BART cracks down on fare evaders

BART fare inspectors have issued more than 1,000 citations since March 6 when a noticeable increase in enforcement started. 

It is part of the transit agency's proof of payment policy designed to deal with millions of dollars lost annually due to fare evaders.    

Transit officials say the problem is system-wide and rampant.

At the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland Thursday afternoon, inspectors waited at the top of escalators and stairs for passengers to come up from the platform.

"Sir, you still live at the same address here," Inspector Karen Seiler asked the first passenger she approached. As it turns out, the man had not paid his fare.

"I'm going to give you a civil citation that's for not having proof of payment," said Inspector Seiler to passenger Donald Ellis. 

He claimed that he had an AC Transit bus card that didn't work. but only a BART ticket or a Clipper card are valid for entry. 

When a KTVU crew asked Ellis what his reaction to getting a citation was, he replied, "It's their job to give you a damn ticket. They doing their job. It's they job to give you a ticket if you didn't pay. I'm not mad at that," Ellis said. 

A citation for an adult is $75. For violators younger than 18, it's $55. 

"A lot of times, they want to go back and pay," said Inspector Seiler. 

But it doesn't work that way. Once a passenger is cited for fare evasion, they can contest the ticket or do community service. Inspectors say they give out citations daily.

"Several times every 15 minutes. It's ongoing and we're making a small dent in it," said Inspector Seiler. 

She said fare cheats are as young as in 11 years old and up to 90. 

"It's clear though from the amount of fare activity our inspectors have had, , fare evasion is a significant problem," said BART Deputy Police Chief Lance Haight. 

BART estimates that it loses $15 million to $25 million annually to fare cheats. 

"For future reference, please make sure you process your ticket," said Inspector Carlos Escobar as he cited a passenger. 

Inspectors conduct enforcement in teams and they are required to turn on their body cameras. They carry a ticket reader, police radio and pepper spray.

They are not armed and they do no make arrests. Enforcement is also carried out on trains. 

"This one has got a negative balance," said one BART inspector who checked a passenger's ticket. 

A KTVU crew observed many people going thru a swing gate that is designated an emergency entry and exit, without paying. 

Dolores Sharp was among them and said,"I didn't pay my fare because I was going through to buy a bus card."

Inspectors say the excuses are as varied as the people. 

Fare evaders cited twice in a 12-month period will be reported to the California Franchise Tax Board. It will take money out of a tax refund or lottery winnings.

"Here's your Clipper Card and driver's license. I need you to exit the train and purchase a ticket please," said Inspector Escobar after citing one passenger for not paying. 

This summer, the BART board will review this proof of payment policy to see how well It is working. If it decides to continue the program, BART plans to hire two more fare inspectors, bringing the total to eight.