officials, who are expanding an experiment with a smooth-surfaced,
plastic composite material like that found on most mass transit
vehicles in the United States.
BART has laid the new floors in 25 of the system's 669 passenger
cars, with plans to outfit a total of 80 cars over the next year or
so. If the public approves and if it makes financial sense, BART will
consider removing the carpet in the entire fleet.
"The carpet is really disgusting. I don't even want to think about
what made that stain," said Jennifer Larson during a recent BART
ride through the Transbay Tube. The administrative assistant pointed
at a blackened splotch beneath her feet. "What on earth were they
thinking, putting carpets and cloth seats on the trains?"
Oversier said BART's visionaries wanted to give passengers a first-
class experience with wider, padded seats and carpeted floors. When
the system opened to the public in 1972, passengers complimented the
sleek ride and sophisticated interior.
"But when BART opened up, we weren't carrying 340,000 passengers a
day like we are now," Oversier said.
He said BART maintenance crews do their best to keep the carpet
clean. Every night crews move through the cars to pick up trash --
including an abundance of sunflower seed shells spit out by riders --
and every other day they're supposed to be vacuumed. But that doesn't
remove the spilled coffee and soda and whatever else lands on the
It's apparent that the no-food-or-drink rule on BART trains is
"It's reall'y a maintenance nightmare for us to keep the carpet
clean. But we try, Oversier said.
While the composite flooring may not have the panache of carpeting,
it is easier to maintain and less expensive.
Replacing the carpet on a BART car costs $14,199 -- $6,474 for
materials and $7,725 for labor. A composite floor costs $13,700 --
$3,400 for materials and $10,300 for labor. Carpet lasts 3 to 5
years; the composite, which doesn't absorb moisture and can be wiped
clean, lasts about 20 years, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.
BART is ripping out the carpet and laying the new flooring in one car
a week. Officials hope to do more if they get approval for a new type
of composite flooring that hardens after it is sprayed on, making it
easier and quicker to install.
The spray-on material is undergoing testing to make sure it meets the
stringent smoke, flame and toxin safety standards that are in place
for the 3.6-mile underwater BART tunnel that connects the East Bay
and San Francisco, Oversier said.
Meanwhile, BART will continue to replace the old carpeting with new
until a final decision is made on whether to go with the composite
flooring on all the cars. Much of the decision will be based on what
BART passengers want.
Oversier said the public reaction so far generally has been good.
Initially, concerns were raised that the floors were too slippery --
more perception than reality, BART officials say -- because they were
so shiny. They added some speckles to the coloring and the anxiety
about slipping subsided.
Pete Black, a department store clerk and college student who commutes
on BART from Daly City to San Francisco and back, said he wonders why
it's taken BART so long to get rid of the carpeting.
"It makes the carpets in a cheap Las Vegas motel look good," he said.
E-mail Rachel Gordon at rgordon@...
[BATN: See also:
BART seeks feedback on new plastic-like floor covering