BART picks new fare gates

The BART Board of Directors voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt swing-style barrier gates as the transit system’s preferred design for new fare gates to replace their traditional wedge-shaped orange gates.

The Plexiglas gates with panels that swing open like a pair of French doors when a person tags in or out are similar to the fare gates by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency but BART managers say they are taller and sturdier, making it hard to jump over the panels or push them open.

A major reason BART wants to install new fare gates is that currently 5 to 6 percent of its riders evade paying fares, costing the transit system $25 million to $30 million a year.

BART Board President Bevan Dufty said, “Unchecked fare evasion is an Achilles heel for us because we depend on fares,” as the transit system gets 67 percent of its revenues from fares, unlike other agencies that depend

more on subsidies than fares.

The only catch with the plan to use swing-style gates is that BART hasn’t yet identified where it will get the estimated $150 million needed to build and install them.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said BART does have the money to install some swing-style gates within about six months at the Richmond station, which currently is experimenting with stacked gates, a system in

which there’s a second level of wedge gates to make it harder for people to jump over the barriers.

A report by BART staff said sensor data indicates that fare evasion at the Richmond station decreased by 38 percent from the installation of the stacked gates on June 15 through Sept. 9.

The report says the Richmond station was selected as the location for the pilot program for the stacked configuration because it has a lower ridership than most stations and fare evasion there is particularly high.

BART also experimented with pop-up barriers, which critics described as inverted guillotines, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland but the transit system recently scrapped those gates because they were ineffective, easily damaged and hard to maintain.

BART also considered floor-to-ceiling gates, which critics described as an “iron maiden” style, similar to the gates used in the New York City subway system.

But many BART directors said it would be difficult for people who use wheelchairs to get through the floor-to-ceiling gates.

“We have to take the iron maiden gates off the table,” BART Director Robert Raburn said at Thursday’s meeting.

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