SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It appears public outcry was instrumental in getting Bay Area Rapid Transit to ramp up enforcement efforts against fare cheats.
Last week, the BART Board of Directors unanimously approved a policy that riders must present proof of payment – a Clipper card or valid paper ticket – when asked by an officer in the paid areas of the stations and on trains.READ MORE: Social Housing May Be A Fix For San Francisco's Housing Affordability Crisis
BART estimates that fare evaders cost the system some $15-20 million a year.
Complaints from the public about not just the fare evasion, but homelessness, crime and overall dissatisfaction with the BART prompted the directors to strengthen enforcement.
For BART Director Bevan Dufty, the message was loud and clear. “Absolutely. I mean the things that I hear constantly about are fare evasion, which just drives people crazy and is really corrosive to BART, and then homelessness and crime,” said Dufty
“The public did weigh in quite a bit that they wanted us to crack down on fare evasion,” said BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman.
It may be also be a tipping point for BART. While riders are still crammed like sardines at peak commute times, the agency is now seeing an overall four percent drop in ridership and a nine percent drop on nights and weekends.READ MORE: UPDATE: Police Arrest Suspect After Knife-Wielding Man Flees 2-Alarm Apartment Fire In San Francisco's Castro
Saltzman said BART can consider itself in competition with other commute options. “Call an Uber of Lyft and it will be in a couple of minutes and take them straight to the door where the need to go,” said Saltzman.
To compete BART needs a better product, even if it means picking up a broom and cleaning stations yourself, as Dufty was doing Monday.
“Look at Civic Center, Powell Street, 16th Street,” said Dufty. “These are the stations that people cite and say it is unpleasant to walk through them and we really have to change that.”
Dufty noted BART Police is about 20 percent short on the number of officers it needs.
Meanwhile, the issue of the homeless riding the rails continues to be an intractable one.MORE NEWS: COVID: California Allows For Some Fans At Ballparks, Limited Capacity At Amusement Parks April 1
“The reality is that BART is a transportation agency – that is what our focus is.”