Bay Area Rapid Transit

From Academic Kids

BART logo

BART (in full, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District) is a rapid transit electric train service that serves parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, and Walnut Creek. It also serves San Francisco International Airport directly via a station in the new International Terminal (Garage G/BART) and Oakland International Airport with connecting AirBART bus service. In 2004 BART was named the #1 Transit System in America by the American Public Transportation Association. It beat out such systems as New York City's MTA, the 2001 winner, and Denver's Regional Transportation District, the 2003 winner. The BART acronym is pronounced as a single word, not as individual letters.

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A westbound BART train in downtown San Francisco (wide-angle photo).

History of BART

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According to the American Public Transportation Association BART is the #1 transit system in America for 2004

The BART system was first proposed in 1946 by Bay Area business leaders concerned with increased post-war migration and congestion in the region. An Army-Navy task force concluded that another trans-bay crossing would soon be needed to relieve congestion on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The idea of an underwater electric rail tube was deemed the best solution in conjunction with a multiple-county rapid transit rail system. Much of BART's current territory was earlier covered by the Key Rail System, an electrified streetcar (light rail) network that had its origins in the 1900s and ran across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge when it first opened; however, this system was removed in the 1950s due to the combined pressure of declining ridership and the automotive industry and highway planners.

After years of review and planning, BART construction officially began on June 19, 1964. President Lyndon Johnson presided over the ground-breaking ceremonies at a 4.4 mile (7.1 km) test track between Concord and Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County.

Enormous construction tasks were at hand, including underground rail sections below downtown Oakland and Market Street in San Francisco, a 3.5 mile (5.6 km) tunnel through the Berkeley Hills, as well as the 3.6 mile (5.8 km) transbay tube itself, which was lowered to the bottom of the bay by a small armada of construction vessels. The tube, constructed in 57 sections, was completed in August 1969 at a cost of $180 million.

BART began regular passenger service on September 11, 1972. President Richard Nixon rode the system on September 27, 1972. The Transbay Tube between Oakland and San Francisco opened nearly two years later on September 16, 1974.

In January 1979, an electrical fire broke out on a train traveling in the transbay tube, killing one firefighter. Service was halted for over two months. The trains were more flammable than permitted by current code. Since then, BART holds regular fire drills and has used fire-resistant seating in its trains.

Current train routes

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BART Routes

Current routes as of June, 2005:


BART operates four types of cars:

  • Rohr Industries BART A and B cars 1968-1971
    • A Cars
      • A cars have a fiberglass operator's cab with equipment to control the train and BART's two-way communication system. They are made to be leading or trailing cars only.
      • A cars can comfortably seat 72 passengers, and under heavy use can squeeze in 150 passengers.
      • Currently, BART operates 137 A Cars
    • B Cars
      • B cars have no operator's booth, and are used in the middle of trains to carry passengers.
      • B cars have the same passenger capacity as A cars (72 comfortable/150 heavy use)
      • Currently, BART operates 303 B cars
  • Alsthom BART C cars 1987-1989
    • C Cars
      • C cars have the same fiberglass operator's compartment and control and communications equipment as A cars, but unlike A cars, can act as a middle car as well. The dual purpose of the C cars allow train sizes to be changed without having to move a train to a switching yard.
      • C bars can comfortably seat 64 passengers, and under heavy use can squeeze in 150 passengers.
      • Currently, BART operates 150 C cars.
    • C2 Cars
      • C2 Cars are essentially the same as C cars, but have a newer, third-generation interior. They feature a blue/grey motif as compared to the older blue or brown colors. C2 cars feature flip-up seats near side exit/entry doors to accomodate passengers in wheelchairs. Red lights on posts near the door warn hearing-impared passengers when doors are about to close.
      • C2 cars can comfortably seat 68 passengers, and under heavy use can accomodate 150 passengers.
      • Currently, BART operates 82 C2 cars.

