BART considers charging riders for prepaid cards

A prepaid card that lets BART customers bypass ticketing machines at stations is already booming with popularity — but are riders willing to pay an extra $5 to get one?

Launched in October 2006, an estimated 30,000 passengers are participating in a pilot project with the EZ Rider cards, which allows users to prepay for rides with a debit or credit card, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. All riders have to do is slide the card on a plastic disk mounted atop BART fare gates and the fare is automatically deducted upon exiting the station, officials said.

For the most part, the trial run for EZ Rider has been successful, Johnson said. But cash-strapped BART, which was stripped of $37 million in state funding this year, has temporarily stopped issuing the cards because producing them has become too costly, Johnson said.

“With the huge budget cuts, anything we can do to recover our fees would be helpful,” he said.

At a public hearing during its board meeting today, BART officials will ask if BART passengers would be willing to pay a one-time fee of $5 for the EZ Rider card.

Additionally, BART will solicit feedback on a proposal to offer a $2 auto hangtag for those who want to pay for parking at one of the agency’s stations.

Currently, those without a monthly permit who wish to park at a BART station are required to memorize the parking space number and then visit a parking pay station near the fare gate. With the hangtag, however, drivers would bypass the parking ticket station and have parking fees deducted from the value on their EZ Rider card.

“We are trying to get a system in place where you can use the EZ Rider for everything,” Johnson said. “You’ll never have to memorize that parking number again.”

The EZ Rider cards, however, are considered a “stop-gap” card until a Bay Area regional fare card, called TransLink, is developed, Johnson said.

TransLink is currently being used by AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry passengers, but won’t be tested on BART until early next year, said John Goodwin, spokesman with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Muni, the largest transit system in the Bay Area with about 700,000 passengers per day, is testing the card among roughly 1,000 of its employees.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

BART EZ Rider

By the numbers

378,000 People who ride BART each workday

30,000 Free EZ Rider cards provided to riders since 2006

$5 Proposed cost per card going forward

$2 Proposed cost for a parking hangtag

Source: BART

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