John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The era of stain-fighting vinyl has come to the Bay Area.
There was once a time when Bay Area commuters could enliven a BART slog by trancing out to all the weird stains on the carpet. Look, that barf spot resembles a duck! That sticky-red patch is Gorbachev’s birthmark!
Those days are over, however, as the transit agency has finally retrofitted the last of its carpeted trains—Car 1593—with squeaky-clean vinyl flooring. “Let us be the first to say, good riddance,” declares BART.
The project wrapped up in June, although the agency made the all-done announcement this week. It marks the successful transition to fluid-fighting surfaces that started way back in 2008. Today the trains bear a mix of spray-on rubber flooring and rolled vinyl. The materials are meant to complement BART’s new plasticized seat covers—the last of which went in this winter in place of disgusting carpet ones—although they’ll probably still clash with some of the system’s alarming blood-based graffiti.
BART claims it’s seen a “dramatic drop” in complaints about nasty floors since the switch to vinyl, writing:
Back in the early 1970’s a carpeted train car might have made sense for a new transit agency trying to lure commuters with a deluxe, seat-for-every-passenger, new way to get to work. More than 40 years later, and with ridership at 420,000 trips a weekday, carpeted train floors were just another reminder of our aging system.
Jeff Baker, Assistant Maintenance Superintendent notes the change to vinyl makes cleaning easier and cheaper. The carpet needed to be machine-scrubbed and deodorized frequently. “Now, whatever spills and debris that gets left behind during revenue service can effectively be cleaned and the overall car appearance can be brought back to standard each day,” Baker said. “Our cleaning crews can easily sweep debris out from under the seats which slides easily on the vinyl flooring and the surface provides assurance that proper sanitation can occur.”
And thus the Bay Area loses yet another piece of its historical griminess. Let’s all share a moment of introspection for the icky, allegedly flea-ridden carpets of yore:
"Let's put carpet in BART trains," they said. "It will make the half hour delays so pleasant," they said. pic.twitter.com/dnE5cJBWag— Rob Brazier (@rfbrazier) August 19, 2014
The most romantic of carpet stains on this BART car. pic.twitter.com/7QSP7gQYxX— whimsy. (@ladywhimsy) August 15, 2013