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Where do BART trains go when they die?

A BART train stops at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco, on June 6, 2023.
The agency’s legacy train cars are being phased out in favor of the system’s newer Fleet of the Future train cars. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

In a send-off reminiscent of a ship being cast off to sea, dozens of transit officials and transit nerds were on hand to bid adieu to the last officially scheduled run of BART’s legacy cars—the last one being a Richmond-bound red line train run on Sunday evening

Characterized by their two-door cars and weathered greenish seats, the train cars are being phased out in favor of the system’s newer Fleet of the Future cars. Don’t worry; those who missed out on Sunday’s send-off will have an opportunity to go to an official retirement ceremony next year.

But all the celebration raises the question of where exactly these trains go after leaving the station for the last time. 

While older trains will be run occasionally to help bolster and support service, the majority of the more than 600 legacy train cars that have served the Bay Area will be recycled. BART staff removes parts and components that can still have utility before sending the vehicle to the scrap yard. Hazardous materials are also removed and disposed of. 

The cars are then put on a low flatbed truck and sent to Schnitzer Steel, a West Oakland recycling center, where a giant claw-like machine crushes and breaks the vehicles into larger chunks.

These pieces are transferred and sorted into different materials and then run through a metal shredder, where they are broken down into smaller pieces that can be transported to mills and foundries and reused for other purposes. 

According to BART, a train car can yield around 15 tons of steel, 6 tons of aluminum and 1 ton of copper. 

But BART officials have also weighed creative uses for the retired trains. A handful of legacy BART cars are also being preserved for use as museum artifacts, an arcade, a bike repair shop, a bar and a short-term rental property. 

Kevin Truong can be reached at