BART has a well-documented fare evasion problem — and one that it's likely been under-reporting — and the transit agency's latest method of curbing the problem doesn't look like it's doing much at all.
BART installed its first double-stacked fare gates at Richmond Station earlier this month, as part of a multi-million-dollar project to stop fare evasion. The gates, with two sets of clampers, are meant to make it harder for fare evaders to hop the gates as they have since the system first opened in the 1970s. But all it took was sitting in Richmond Station for 10 minutes for ABC 7 to document seven fare evasions through the double-stacked gates. One young lady limbos right under the gates, and a man easily slips in behind another paying rider — doing it with such ease and obvious experience that the rider in front of him didn't even notice.
This is hardly a problem that is going to be solved without constant BART Police presence in every station, which simply isn't feasible. As BART rider Shay Martin succinctly puts it to ABC 7 in an interview at the station, "People need to get where they're going and they have no means."
In an added argument for why the double-stacked gates aren't worth their cost, the Examiner reported earlier this month that the double-clamp gates had clamped on the headrest of a disabled passenger in a wheelchair, barely missing her head. Also, the new gates are engineered to clamp down harder and are less easy to pry open, which makes them all the more dangerous for those in wheelchairs.
"The price tag to replace the system’s 600 fare gates is $150-200 million and funding has not yet been identified," BART says in a recent report on fare evasion, which estimated that the agency loses $15 million to $25 million in revenue to fare evaders. A new report by an Alameda County Grand Jury puts the number closer to $80 million.
Meanwhile, the Chronicle reports that BART is doing a piss-poor job of actually collecting fines when they do catch fare evaders. Out of 6,800 citations issued last year by BART fare inspectors, BART has received payments on about 600 of those, leaving 6,200 unpaid. And of those, according to the Chronicle, 5,677 were tossed out because the fare evader was from out of state, gave a false name or address, or failed to produce ID when they were cited. BART has no recourse to collect a fine in any of these cases. Furthermore, the only recourse they do have if the person doesn't pay and did provide valid identification is to garnish income tax refund money or lottery winnings via the Franchise Tax Board. If the person has neither of those fund sources, the ticket will simply go unpaid.
In short, BART's new gates do little to stop fare evasion, and when BART has physical officers on site doing enforcement and writing tickets, that isn't much of a deterrent because people know they don't have to pay the tickets anyway.
Hence that woman limboing under the gate and flashing shaka signs at the news station cameras as she passes.