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Would you live inside these fantasy BART apartments?

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“An idea to get people thinking about potential uses for the old BART trains—and housing at BART stations”

Illustrations by Alfred Twu

Shortly after BART announced plans to decommission its old trains, the transit agency rattled around several ideas for repurposing them, including turning the old cars into museums, tiny homes, pop-up food trucks, and scrap metal. But Berkeley artist and housing activist Alfred Twu had a better idea: abartments.

“Each BART car would make a nice two-bedroom abartment,” notes Twu. “Perhaps at a BART station.”

The ongoing discussion about housing at BART stations, like AB 2923, also helped the artist envision his whimsical housing solution.

“This isn’t meant to be too serious of a proposal,” says Twu, a UC Berkeley alum who works for MWA Architects, but it does provide “an idea to get people thinking about potential uses for the old BART trains, and housing at BART stations in general, whether it be in old trains or regular buildings.”

He notes that, of course, there would be a lot of challenges using BART cars for housing.

“Abartments could be docked to and supported by a center core with structure, stairs, and elevators,” says Twu.
“Each BART car would make a nice two-bedroom abartment.”

“A separate structure would be needed to support them—it’s not as simple as stacking them on top of each other,” he says. “Insulation and plumbing would need to be installed. Finally, the ceilings are very low, not an impossible problem, given that the floor could be lowered since the motors aren’t needed anymore, though certainly an expensive one.”

But single-story accessory dwelling units could be a more practical setup than high-rises—as long at they’re in backyards within walking distance to transit.

“Each car is about 650 square feet, about the size of an ADU,” he says.

Indeed. And it’s not so far-fetched of an idea that abartments couldn’t come to fruition in some form one day. After all, shipping containers have been turned into habitable residences in recent years. No reason why your Millbrae-bound train couldn’t one day find new life as a Millbrae station-adjacent affordable home.