SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - As many as 22,000 people slip through BART turnstiles on a daily basis, according to the transit system. Since January 2018, BART has caught close to 1,300 fare evaders and that number, they say, grows every day.
For the first eight weeks of 2018, BART Police had been issuing warnings and have now moved beyond that to issue fines. Those civil fines are $75 for a first-time offense.
According to BART, fare evasion cost the agency as much as $25 million annually. Facing a growing problem, the agency is faced with having to pour out more money to fix the problem.
KTVU cameras spent Monday afternoon at San Francisco's Powell Street Station and in half an hour time period, captured as many as 20 people either slipping by or jumping the pie-shaped barriers.
Riders who choose to pay fares were visibly upset at the fare evaders.
"I mean we're all trying to get to the same place and we all have to pay our fair share," said Sheri Wajschal of Berkeley. Another rider, Alicia Spears of Oakland, said, "It's unfair to the customers that pay. You know everyone needs to pay when they get on BART."
BART agrees fare evasion is a big problem and it's hurting their bottom line. They have started to study replacing their fare gates.
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said officials are now exploring the idea of a a more secure barrier that is an open platform and not an eyesore.
Finding money in the capital budget won't be easy.
"The most important thing we want people to know is that we don't have the funds to replace fare gates. It's an extremely expensive project. We have 600 fare gates, so we're thinking it's going to cost between $150 to $200 million," Trost said.
Some of the fare gates pried open by fare evaders at the Powell Street Station remained open for at least six seconds, leaving plenty of time for people to slip through. One passenger suggested BART have someone at the gate in uniform or another person of authority. But even that, Trost said, comes with a price.
"Our collective bargaining agreement is clear only BART security can provide security for the BART system and we can't bring in hired help," Trost said.
Trost added staffing more officers isn't economically feasible as they still have to staff the existing vacant positions because of an officer shortfall.
BART said it will study all of the viable options, then discuss it at a board meeting in spring of 2018.
The BART station gates currently in use can't be replaced because they use proprietary software in the Clipper system. Transit officials said any new system will have to be open sourced, something their own employees can't repair or upgrade if needed.