BART will install vinyl seats in 100 train cars hoping to eliminate the familiar odor that emanates from the cloth seats.
The BART board voted unanimously on Thursday to spend about $2 million to replace the seats, with an option to to purchase vinyl covers for an additional 100 cars from Omnova, a plastics manufacturer.
“This trial should give both customers and BART staff a chance to see if vinyl, cushioned seats strike a modern balance between cleanliness and comfort,” BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a statement.
The installation of the new seats a result of public feedback from BART events held around the Bay Area that gave riders a chance to tell officials which seat material they preferred. Most chose vinyl, and 81 percent of people thought cleanliness was very important, according to BART.
The cloth seats also cost the agency more, because the covers need to be replaced every three years at a cost of $15,500 per car, as opposed to every 10 years for vinyl at $9,000 per car.
The annual cleaning fees are currently $600,000 per year for cloth, while its expected that vinyl will cost $100,000.
So why did BART not use vinyl all along?
“In years past, we didn’t use vinyl seat material before because of smoke, fire and toxicity standards; however, Omnova’s product has demonstrated how dramatically vinyl production technology has changed,” BART’s Assistant General Manager of Operations Paul Oversier said in a statement.
And, Omnova’s production traps and recycles harmful vapors emitted during manufacturing, according to the company.
The 100-car trial will begin in April, and if riders respond favorably, BART will expand to the rest of its 669-car system.