SAN FRANCISCO
07/19/2011 08:36 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2011

BART And BMW: Trains To Get A Makeover From Luxury Car Company

Does anyone know how BMW feels about interior carpeting?

This is a serious question now that DesignworksUSA, a subsidiary of the German car manufacturer BMW, has won the contract to design the next generation of BART trains.

In a press release, even BART admitted the union is a little odd:

BART has worked for years to get folks out of their cars and onboard its trains. That’s why at first look, it might seem strange that BART is partnering with a subsidiary of one of the premier car companies in the world to create the Fleet of the Future, a new generation of train cars.

BART has the oldest fleet of train cars currently in operation of any transit system in the county--most original trains from when the system launched in 1972 are still in operation.

"The rail system uses a broad gauge rather than the standard gauge of most rail in the U.S., so cars must be custom-designed," CNET reported.

The agency is in the process of conducting "Seat Labs," where it solicits input from the public about what people would like to see in the new trains. One interesting finding from the sessions is that most riders would be willing to give up an inch or two of seat space in exchange for wider aisles. Data gathered from the labs will be folded into whatever concept the firm eventually settles on.

DesignworksUSA specializes in sleek, modernist designs and has worked on everything from a private jet for Boeing to a tractor for John Deere. (For the latter, the company won a number of industry awards.)

Most relevant for BART is the work the company did on the Deutsche Bahn: Innovation Train. It's worth taking a look at these pictures of the company's concept for the German train and applying it to BART.

An investigation by the Bay Citizen earlier this year found the interiors of BART's train cars to be teeming life. Disgusting, disgusting life:

Fecal and skin-borne bacteria resistant to antibiotics were found in a seat on a train headed from Daly City to Dublin/Pleasanton. Further testing on the skin-borne bacteria showed characteristics of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the drug-resistant bacterium that causes potentially lethal infections, although Franklin cautioned that the MRSA findings were preliminary.

High concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold were found on the seat. Even after Franklin cleaned the cushion with an alcohol wipe, potentially harmful bacteria were found growing in the fabric.

The new train cars are expected to go into service sometime in 2017.