SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — While BART says it has been cracking down on fare evaders who cost the agency millions every year, figures show almost no one pays the price, even when they’re caught.
For the past 18 months, BART fare inspectors and police hit the transit system in an effort to cite fare jumpers who are costing the system $25 million a year.
Last year, BART issued nearly 6,800 tickets for fair evasion. Most of them — over 6,200 — were never paid.
It turns out that only 541 tickets were submitted for collection. The other 6,258 were tossed out because people gave a fake name or fake address when cited.
Out of those, BART has only collected on one citation for a whopping $95.
Police say fare jumpers don’t just skip out on paying their fares. They are also more likely to be the homeless, the mentally ill and the people who rob or assault riders.
Those groups are a big contributor to the system’s ongoing loss of riders.
KPIX asked BART Board President Bevan Dufty what he thought of the all those people skipping out on their fines.
“It’s frustrating and we are going to sit down and talk about what the objectives of this program are in our tool box. But fare evasion has become the culture at BART and we need to change that, said Dufty. “We need to change the culture of fare evasion so we are trying a lot of different approaches.
Dufty said the ongoing problem could not be blamed on lack of effort by enforcement.
“These fare evasion inspectors are working six in the morning [to] nine at night and weekends,” said Dufty. “It’s something we have to figure out. But the bottom line is we have to hire 40 additional police officers and we have to harden the stations.”
Like many things at BART, there are politics at play with the issue. BART directors never wanted to criminalize fare jumpers, many of whom are homeless or minority youth
They opted to use the citations as a way to educate and encourage better behavior.
In this case, the lesson learned seems to be if you get caught, give a fake name or address and nothing will happen to you.