BATWG, an independent group of volunteers, is often critical of Bay Area transportation policies and practices. However once in a while a project comes along that engenders respect. BART’s new Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) line running between the Pittsburgh Bay Point BART terminal and Antioch is such a project. The new line began carrying paying customers on May 26, 2018. By all accounts it is proving to be an outstanding success.
Most impressively, the 10-mile extension including vehicles was completed at a per mile cost of less than one sixth the estimated cost of building the much ballyhooed all-BART extension to Livermore.
The DMU project is notable for several reasons:
1) Running at 15 minute headways and at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, two 2-car DMU trains make the trip between Pittsburgh Bay Point and Antioch in 10 minutes, including the time required to serve the new Pittsburgh Central station. With 8 cars in the fleet, the system has the capability of deploying 3-car trains if necessary.
2) Each car is powered by two diesel engines located in the middle of the car, each engine powering a separate axle. The engines are very quiet; one hardly notices them on the platform and literally cannot hear them from inside the car. In fact with the doors closed, the interior of the cars is so quiet, even at 75 miles a hour, that it’s almost like being in a battery-powered automobile. Interior comfort is further enhanced, even for standees, by a combination of good track alignment and smooth acceleration and deceleration. Unfortunately most Bay Area transit users seldom experience this quality of ride.
3) The transfer between BART trains and the DMU trains is fast and convenient. The transfer is made at a transfer-only station located a little over a half a mile to the east of Pittsburgh Bay Point. Eastbound BART trains marked “Antioch” go beyond the Pittsburgh Bay Point station to the transfer-only stop where riders walk a short distance across the platform to the waiting DMU train.
From all appearances it appears that DMU riders are well satisfied with being able to get comfortably back and forth between Antioch and their regular BART trains in 10 minutes, zipping past harried motorists often trapped in 10 miles of brutal stop-and-go Highway 4 traffic. Patronage is running at 8,000 one-way riders a day, almost 50% above projections.
Unfortunately in the Bay Area one seldom sees projects that are both cost effective and beneficial to the traveling public. And one virtually never sees a project that also improves the Bay Area’s overall transportation condition. BART’s DMU extension shows what can be achieved when a well-conceived project is laid out and executed properly.