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What Is Most Needed On New BART? Bike Space, Poles for Blind Or Wheelchair Accommodations?

BART directors weigh community desires for the design of new fleet of trains.

BART's "Fleet of the Future" train expected to be running in 2017.
BART's "Fleet of the Future" train expected to be running in 2017.
BART directors voted 5-2 Thursday in favor of a proposal for the design of future train cars that seeks to achieve a compromise between the competing requests of bike riders, wheelchair users and blind people.

BART is in the early phases of a plan to buy 1,000 new train cars by 2023 to replace its current fleet of cars, which the transit agency says is the oldest fleet in the nation.

BART plans to begin testing 10 pilot cars next year and start phasing in additional cars into revenue service starting in 2017.

The initial design for what BART calls its "fleet of the future" called for three grip poles on each car, but many wheelchair users said at a four-hour meeting today that they don't want any poles on cars because they make it hard for them to get on and off cars.

However, Alan Smith, the chair of BART's accessibility task force, said blind people "need a pole" because they need something reliable to hang onto when they board crowded cars.

[Previous: BART Unveils Its 'Fleet of Future' Model Train.]

Bicyclists said their priority is having bike racks on all cars.
  
After about three hours of public input and one hour of discussion by BART directors, the board majority approved a proposal by board president Joel Keller that calls for having bike racks on eight of the 10 test cars and having fewer poles on cars.

Keller said his proposal would allow BART to test cars "in a real world environment" and make changes, if necessary, before work begins on the bulk of the new cars.

Specifically, the measure approved today calls for eight of the 10 test cars to still have three poles but moves them 6 inches further away from wheelchair areas to allow more room for wheelchair users to enter and exit trains.

On two of the cars, there will only be one pole. There won't be bike racks on two of the test cars, which Keller said will allow for more open space on those cars.

After the meeting, Keller said, "We compromised with the community but we're trying to be as responsive to people as possible."

Ted Jackson of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers said, "It's a step in the right direction to do more testing" but said he doesn't want any poles on the new BART trains because he thinks they get in the way of wheelchair users.

Jon Spangler, a member of BART's Bicycle Advisory Task Force, said, "If a compromise is meant to leave both sides unhappy, I'm unhappy."

Spangler said he's "unhappy with the pole placement" and that he thinks BART should have racks for six bikes on each car.

BART directors Zakhary Mallett and Tom Radulovich voted against Keller's plan and directors Gail Murray and James Fang were counted as absent, although Murray was present for the vote.

--Bay City News

Andrew Kopp June 15, 2014 at 02:16 PM
Accommodations for the disabled are an issue of access and should be considered a human right. Until there is unobstructed access for all, funds should not be allocated for bikes or anything else.
Nadja Adolf June 15, 2014 at 03:17 PM
I'm with you Andrew, but this is California where human rights seem based on size of the voting bloc. There are more bicyclists than blind or wheelchair users. The end run will be for politicians to pit two small demographic groups against each other, and then claim that the inaccessibility is by request of one group or another. In this case, watch the blind and the wheelchair users be pitted against one another as a specious argument is made that only one group can be accommodated.
Spike H June 15, 2014 at 07:29 PM
How about clean stations and pleasant employees who actually EARN their paycheck?
Fran Haselsteiner June 16, 2014 at 01:25 AM
How about seats?
Ken Briggs June 16, 2014 at 09:50 PM
last car for bikes and more Bart cops at each station

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