BART fare evasion affects communities disproportionately, prompts further ‘system hardening’

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BART will employ 10 new fare inspectors if its board of directors approves a staff proposal at a meeting Thursday.

BART spokesperson Jim Allison said a “system hardening” is being put in place after a review of fine evasion data collected from March to August, made possible by the adoption of a proof of payment ordinance in October 2017.

Proof of payment teams conducted surveys at BART stations. The results showed that the Bay Area’s Black population disproportionately received fare evasion fines, as reported by the East Bay Times. A different BART data set obtained by The Daily Californian revealed that although 12 percent of BART riders from May to August this year were Black, they made up nearly half of those ticketed.

The survey numbers show fare evasion fines are not affecting the Bay Area community equally. Black people make up 47.1 percent of those affected, in comparison to white people at 17.6 percent, Hispanic people at 14.7 percent and Asian people at 4.1 percent.

“It’s just how it is for everything,” Berkeley City Councilmember Cheryl Davila said. “The marginalized are always impacted the most.”

But Allison said the agency made an effort to ensure this proof of payment enforcement was conducted in a “fair and unbiased way.” Allison said fare inspectors stood at the ends of station escalators and asked every person to show proof of payment.

If they didn’t have proof, they were issued a $75 fine if they were an adult and a $55 fine if they were a minor. These fines may try to make up the difference in the $25 million that Allison said BART loses annually due to fare evasion.

“(The fines are) about customer equity, to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share when riding BART,” Allison said.

Davila said she would like to see BART restructure its pricing to make it more accessible and less prone to fare evasion.

“BART is destination-based, and in my mind, that needs to change, especially with the climate catastrophe we’re facing,” Davila said. “We’re promoting people to get out of their cars, but it’s not cost-effective to do so.”

BART staff members will present their summer findings to its board of directors at a meeting Thursday, seeking approval for the addition of 10 fare inspectors to allow for weekend and night coverage.

Allison said this request comes alongside a “system hardening already underway.” He said the board budgeted for the heightening of waist-high barriers separating free and ticketed station areas to 6 feet.

“We’ve done it at some stations,” Allison said.  “It’s proven effective.”

Another effort BART already has in place to deter fare evasion is “public education,” according to Allison. Signs that read “proof of payment required beyond this point” and “exiting through gate during non-emergency is fare evasion” are two examples of information posted in stations.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.