One of Hacienda's many advantages is the onsite Bay Area Rapid Transit station that makes it easy for employees, residents, and visitors to travel between Hacienda and the greater Bay Area. Over the past year the transit agency has begun replacing old, outdated cars with new cars as part of BART's plans to make important and long-awaited improvements to the system for passengers.
During an October 2019 presentation to the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, BART Director John McPartland described how the agency is working to rebuild, modernize, and improve the train system. Much of the work centers on three large capital projects known as the Fleet of the Future, Train Control Modernization, and the Hayward Maintenance Complex. When completed, the updated BART system is expected to allow fully 30% more train traffic through the Transbay Tube, result in 8,500 fewer autos crossing the Bay Bridge at peak hours, and cut infrastructure-related train delays by 40%, according to McPartland.
BART is banking on the value of its Fleet of the Future project by investing $3.286 billion in a new generation of train cars to replace the current cars, which are reaching the end of their lifespan. The new cars are designed to be more comfortable and more reliable, with a lifespan of 30 years or more. By the end of October 2019, BART had received 120 new train cars; 100 of those had been certified and 58 were in service, according to the agency. BART is working to increase its fleet of cars to 1,200 train cars from the original 669, which would add 60% more seating.
"One of the most significant impacts riders will see from the arrival of more Fleet of the Future vehicles is that a growing fleet will allow us to run longer trains," says BART spokesperson Chris Filippi. "We are working toward making all trains to Dublin/Pleasanton 10-car trains during the workweek."
Hacienda BART riders will notice more than longer trains as more new cars are brought into service. The new cars feature three doors rather than two, which makes access easier for passengers, and also offer about 50% more priority seating for people with disabilities, seniors, and pregnant women, according to the agency. To make it easier for passengers who use wheelchairs to travel together, the two wheelchair areas in each new car are located near the middle door. Moreover, the center area of each car also has a hearing loop system for riders who use hearing aids or cochlear implants. This innovative system is one of the first of its kind in a moving public transit vehicle. Its range covers approximately the center one-third of the train car, according to BART.
Riders will also notice new seat back handles and vertical poles to help them stand up or lower themselves into the new, higher seats. The seats have been designed with more room underneath for service animals or carry-on luggage. Overhead straps are available to support standing passengers, while vertical bars and floor-to-ceiling poles provide support for those unable to use overhead straps.
Cyclists will appreciate the horizontal leaning bar and the stabilization strap that will be included in the bike areas. The straps were originally tested in about 60 bike spaces on legacy cars throughout the BART system, with two straps per bike space. Now the straps are being added to all original train cars as well as the new Fleet of the Future cars.
Along with the Fleet of the Future, BART's $700 million Train Control Modernization project should significantly improve the BART system as a whole by addressing bottlenecks that limit the agency's ability to meet current and future ridership growth. As part of those improvements, a $433 million new storage yard will be built on BART-owned property at its Hayward Maintenance Complex to accommodate the additional rail cars needed for higher frequency service. As BART officials explain, a train control system consists of both hardware and soft-ware that are used to ensure safe operation of the system. It monitors train location, ensures sufficient distance between trains, manages train movements, and helps staff to analyze and report on any issues. A modern, improved train control system will allow BART to safely operate more frequent service by improving the reliability of the system, decreasing the runtime of trains between stations, and allowing trains to run closer together.
"Long term, moving to a Communications Based Train Control System will allow us to run trains more frequently, which will provide a significant capacity boost to all our Transbay lines," notes Filippi.
Early next year riders should see a significant difference in passenger capacity thanks to the new cars being brought into service. By February 2020, nearly all peak-period Transbay trains will be longer, 10-car trains, according to the agency. The new cars will replace the least reliable legacy cars still in service and also allow more trains to be added to the Green and Orange lines. The additional trains will be needed to accommodate the new Berryessa/North San Jose station when it opens, which is expected to be at the end of the year. Weekend Hacienda BART riders will also benefit from these changes.
"More cars will allow us to enhance our weekend service," says Filippi. Because of electrical cable replacement work in San Francisco, BART's Sunday service was altered earlier in 2019 so that Blue line trips from the Hacienda BART station stopped at MacArthur Station instead of extending into San Francisco. "As we add more new cars and move forward with the infrastructure work, we will be able to once again bring Sunday Blue line service back into San Francisco," he says.
Many other BART improvements are also in the works, which include hiring additional cleaners and replacing decades-old track equipment to create a system that is safer, quieter, and more reliable thanks to the Measure RR infrastructure bond passed by BART District voters in 2016. BART has tested and approved a more economical, more conductive, lighter, and more flexible third rail, for example. Passengers can expect a smoother and more reliable ride after it has been installed throughout the system, which will make the Hacienda BART station an even more convenient and comfortable transit choice for those who live and work at Hacienda.