BART announces AirBART fare; Delays decision on cars

Byby Nick Smith via KGO logo
Friday, June 13, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- BART announced Thursday it will cost $6 to ride the new Air BART extension from the Oakland Coliseum Station to Oakland International Airport. The new service is set to begin this fall, but BART is putting off the decision on what the new trains for all its system will look like.

The BART board says it needs more feedback about the designs it's been circulating for months. "We need to sit down and continue the conversation," said Esperanza Diaz-Alvarez with Community Resources for Independent Living.

BART's board of directors got an ear full Thursday from vocal passengers unhappy with the current layout of new cars. At the center of the debate is the number of seats, whether or not to have bike racks on all cars, and what to do with hand poles mounted at three different spots of the train car. One after the other, passengers asked the board to get more feedback before making a final decision on its "car of the future."

"If we continue the conversation, and if we continue to talk about different options, everybody is going to be happy," said Esperanza Diaz-Alvarez with Community Resources for Independent Living.

Wheelchair users say the new design has its advantages like wider doors and more open space, but after trying BART's test car, Marylin Golden with the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund says she found it difficult to get around the new grip poles which are mounted in areas she needs to roll through. She says passengers will need to know which cars will have the poles and which ones won't.

"Which is really important for people with visual impairments, to not run into poles, and it's also important for people with mobility impairments who want to get rid of the poles," Golden said.

BART has also been polling riders to find out what else they want. They claim feedback from the survey shows BART is headed in the right direction. "I wanted to be as responsive to what I heard today as possible," BART Board President Joel Keller said

In a 5-2 vote, with two of the members absent, the board decided to hold off making a final decision and instead, test 10 new cars with different pole and seat configurations in real-time starting next July.

"We'll evaluate the ideas in a real-world environment and if they work, we'll be able to make modifications. And if they don't work, we can go forward with the current plan," Keller said.

The board says the cost of delaying the decision for now is minimal, but will rise significantly once construction of the new cars starts. Both sides are seeing a financial incentive to get it right before a single dollar is wasted on the $2.5 billion new train fleet.