A quick fix to the problem of fare evaders on BART has been shut down just as fast as it was implemented. That was a decision by the transit agency to bolt closed the swinging exit gates reserved for riders who use wheelchairs or are pushing strollers or bikes. While immediately effective in curbing fare evasion according to BART, fire inspectors were not delighted with the practice, citing a fire code violation and forcing the transit agency to unbolt over a dozen swinging doors as the Chronicle learned.
Beginning on November 2, BART shut 10 of 12 swinging gates at the Embarcadero station, and push as they might, would-be scofflaws couldn't get through. “What’s behind this is we know people are fare evading, and it’s extremely frustrating,” BART's spokesperson Alicia Trost told the Chronicle. “We want to show people we are doing everything we can to make sure we are getting every penny owed to us.”
Indeed, BART had recently to trim its budget based on a dip in ridership, the first decline in six years. "[Doubt] the ridership is down, those numbers are just paying customers," one SFist commenter mused. "BART and Muni have to be the worst policed transit systems in the country."
By BART's estimate, fare dodgers cost the agency millions in revenue every year. To arrive at that figure, the agency compares the number of entrants to its system with the number of those who exit. That comes up short by about 7,000 per day. But with the bolted exits, BART says data showed 5,000 more people exited at Embarcadero than had the day before, leading the agency to try to expand the measure to Montgomery Station — where the Fire Marshal soon fielded numerous complaints.
“We contacted BART, and we advised them they had to restore the gates to the original function,” SFFD spokesperson Lieutenant Jonathan Baxter told the Chronicle. "Unless they can provide the marshal with an exit analysis that shows the gates are not required for egress — or a way to get out — they have to be rectified,” he added.
That's, of course, what BART will try to do — this time without sneaking the idea past the Fire Marshal, so to speak.