BART fare cheaters drain up to $25 million a year

BART is taking steps to crackdown on fare cheats who have costed the transit agency millions in lost revenue.

The transit agency’s Operations and Safety Committee, chaired by BART board Director Joel Keller, met Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent fare evaders from riding the system for free.

According to BART documents, the transit agency loses an estimated $15 to $25 million in revenue annually. BART estimates its fare evasion is rate is between 4 to 5 percent.

Included in BART’s preliminary budget for upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, are $2.9 million of proposals to deal with the fare evasion issue, said BART spokesperson Jim Allison in a statement to SFBay:

“Through a three-tiered strategy of enforcement, station hardening, and education, BART aims to raise the stakes for fare evaders, and assure our riders that we value their patronage and investment and foster the expectation that every rider pay their fair share.”

Some of ways fare evaders get into paid areas include following behind a paid BART passenger entering the fare gate, jumping over the glass barriers or fare gates, and entering through emergency exits.

Proposals mentioned in the preliminary budget include raising the glass barriers to five feet, allowing station agents to remotely control the emergency exit gates, and incorporating elevators into the paid area. The cost of raising the glass barriers, including labor and materials, is $1.9 million, and the cost to make changes to elevators is $200,000, according to BART.

Transit officials also plan to introduce a proof of payment program that would require the BART of Directors to approve an ordinance that would make changes to the fare policy and rules.

Six fare inspectors or “Community Service Officers” would be hired, and be part of the BART Police Department.

BART said it already has a draft ordinance prepared that will go before the BART board sometime in May.

The transit agency is working on specifications for the handheld devices that fare inspectors will carry to validate fare payment as well developing operational procedures for the fare inspection team.

Officials are also working on placing signage at all the stations to inform riders that they are in a paid area.

The cost of the new handheld fare checker devices is $50,000.

New technology may also help BART improve enforcement. BART seeks to use a video software that would tie into the closed-circuit cameras inside stations to inform officials were fare evasion is

The video software is a pilot application and would cost $200,000.

As for the fare gates, BART said in the long-term, it will study “evasion-unfriendly” fare gates.

The BART Board of Directors plan to approve a budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year in June.