BART approves new gate design in the hopes of preventing fare evaders

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The BART board on Thursday approved replacing current fare gates at all stations to curb fare evasion. However, you shouldn't expect to see them anytime soon. 

Fare evasion costs BART between $15 million and $25 million each year. BART says this is lost revenue that can't be reinvested into improvements to the system for all riders.

The board opted for the swing style barrier with a clear door that opens and closes on its own. 

The two other options were the retractable barrier with visually similar doors and the rotating floor-to-ceiling turnstile, similar to those found at the entryways of theme parks and some New York City Metro stations.

The estimated price tag to replace the system’s 600 fare gates is $150 million and funding has not yet been identified, according to BART.

In May, staff presented plans to test two fare gate modifications instead of an entire replacement system, at an estimated cost of $15 to $25 million.

These modifications, designed to deter the ability to push through or jump over fare gates, would cost significantly less than replacement, the staff told the board. Modified gates could also provide an interim solution while funds are secured for a wholesale replacement program, the staff wrote. 

Some new designs were tested out over the summer. A pilot that modified the fare gates at Richmond Station with upper flaps to create duplex leaf, stacked fare gates started on June 9. Some wheelchair users had safety concerns with that design.

And as of July 25, staff said based on a limited count, there has been an overall fare evasion reduction of approximately 55 to 60 percent. 

But the problem of fare evasion persists.

"It bothers me when they go right past me after I've paid my fare...take a free ride on my fare," rider Josh Thomas of Oakland said. 

BART officials said as many as five percent of its riders don't pay their fare. 

"It's really our Achilles Heel. We rely on fares to run our system more than any other transit entity in the country," said BART board member Bevan Dufty. 

Dufty was among the board members who unanimously approved the new fare gate design. 

"You won't be able to jump over them and you won't be able to push through them very easily," said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost. 

Still, some had a more liberal approach. 

"I pay for my BART rides every time, but whatever. Whether someone doesn't have enough money to pay doesn't matter to me," said Jay Hsu, a rider from Oakland. 

Another woman said cracking down on fare evaders, but also reducing fares, would be a "magic combination." 

Officials estimate it could take three to five years before we see the new fare gates.