BART Seats: Officially Gross


Photo by Jared Zimmerman

Muni seats: officially less gross. Well, at least on the molecular level.

Muni seats are cleaner than the cloth seats on BART, which carry bacteria resistant to antibiotics, the Bay Citizen reported yesterday. Citing laboratory tests of swabs from BART seats done by an SF State biologist, the Bay Citizen says the results showed several antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains living in the infamous blue cushioned seats.

In two separate tests, [SF State biology lab supervisor Darleen] Franklin identified characteristics of the MRSA bacteria growing in the seat. The first test confirmed the presence of staphylococcus aureus, the skin-borne bacteria. A second confirmed that the bacteria, like MRSA, was resistant to the antibiotics methicillin and penicillin. But a third test intended to isolate the MRSA bacteria was negative.

MRSA is known as the “superbug” because it is resistant to antibiotics. It infects people through open wounds, attacking the immune system; 19,000 deaths each year are related to MRSA infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You might have read a couple of gross stories on Muni here (hell, we even have our own crowd-sourced dictionary of Muni aromas), but according to the Bay Citizen’s report, Muni seats are actually cleaner.

Franklin’s analysis also revealed that Muni, which uses acrylic plastic seats, appears to be more sanitary.

She tested a seat on the No. 28 bus, a route frequented by college students traveling from San Francisco State to Daly City. Two benign bacteria colonies were found. Unlike the BART seat analysis, Franklin’s test of the Muni seat after cleaning it with an alcohol wipe detected no bacteria.

Read the entire Bay Citizen article (“BART Seats: Where Bacteria Blossom“).

BART is asking what kind of seats riders want when the system upgrades its trains in the next few years. What do you propose?



  1. Yeah, cloth seats always seemed like a bad idea for BART (or any public transit system). Padded seats covered with vinyl (or a similar material) would be a much better choice, just as comfortable, and MUCH easier to clean.

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  2. Erik

    I wonder what you find if you do the same test on an average office chair or living room couch.

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  3. Beth W.

    I agree, cushioned vinyl would be great. I do think BART trips can be long enough that it’s worth having comfy seating, but cloth is just a bad idea.

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  4. sarah

    Vinyl seats will get torn or slashed easily but seems like a better option- its a tough call because of those with long commutes but regular seats like Muni are muuuuch better and can be cleaned more easily- get rid of the carpet on the floors too- musty and gross!

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    • eugenia

      Oh yeah the carpet…that’s another thing that grosses me out!

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