SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Because BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system is bleeding tens of millions of dollars every year to fare evaders, it is now beginning to field a very cheap, but very effective measure to deal with one of the primary ways tolls are evaded.
Fare evaders boldly hop, crawl under, or push their way through the current turnstiles.
It is illegal and an insult to every fare payer. “Because, of course, we're subsidizing the entire system and, of course, if we have riders who are riding without paying, then that raises the cost for those who are paying,” said BART Rider Deion Baker.
Besides jumping the turnstiles, another favorite evasion method is tailgating.
“You put your card through, people be in back of you they woo, they done me like that. You know, they don't want to pay, that's what they do,” said Famous Wayne, a long time BART Rider.
Then there are the gate crashers.
“Here you have the existing fare gates. There's about 16 pounds of pressure that runs through when these are closed. But, once they are closed, we have increased that air pressure, so it's more difficult to force them apart and walk through,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.
So, the gates that haven't been modified yet are very, very easy to get through.
But, those that have been modified, most people find that wouldn't be able get through.
Data collected is very encouraging from this simple change in air pressure. “There are fewer people that are able to fare evade and those who do, have to be much more committed and really have to make a serious effort to do so,” said BART’s Allison.
One rider thinks BART could do better if it spends the required money.
“I know that other cities like New York, you know, they have a completely different style of turnstile system that prevents that, I'm sure that would be an undertaking and a budget consideration to make that happen here said BART Rider Johanna McCloy.
Indeed, BART is considering three additional improvements. First, enlarging the barrier gate to make it even harder to walk through without paying. Second, redesigning the portals to make it much harder for evaders to get a firm hand hold before vaulting the gate. Third, raising the entire fare gate system so high, it will be impossible to jump over or climb the barrier altogether.
Why is this important? BART is losing $25 million a year to fare evaders and the fare payers are the ones paying for it.