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Building a Better BART: System improvements and expansion [free access]

May 1, 2016

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is the rapid transit (metro rail and commuter rail) service provider serving 21 cities and four counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo) in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the fifth-busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in the United States, BART serves over 400,000 passengers daily. To accommodate future demand growth and guarantee the system’s ongoing reliability requires significant reinvestment in aging infrastructure and system expansion. BART faces nearly USD20 billion in operating and capital needs over the next 10 years. This presents many significant funding challenges.


Plan Bay Area projections


Plan Bay Area combines the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) 2040 Regional Transportation Plan with the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) Sustainable Communities Strategy. This plan sets a vision for regional growth in which public transportation forms the backbone of the next chapter in Bay Area’s development.


By 2040, Plan Bay Area expects the number of Bay Area residents to increase by 2 million and BART’s daily ridership to increase to nearly 500,000 passengers by 2025 and 600,000 passengers by 2040.


If BART is unable to reinvest sufficiently to keep its infrastructure in good working order, system failures will become more frequent, reliability and service quality for current passengers will decrease, and the system will be unable to serve additional riders; as well as become a less appealing alternative for potential new passengers.


System facts


Table 1 provides key facts of the BART system.


Table 1: BART system key facts




Track length

172 km (107 miles)

Total stations


Busiest station


Maximum train speed

128 km/hr (80 miles/hr)

Average speed (with stops)

56 km/hr (35 miles/hr)

Average on-time performance


Average weekday trips in 2015


Average trip length

23 km (14.4 miles)

Fare range

USD1.95 to USD15.70

Average passenger fare


Average weekday trains dispatched


Total trips in FY 2015

126 million

Total vehicle fleet


Maximum cars per train


Power supply

Third rail (1,000 V DC)


Two-thirds of BART’s fleet is in operation since passenger service began on September 11, 1972. These trains carried 100,000 passengers per week initially and carry more than 420,000 passengers per day currently.


Funding challenges


The key funding issues BART faces are:



Major investment initiatives – Big 3


BART is investing in rebuilding and upgrading aging infrastructure, improving core capacity, modernising and expanding its system. In particular, it has identified three large, interrelated projects to meet the goals of safety, reliability, capacity, and sustainability. These are known as the “Big 3,” and form the basis of BART’s Core Capacity Program. The projects include:


Fleet of the Future Railcars – It is a USD3.3-billion project to expand BART’s current fleet from 669 cars to 1,000 cars. This is expected to improve the reliability of BART’s fleet, decrease maintenance costs, relieve crowding, and help meet growing demand associated with regional population growth and system expansions.  


The new cars will allow BART to run up to 30 trains per hour per direction through the Transbay Tube, transporting 30,000 peak direction passengers each hour  


BART has ordered the first 775 cars, which are to be delivered from 2017 through 2021.


Hayward Maintenance Complex – It involves the construction of a new maintenance facility to maximise car availability by providing additional capacity to maintain and store the expanded fleet. BART already has one maintenance shop and yard facilities in Hayward, which it plans to expand. BART and MTC are covering the project cost of USD432 million.


Train Control Modernisation – It involves the development of an improved train control system to increase train frequency and put the expanded fleet in service. A train control system consists of both hardware and software. It monitors train location, ensures sufficient distance between trains, manages train movements, and helps staff to analyse and report on any issues. The scope of work includes removing aging train control equipment and upgrading to a new system. The project cost is estimated to be USD700 million to USD900 million.


BART Metro


It includes both near- and mid-term improvements such as service changes and changes to tracks and stations that will increase BART’s flexibility, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and allow for increased train frequency in high demand areas. The implementation of BART Metro will be co-ordinated with the implementation of the “Big 3” as the BART Core Capacity Improvement Program.


The projects include:



Phase I of BART Metro is estimated to cost USD58 million. Several funding sources have been identified, including the MTC, California Transportation Commission, and the Alameda County transportation sales tax.


Station modernisation


It involves upgradation of existing stations and surrounding areas to increase the capacity of the system. It addresses all aspects of stations, including buildings, escalators and elevators, circulation and signage, plazas and waiting areas, climate control and ventilation, lighting and ambient environment, and other station equipment upgrades.


The project is expected to cost USD240 million, with USD150 million from California State Proposition 1B, USD10 million from BART capital allocations (from parking revenues), and USD80 million from dedicated local funding.


Improving access and accessibility


It involves improvement of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure at stations and co-ordination with other transportation providers to improve shuttle and transit connections. The desired upgrades and improvements to access infrastructure through 2040 could cost over USD800 million. Of this, funding of about USD40 million has been identified.


System expansion


BART to Warm Springs extension – It is a 8.7-km (5.4-mile) extension from the existing Fremont station to a new station in the Warm Springs District of South Fremont. This project was expected to be completed in March 2016. The Warm Springs station and the surrounding site are being designed to promote multimodal access and to accommodate potential future transit-oriented development. The project extends BART to the border of Santa Clara County, setting the stage for a longer extension to San Jose and Santa Clara. The project is expected to cost USD767 million and is fully funded.


eBART (East Contra Costa BART Extension) – It is a 16-km (10-mile), one station extension from Pittsburg/Bay Point to Antioch in eastern Contra Costa County. The project will utilise two-car diesel multiple unit trains that use clean diesel technology and have capacity for 300 to 400 passengers. The project is estimated to cost USD503 million and is fully funded. Service is expected to begin in December 2017.


BART to Silicon Valley extension – It builds on the Warm Springs extension and will deliver service from Fremont to Santa Clara, west of San Jose. It is managed and funded collaboratively by BART and VTA. The 16-mile extension is being developed in two phases as indicated in Table 2.


Table 2: BART Silicon Valley extensions



Length (km)


Current status

Phase I (Berryessa Extension)

16 km (10 miles)

2 (Milpitas and Berryessa)

Under construction and anticipated to open in FY2018 at a cost of USD2.3 billion

Phase II

9.6 km (6 miles)


In planning. Funding yet to be secured


Extensions under study


BART is also studying the possibility of  the following extensions:



Recent developments


April 2016

  • BART Board begins FY17 budget discussion
  • Downtown Berkeley Plaza improvements approved
  • First Fleet of the Future railcar arrives

March 2016

  • BART releases overview of station cleaning, maintenance
  • BART announces plans to offer a rewards programme

February 2016

  • BART set a ridership record for weekend ridership safely carrying 419,162 riders
  • Elevator flooring replacement resumes
  • BART joined White House discussion on earthquake early warning

January 2016

  • BART to outfit cameras on every train car
  • Work begins for security grille replacement at MacArthur station and bike parking installation at West Oakland station