BART pro­poses fines for tran­sit fare evaders

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Erin Bal­das­sari ebal­das­sari@ba­yarea news­group.com BART MOB ROB­BERIES Con­tact Erin Bal­das­sari at 510-208- 6428.

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.”

STAFF FILE PHOTO

New bar­ri­ers at the Pitts­burg/Bay Point BART sta­tion have been in­stalled to stymie at­tempts at fare eva­sion.

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