BART tackles fare evasion with new jump-resistant gates
This winter, BART will begin replacing its current fare gates with clear, sensor-activated panels in a bid to combat fare evasion and respond to safety concerns.
Why it matters: The transit system's ridership still lags behind pre-pandemic levels. Facing a steep fiscal cliff, BART has awarded a $90 million contract in hopes that the new fare gates will improve enforcement to help cover operating costs and encourage riders to return.
Details: BART's board has authorized STraffic America — a transportation infrastructure company — to install clear, six-foot-tall swing barriers that would make it more difficult to climb over or crawl under them, according to a conceptual rendering.
- LED lighting will be installed on the barriers and in the gate pathway while new infrared technology and 3D sensors would help BART's ability to identify and respond to situations like riders bringing their bicycles through the gates, carrying luggage or using a wheelchair.
- The sensors would also detect people who try to get through by piggybacking on another person or tailgating someone else.
What to watch: BART will pilot the new gates at its West Oakland station later this year and plans to roll out the new barriers at remaining stations over the next several years.
What they're saying: "Fare gates cost money to maintain. Fare gates involve another point of friction," warned Alon Levy, an NYU Marron Institute fellow who studies public transportation. BART officials will need to ensure these barriers don't become "another impediment in big crowds," he said.
How it happened: Prior to the pandemic, more than 70% of BART's operating budget was covered by fares. That number fell to around less than 21% as ridership decreased.
- What officials have found is that current and former riders want to see a safer BART, spokesperson Chris Filippi told Axios.
- "The fare gates are part of hardening our system," Filippi said. "For us to be able to limit fare evasion and to increase the revenue that we're getting from fares, even with lower ridership numbers, is a really important thing."
BART received the lowest customer rating for enforcement against fare evasion and addressing homelessness on the system in a 2022 survey.
- While crime on the system has increased in the past year, it remains below pre-COVID-19 times, Filippi said.
The big picture: BART is one of several transit agencies struggling to recover from staggering COVID-related revenue losses.
- Its cumulative deficit through fiscal year 2028 is projected to total $1 billion.
Worth noting: State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and the California Transit Association unveiled a $5 billion funding request on Tuesday to help address California transit agencies' operating deficits.
- BART has also solicited customer feedback on potential fare raises in 2024 and 2025.
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