BART fare cheats could face criminal citations

Repeat adult BART fare cheats could be issued a criminal citation under a new revised proposed ordinance that would create a proof of payment system for the transit agency.

Transit officials said the proof of payment system is one of the many plans BART is implementing to crack down on fare cheats, which cost the transit agency $15 to $25 million in annual fare revenue.

The revision would also allow a police or community service officer to write a criminal citation to cheaters who knowingly give false information. The ticket would be issued at the discretion of the officer, according to the proposed ordinance.

The proposal includes $120 civil citations for adults and a $60 civil citation for minors who are unable to show proof of payment. Officers could still issue a warning instead of a civil citation. Community service would also be an option instead of a fine.

Deputy Chief Lance Haight with the BART Police Department, presented the new revisions at the BART Board of Directors meeting last Thursday.

The proposed changes drew criticism from BART’s Board Present Rebecca Saltzman:

“The adding of the criminal infraction is extremely problematic especially considering that it can be assessed just on someone’s second violation.”

Saltzman added that the transit agency would be treating those who park illegally inside BART’s parking lots every single day differently than someone who fare evades just twice.

While Saltzman said she would not support the new proposed ordinance, she still called for the BART Police Department to have a comprehensive plan on how the department plans to enforce the proof of payment program.

BART Director Nick Joseofwitz also said he felt uncomfortable with the criminal citation added to the proposal, but also wanted to get more information on what other transit agencies are doing.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, stopped criminalizing adult fare evaders in 2008. The transit agency later changed its policy for youth fare evaders in 2016 when the state legislature passed AB 413, allowing transit agencies to administrator civil penalties for youth fare evaders.

Erica Kato, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, said the transit agency does not keep track of repeat offenders or increase penalties for repeat offenders.

BART directors John McParkland and Debora Allen were glad to see the new provision in the proposed ordinance.

Allen said officials know that it’s not just the riders who cannot afford to pay to ride BART who are getting on the system illegally:

“We either to have decide are we going to have rules to enforce and make it matter so people learn that this is not the behavior we will accept, or are we just going to let this thing go and just say hey you know, if you feel like you can’t pay, we just go to a voluntarily system, and we’re going to see the revenue really drop.”

Allen attended the American Public Transportation Association convention in Atlanta this year, and said she rode on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, where fare evaders in Atlanta are arrested.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed ordinance at the next BART Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Directors are expected to vote on the proposed ordinance.