BART system details

As of the June 22, 2003, opening date of the extension to San Francisco International Airport and Millbrae, the BART system comprises 104 miles (167 km) of track and 43 stations. BART uses a non-standard 5 feet, 6 inch (1.676 m) rail gauge (broad gauge). This unusual gauge was selected to provide greater stability and a smoother ride for its relatively lightweight aluminum and fiberglass cars, as well as for political and economic reasons. Trains achieve a maximum speed of 80 mph (129 km/h ), and provide an average of 33 mph (53 km/h ) between stations with 20-second station dwell times. Trains operate at a minimum length of three cars (per California Public Utility Commission guidelines) to a maximum length of 10 cars, spanning the entire 700-foot length of a platform. Trains in the BART system are also referred to as "consists". The term is interchangible with "train".

Automation and ghost trains

BART was the first US system of any size to operate substantially under automation. The trains are computer-controlled via BART's Operations Control Center (OCC) at the Lake Merritt station and headquarters, and generally arrive with regular punctuality. Train operators are present to make announcements, close doors, and operate the train in case of unforeseen difficulties.

A fairly common problem with the automation is the appearance of "ghost trains," trains that show on the computer system as being in a specific place, but don't physically exist. Under such circumstances, trains must be operated manually and are restricted to a speed of 25 mph (~40 km/h). Such system artifacts are usually cleared quickly enough to avoid significant delay, but occassionally some can cause an extended backup of manually operated trains in the system.[1] (

As a first generation system, BART's automation was plagued with numerous operational problems during its first years of service. Shortly before revenue service began an on-board electronics failure caused one empty 2-car test train, dubbed the “Fremont Flyer” to run off the end of the platform at its namesake station into a parking lot (there were no injuries). When revenue service began, “ghost trains” were common and real trains could, at times, disappear from the system. During this shakedown period there were several embarrassing episodes where trains had to be manually run and signaled via station agents communicating by phone. This caused a great outcry in the press and led to a flurry of litigation among some of the original controls contractors, but in time these problems were resolved and BART became a reliable service.

BART compared with other rail transit systems

Like many late 20th century transit systems, BART's primary goal was to connect outlying suburbs with job centers in Oakland and San Francisco by paralleling established commute routes on the region's freeway system. It was not intended to provide a dense level of service such as the New York City Subway or the London Underground.

In San Francisco, local service is provided by Muni's underground and streetcar service. However, this service is still relatively sparse compared to other urban areas. In addition, Muni trains are not coordinated with BART schedules, and require a separate ticket for the majority of passengers. There is fare coordination between Muni and BART in that Muni monthly pass holders are permitted to use BART for free within San Francisco city limits and BART passengers can purchase an add on pass for a half month that allows unlimited rides on Muni.

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Train interior
Suburban stations are mostly "park and rides" spaced at distances of typically at least 2 miles (3 km) apart with 15 to 20 minute service intervals in the peak and off-peak hours, respectively. Urban stations are roughly one-half mile (800 m) apart and have 2.5 – 5 minute service intervals at peak times. As such, some sources consider BART to be more of a regional commuter service. However, BART does possess all of the features of a true metro system (eg. electrified third rail propulsion with exclusive (grade-separated) right-of-way, frequent headway service and pre-paid fare card access). Thus many consider it more of a hybrid metro-commuter system, functioning more as a metro in the central business districts of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and as commuter rail in outlying areas.

Current and future extension of the BART system

A $1.5 billion extension of BART southward beyond Colma was completed in June 2003. Ground was broken in November 1997, and the extension added four new stations in South San Francisco, San Bruno, Millbrae (with a cross-platform connection to Caltrain, the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River), and San Francisco International Airport. The project encompasses 8.7 miles (14 km) of new rail track, of which 6.1 miles (9.8 km) is subway, 1.2 miles (1.9 km) is aerial, and 1.4 miles (2.2 km) is at-grade. [2] ( [3] (

An extension of BART southward past Fremont to the Warm Springs District in southern Fremont is in the planning and engineering stage by BART planning staff. A further extension towards San Jose is also proposed by the transit district south of BART, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, but preliminary engineering remains to be completed and funding to be acquired. [4] (

SFBARTD is a special governmental district created by the State of California consisting of Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and San Francisco County. It is governed by an elected Board of Directors, and each of the nine directors represents a specific geographic district with the BART district. BART has its own police force. The original district included Marin County and San Mateo County but they opted out of the District before construction began.

