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BART Implements Alternate Strategies to Stymie Fare Evaders

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Last month KPIX 5 revealed just how common and easy it is for people to get on BART without paying.

BART's been rolling out new security features at stations to deter cheaters, things like higher fences at emergency gates and alarms. However the main fix -- new fare gates -- is still a long way off.

RELATED ARTICLE: Despite Crackdown, BART Fare Evasion Remains Rampant

In fact, BART's two newest stations set to open in San Jose later this year will still have the old fare gates. They're the same type of gates that people pushed past and jumped over without paying as seen in KPIX footage obtained as part of a recent investigation.

BART board director Debora Allen was shocked when she learned about it. "That's something I have been asking for since the day I was elected, is when will we replace the fare gates? They were designed in 1972 and they have been upgraded since. But it's clear now that we are in a different time and the fare evasion is getting worse," she said.

BART estimates that fare evasion costs the transit agency $25 to $30 million a year. The estimate for replacing all 600 fare gates is $250 million. Theoretically, BART could make much of that money back in 10 years just by cutting back on cheaters.

BART brass didn't want to comment for this report. But, in an earlier interview, BART police deputy chief Lance Haight told us: "They have engineers working on that problem. In the interim we're looking at what we can do to our existing fare gates to make them more resilient and difficult to fare evade."

In a pilot project at two stations including the Embarcadero station in San Francisco, engineers have strengthened air pressure on the gates, making them harder to push open. But the fare gate for disabled passengers is electric and is easy to cruise through without a ticket or clipper card.

BART has also launched a citation team but, as our cameras showed, the tickets the team hands out are often not taken seriously. Nine out of ten violators ticketed since the program started a year ago have not paid.

"Our primary goal has never been to generate money and make a lot of money from collecting these fines. It's really to disrupt and change behavior," deputy chief Haight said. But, when we asked him if the agency has seen a decrease in fare evasion as a result of the citations, he answered: "That's a difficult thing to put a number on."

Director Debora Allen says if there's no proof that citations are working it's time to redirect the funds.

"Here we are one year into it and we see that people are not paying the tickets, we see what you saw with your camera. So I think we really need to rethink that. The real answer to the fare evasion problem is to harden the stations," Allen said.

At its board hearing in January, BART heard proposals from engineers about the cost of replacing the fare gates. Retrofitting them or adding the air pressure would cost $15-$20 million system-wide and brand new gates would be $250 million. BART will discuss design plans at its next meeting.

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