BART’s four-year, $90 million quest for an “evasion-proof” fare gate is now a working reality, at one station at least, as the West Oakland station is now the first out of the gate with the new gates that will soon be installed systemwide.
SFist has been covering BART’s pursuit of an elusive “evasion-proof” fare gate for four years now, and admittedly, the agency has gone through a few failed models. The most widely derided of these not-ready-for-prime-time prototypes was the so-called “guillotine model” of 2021, which did not at all prevent fare evasion. But BART settled on their final model in August, and showed us the prototypes last month.
The new fare gates at West Oakland are now open. All riders must pass through these gates as we test 3 different door materials.— BART (@SFBART) December 28, 2023
The new mechanical door lock to prevent people from pushing the doors open with force, has not yet been installed. https://t.co/0JoetKI5ON pic.twitter.com/HY0x6LUAuE
Hark! The fare-evasion proof gates are a thing, now installed at West Oakland station at least, and they were reportedly up and running Thursday. As seen above, there are three different models being used there, so we are still in the testing phase before BART determines the final model that will be installed at all stations. And BART admits that “The new mechanical door lock to prevent people from pushing the doors open with force, has not yet been installed.” Which seems an admission that… they’re not exactly “evasion-proof” quite yet. But we’re getting there!
The Chronicle has a video above of these babies in action, and there seems to be more LED light blinking than any other BART gates I can recall. But as the Chronicle describes in their report on the new BART gates, the structures are “more than 7 feet tall, with sturdy and transparent polycarbonate doors.” So the thinking is you cannot crawl under any floor-level gaps, or jump over the top.
But we’ll see what happens now that they’re out in the wild! Will people find ways to outwit the gates? Once the door locks are installed, BART assistant general manager Sylvia Lamb tells the Chronicle that “It will be harder to push through these fare gates than any other gate in the world.” Seems ambitious, but we’ll see.
The Chron also makes a big issue of connecting fare evasion with “mayhem” on BART trains, and that may well be correct. Time will tell if less fare evasion addresses BART riders’ safety concerns, and again, that would be contingent on these gates proving they can stop fare evasion on a large scale.
4⃣ We rolled out the first new fare gates to the public at West Oakland Station this week, ending the year with yet another upgrade to BART’s public safety infrastructure.— BART (@SFBART) December 28, 2023
They will bolster ridership, revenue, and rider safety in 2024. pic.twitter.com/KQt9WY6KQc
You can see the gates coming together in the fun time-lapse video above. According to BART, alarms will go off when people pull funny business, and the gates will be able to track and count how many people are trying fare evasion tactics. Though the Chronicle also reports that “Tapping in with a Clipper card that has insufficient funds will also trigger the door alarms,” which seems unnecessarily mean toward people making a perfectly innocent mistake.
Much has been made of the $90 million price tag of these new gates. But BART says they lose $25 million a year to fare evasion, so the gates would theoretically pay for themselves within four years. But more notably, some $350 million in state and regional subsidies are contingent on BART installing the jump-proof gates. So merely by installing them, BART has more than paid for the gates if they’re installed on schedule.
That schedule calls for BART to install the evasion-proof gates at all stations by 2025. So expect to see them installed at a station near you, probably, soon.
Image: @SFBART via Twitter