In total, the SFBARTD encompasses the incorporated and unincorporated cities of Alameda, Alamo, Albany, Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Berkeley, Brentwood, Byron, Castro Valley, Clayton, Clyde, Concord, Crockett, Danville, Discovery Bay, Dublin, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Hercules, Kensington, Knightsen, Lafayette, Livermore, Martinez, Moraga, Newark, Oakland, Oakley, Orinda, Pacheco, Piedmont, Pleasanton, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Port Costa, Rodeo, Richmond, San Francisco, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Pablo, San Ramon, Sunol, Union City and Walnut Creek. While the district includes all of these cities in its jurisdiction, the BART system only has stations in a few of these cities.

Oakland Airport Connector project

Planning is currently underway for a people mover that would directly connect the Coliseum station to the terminal buildings at Oakland International Airport. This connection would physically resemble the AirTrain connection to New York City's JFK Airport, in that passengers would leave standard subway cars at a nearby station and enter a specialized people mover to reach the airport itself. However, unlike the AirTrain, the Oakland Airport Connector will be operated by BART, and integrated into the BART fare system, with standard BART ticket gates located at the entrance to the station at the terminal end of the people mover. This extension is expected to be in service by 2008.


A corridor study of extending the service north from the Richmond BART & Amtrak Station. Options include:

  1. Commuter rail service utilizing light-weight diesel multiple units (DMU) to operate on existing (or new) rail trackage. In order to operate on existing tracks with freight service, heavier-weight DMU vehicles adhering to Federal Transportation Administration regulations would need to be used.
  2. Create a commuter rail service running from the BART terminus along the Amtrak right of way to Hercules and possibly Fairfield in Solano County, similar to the Caltrain or ACE train.
  3. Extend BART to a North Richmond station near the Richmond Trainyard at 13th Street/Rumrill Avenue and Market Street, then tunnel under Rumrill to a San Pablo station adjacent to Contra Costa College and the International Marketplace (formerly El Portal) shopping center at San Pablo Avenue and Broadway, then continue to Interstate 80 until the Richmond Parkway to the proposed Hilltop station.


Similar to wBART, eBART calls for DMU service to be implemented from the existing Pittsburg/Bay Point station (with cross-platform transfers) east along the Highway 4 corridor to the east Contra Costa town of Byron, with the future possibility of service to Tracy, in the San Joaquin Valley. New stations would be located in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, and Byron. Another option would be that of having a Caltrain-like service on the existing Union Pacific right-of-way from North Concord to Brentwood and beyond to Tracy and Stockton.


The extension of either conventional BART or DMU service from Dublin/Pleasanton station east to Livermore and Tracy (I-580) and possibly north to San Ramon, Dublin, Alamo to the existing Walnut Creek station via the I-680 corridor.

Infill stations

These are stations that are planned to be built on BART's right-of-way between existing stations. These include 30th Street Mission (estimated to cost approximately $500 million) in San Francisco between 24th Street Mission and Glen Park, and West Dublin/Pleasanton (funded by a unique public-private partnership, and for which the foundation already exists with construction expected to commence in 2005-2006) between Castro Valley and Dublin/Pleasanton. A proposed Jack London Square station in Oakland was studied and rejected as being incompatible with existing track geometry. [5] ( [6] (

Connecting rail and bus transit services

BART has direct connections to two regional rail services; CalTrain (which provide service between San Francisco, San José, and Gilroy) at the Millbrae Station, and Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains (which runs from Sacramento to San José) at the Richmond Station. (BART is also the managing agency for the Capital Corridor. [7] (

A number of bus services connect to BART, which are managed by separate agencies, but which are integral to the successful functioning of the system. The main services include the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit (AC Transit), San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (County Connection), and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (Golden Gate Transit).

BART is "connected" to Oakland International Airport via AirBART shuttle buses which connect travellers to the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station.

Smaller services connect as well, including the Emery Go Round ( in Emeryville and WestCat in northwestern Contra Costa County, WHEELS (Livermore), Benecia Transit (Benicia), Union City Transit (Union City), VTA Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Silicon Valley), and TriDelta Transit (Eastern Contra Costa County).

The bus service connecting the University of California, Berkeley to the Berkeley BART station was once called Humphrey Go-Bart.

See Also

External links

fr:Bay Area Rapid Transit


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