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Bart’s Costly “Solution” to Fare Evasion

In some strangely ironic sequence of events, I was detained by BART Police for hopping the gate on my way to a Criminal Investigation class over the summer. To get to Merritt College from my house, you have to take a bus, BART four stops, and another bus, totaling up to around 10 dollars round trip. 

I spent less money that day on lunch. 

When I exited the bus outside of the MacArthur BART station, I opened my phone to look at my Clipper card balance. 

Damn

I had just put twenty dollars on there a matter of days ago, and the fares from trains and buses had already eaten all but the two dollars remaining.

BART habitually raises its prices, and for this reason, a plethora of Bay Area residents choose to evade the fees by hopping over the gate. BART-hopping has become intrinsic to Bay culture, with a general consensus that the ticket fare has become far too steep, especially when commuters drop roughly $50 in one week going to and from work. Additionally, there are plans to raise fares by 5.5% in January 2024 and again at the same rate in January 2025. 

Work for a gate solution to the fare evasion problem reaches back to 2019 when the BART board of directors voted to install gates similar to those held at Muni stations. With a push and pull between BART and frustrated riders (BART raising prices, and subsequently, more people evading fees by hopping), it’s difficult to foresee a plan to prevent fare evasion from panning out without pushback. 

Furthermore, many unhoused individuals (especially during the rainy months) take shelter by riding the trains all day; one of the few dry, warm areas the city has accessible to unhoused folks. With BART’s claims that the gates will “boost safety,” you can’t help but wonder if the “safety” in question is simply making the trains inaccessible to homeless people. 

According to NBC Bay Area: “BART estimates that fare evaders cost the system $15 million to $25 million a year.” 

BART’s supposed solution to the issue of fare evasion has cost a whopping $90 million to procure new fare gates that they claim will “bring a new look and improved experience, offering state-of-the-art technology.” Additionally, an extra $8.35 million (as of June 2023) has gone to BART Police (BPD). 

There is no doubt that fare evasion has become an issue for BART, however, while they spend a near $100 million on new gates, millions on their police force, as well as continually raising their ticket fees, one can’t help but wonder— are the fare evaders at fault, or does the true issue lie in BART’s poor money management? 
As of Friday, December 15th, workers began installing new fare gates at the West Oakland station, the first of the new gates intended to be rolled out system wide.

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