BART announced via Twitter today that it has tapped a contractor to install 775 new fare gates across the Bay Area, an initiative that the beleaguered transit agency hopes will “win riders back and overhaul safety in the system.”
In a statement released in March, BART shared preliminary plans for the fare gates, which include “state-of-the-art technology” that the agency hopes will reduce fare evasion, as well as accommodate riders with disabilities.
The conceptualized design shows fare gates that starkly contrast those currently guarding BART entrances. The model presents gates with heights of six feet, and clear, swinging doors which will be “very difficult to be pushed through, jumped over, or maneuvered under.”
The new gates won’t start rolling out until the end of 2023, with West Oakland serving as their first stop. It’s unclear when any San Francisco stations will get the new gates. BART Board President Janice Li said the agency is committed to completing this project by 2026.
The project will be funded by BART, county, federal and state resources. In its March statement, the BART board anticipated costs of up to $90 million, $73 million of which had already been secured at the time of the press release. Today, BART did not clarify whether the remaining balance had been appropriated.
Prior to the pandemic, BART relied upon farebox recovery more than any other transit system in the United States: A full 60 percent of the agency’s operating expenses were derived from ticket-paying customers. The pandemic eviscerated BART’s finances more than other transit agencies — and rampant fare-jumping has done the same. It has also added to perceptions of chaos and lawlessness within stations and on the trains.
Fare evasion is rampant: The February BART chief’s report showed that, from January 2021 to Febuary 2023, an average of 448 calls per month came in regarding fare evaders.
Data aside, anecdotal evidence echoes the reports’ contents: Frequent BART riders say that fare evaders may, at times, outnumber paying customers.
“They’re more likely to jump than pay,” said an officer at 24th Street Station.
“I see it every day,” said Carlos, a longtime Mission resident, regarding BART jumpers. “All races, all genders, all classes, they all jump over those gates.”
Regarding the new gates, Carlos was skeptical how well they’d fare. “Criminals will always find a way to go around the city’s measures.”
Even when shown a model of the gates, he remained doubtful, repeating, slowly, “criminals will always find a way.”