BART proposes fines for transit fare evaders
OAKLAND » In an effort to crack down on rampant fare evasion on BART, the agency is proposing to slap scofflaws with a $120 fee for adults and a $60 fee for minors, the latter of which could be substituted for community service.
BART estimates fare cheats cost the agency up to $25 million each year in lost revenue. Using cameras pointed at a swinging gate that separates the paid area at the Embarcadero station, staff saw some 600 people skirting the system in just one day, said Paul Oversier, BART’s assistant general manager of operations.
“And that’s just one of 12 (swinging gates) at Embarcadero,” he said.
Oversier proposed BART become a “proof of payment” system, which re- quires people riding the trains to have valid tickets and to be able to produce them on demand. To enforce those rules, BART would hire six community service officers, who are not sworn police officers but would have the ability to dole out fines, to rotate throughout the system on any given day and randomly check train tickets.
The community service officers will have the option of issuing warnings, and the fees won’t result in any criminal penalties, said BART police Chief Carlos Rojas. Instead, it would be an administrative penalty. And, for minors who show they can’t pay the fine, he said BART would partner with community-based organizations to complete some form of community service in lieu of payment.
“It doesn’t even rise to the level of an infraction,” Rojas said.
BART’s governing board largely lauded the proposal, which will come before the board in late October for a vote, but several members questioned whether the fee structure would disproportionately burden low-income riders, and whether the enforcement would unfairly target people of color.
“I can’t just take that at your word,” said board President Rebecca Saltzman, referring to Rojas’ pledge to ensure non-biased enforcement. “I need to know what the plan is, and what officers will be told, and how this will work.”
Board Director Nicholas Josefowitz asked staff to come back after evaluating whether the agency could use a sliding scale, rather than a flat fee, based on the offender’s ability to pay, along with community service options that include drug rehabilitation or job training. And Director Lateefah Simon emphasized the agency needs to provide a robust outreach and communication effort if it wants to effect a culture change on the part of BART fare cheats, who have long been accustomed to getting a free ride.
“( This program) is purporting not only enforcement but culture change inside an institution,” she said. “And culture change is hard; it’s a diverse population.”
At the same time, BART is in the process of redesigning stations to make it harder to jump the fare gates, or use swinging gates or elevators to reach station platforms without paying. At Fremont, Pitts- burg/Bay Point and part of the Downtown Berkeley station, BART has installed 60inch barriers and controls that don’t allow the swing gates to open, Oversier said. And, at the South Hayward and Berkeley stations, the agency is retrofitting elevators so patrons can’t take them from unpaid areas and reach station platforms.
In San Francisco, which has some of the most pervasive fare- evasion issues, he said the agency is working with the city’s fire marshal to figure out how to prevent people from using the swinging gates while still ensuring there are ample egresses in the event of a fire. And, station modifications are planned at seven other stations, Oversier said.
He added, “It’s no longer open season for fare evasion at BART.”
New barriers at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station have been installed to stymie attempts at fare evasion.