SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — You don’t have to look hard to find fare cheats on BART. In fact, people jumping the gates cost the transit system millions each year.
Not only does BART have a fare gate problem, they have a problem with what happens after people jump the gate.
Anyone who rides BART has seen them – fare cheats who either climb over the gates, or just push on through without a care.
As BART Director Bevan Dufty showed us at Embarcadero Station, all it takes is a little push. And while an alarm went off, the nearest BART agent was on the other side of the station and didn’t even notice.
“This is a station with six entrances and two station agents,” said Dufty.
That is why BART is looking at installing new tougher fare gates; something New York City has already done.
“It is absolutely what we need to do,” said Dufty.
BART hopping is costing the cash-strapped system upwards of $25 million a year. But the blatant fare evasion – and the people it brings into the stations – are also taking a big toll in the system’s safety image.
The concerns rose to a new level in the wake of the fatal slashing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson by a convicted felon John Lee Cowell – who has been caught fare-jumping just days earlier; a tragedy that Wilson’s family lawyer said could have been prevented with stricter enforcement.
“You have to nip it in the bud at the turnstyles,” said Wilson family attorney Robert Arns. “If BART had stopped the criminal fare evaders, Nia would be alive.”
“There is a public perception of increased crime, and so we need to really address this in multiple ways,” said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost. “Get more officers out there. Fix the BART-hopping problem. Clean up the stations. Find somewhere for the homeless to be and not on our trains. And that is what we are doing.”
But new gates do not come cheap – upwards of $150-200 million for the whole system.
“And that is just an estimate. It is extremely expensive,” said Trost.
BART is also looking into high-tech weapons scanners, putting more cops on patrol, and installing higher barriers around the fare gates.
Although people do find a way around them – or through them, whether it’s BART or San Francisco Muni.
Another example of what BART is doing in the interim is raising the height of the wall bordering the paid area of the stations, such as at Embarcadero Station, to discourage people from jumping over the partition.
BART directors have told this reporter they are on board with the notion of keeping trouble out of stations, so there is less trouble to deal with inside the system.