There has been a recent spike (no pun intended) in news articles about the difficulties with BART’s proprietary design. Because of BART’s uniqueness, Board member Tom Radulovich describes it as a kind of crafts project which is more complicated to maintain compared to other metros:
BART’s 1,000 volt electrical system is unique. So is its station design and even its ticketing system. Having such custom features, according to Radulovich, means that projects are not only more expensive, but take longer. Added to that, he said, “there’s a chance it won’t work – or at least won’t work the first time.”
BART is indeed a unique design, but that in itself is not unusual. A large number of transit projects in the US involve propriety design. Everywhere you look, transportation consultants are going out their way to spec out special snowflake trains, signal systems, etc. Hardly any of these projects comply with global standards.
Consider the Caltrain “modernization” project, for which the agency is designing dual-door “frankentrains” and a non-standard signal system. Or the San Diego Sprinter DMU with its platform lift gates and proprietary braking system. Or the Marin-Sonoma SMART line with its propriety DMU trains and gauntlet tracks. Or the Acela, which will probably be getting early retirement. The list goes on and on.