The new vinyl seats will be tested on 100 train cars in the upcoming months, said Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager of operations.
The move was brought up during the agency's board of directors meeting Thursday in a discussion of what BART will do with its end-of-year surplus, Oversier said.
The installation of the new seats comes after BART held interactive seat labs around the Bay Area that gave riders a chance to try out different types of seats to see which they liked best.
"We've gotten feedback both through the seat labs and normal responses we get from customers on a daily basis about real unhappiness with the wool seat covers that we have now," Oversier said.
"They're porous and tend to trap liquids and smell bad after that," he said. "It's been an issue around here for a while now."
The new seats are similar to those used in the train system in Washington, D.C., except "ours are nicer looking," Oversier said.
He said the seats could also help cut costs since they are expected to last as long as 10 years, while the cloth seat covers had to be changed out every three years or so.
The seats will be in cars spread randomly around the 669-car system, and after receiving more feedback from riders, the agency will look at "continuing with the rest of the fleet, going back to wool seats, or Plan C, whatever that may be," he said.
BART's trains are the oldest in the nation, having not been replaced since the system was built in 1972.
The agency is overseeing a $3 billion-plus capital investment project to replace the cars with its "Fleet of the Future" in the next decade.