The Add Fare machines in BART stations have forever been cash-only affairs, leading occasionally to otherwise law-abiding citizens jumping turnstiles to escape when they have no change or small bills in their pockets. Or, you might only have had a five- or ten-dollar bill and all you needed to add was ten cents, resulting in a pocket full of quarters and/or dollar coins. But that era has finally come to an end.
Even though most of us have Clipper Cards or use mobile Clipper Cards on our phones these days, it's been the case for several years that some stations had both "Add Fare" and "Add Value" machines inside the fare gates, for last-minute additions of fares when you didn't realize your balance was low. The latter machines accepted debit/credit cards for adding value to Clipper Cards, but the were still cash-only Add Fare machines around, and riders who also had to pay for parking still had to use cash at these machines.
This week, at long last, BART announced that both parking and adding fares on Add Fare machines can now be done by card. This was a project we first heard they were working on three and a half years ago, FYI.
"It was not uncommon for a rider needing to exit a station to end up with a pocket full of quarters because the 'Add Fare' machines only accepted cash for the small amount needed to exit. Now Add Fare machines allow riders to decide to either add the amount needed to exit or however much money they would like," the agency said in the announcement.
And: "Previously the default 'add amount' was $10, and riders had to subtract $1 and 5c many times to get to the minimum amount to exit. Now riders can select the minimum amount to exit quicker."
There were also the awkward dances you sometimes had to do, asking a station agent to let you out the side gate to go to a regular fare machine to add fare with a card, just so you could go back in and re-exit.
All this is to say that it took far too long for BART to catch up to doing this, but such is the world of BART.
In early 2021, at least, we started being able to use iPhones and Apple Watches to pay fares by just swiping them over Clipper readers, so there's that. And this is clearly the recommended way of doing things, even though it involves pulling out your phone and fumbling to enter your passcode each time — because if you ever need to add fare you just do it quick and easy through the Apple Wallet.
Next, BART says, they will be upgrading all fare machines "to accept EMV chip cards or mobile devices." We'll look for that to happen by 2062.