Council Calls on BART to Accelerate Installation of New, Secure Fare Gates by at Least a Full Year
The Bay Area Council is calling on BART to accelerate its timeline for installing new, more secure fare gates to address continuing serious concerns about crime and safety that have kept riders away from the system and provide possibly tens of millions of dollars in increased fare revenue as the system seeks more funding to avoid dramatic service reductions.
In a letter to BART Board President Janice Li and General Manager Bob Powers, the Council called on BART to complete the installation of next generation fare gates by at least a full year ahead of its current schedule, including installing new fare gates at each of its ten core stations in San Francisco and Oakland by July 1, 2024, and all at all stations systemwide by no later than December 31, 2024.
“Time is our enemy when it comes to shoring up of the region’s backbone mass transit system,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We applaud BART for taking the initial steps to begin the process of installing new fare gates, but it’s unacceptable that there is not greater urgency to complete this critical upgrade much sooner than currently scheduled. It can be done and it must be done. This is BART’s moment to shine, to show that they’re listening to riders and that they can do something extraordinary.”
Fare evasion is incredibly pervasive throughout the system and is contributing significantly to crime and perceptions of crime, as well as concerns about the cleanliness of the system, the Council’s letter stated. BART’s own data backs up these concerns, with survey results from earlier this year that revealed a 22% increase in violent crime and an 86% increase in property crime compared to the same time the previous year. Another BART report found that 25% of respondents had witnessed fare evasion, a 6.3% increase over the previous year and a figure that likely underestimates the problem.
A poll the Bay Area Council and EMC Research in May 2023 found that 62% respondents want BART to improve fare gates to prevent fare evaders and 66% want fare gates to fully enclose station entrances. The Council believes that embracing and enacting operational and fiscal reforms are critical for BART in order to bring back riders, put itself on a sustainable fiscal trajectory and position itself to better serve riders.
Addressing crime, safety and fare evasion could produce a significant financial windfall for BART, which has been desperately seeking new funding after ridership plummeted during the pandemic and has been extremely slow to recover. In the Council May poll, 78% of those surveyed said they would ride BART more often if it was safer and cleaner. A Council analysis of the findings found those numbers could result in 300,000 riders returning to the system along with the many millions of dollars in fare revenue they represent. Combined with revenue from reduced fare evasions, the Council estimates BART could reap tens of millions of dollars in revenue.