BART to pilot Clipper-only program at 4 local stations

Ronnie Ghose/Staff

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This summer and fall, four BART stations will transition to having Clipper cards as the only type of fare available for purchase, a change that is expected to become systemwide in 2020, according to a BART press release published June 24.

According to the press release, the four stations to pilot this transition will be the 19th Street Oakland station on Aug. 5, Embarcadero on Aug. 19, Powell Street on Sept. 3 and Downtown Berkeley on Sept. 24.

BART has been working to increase the use of Clipper cards for more than two years, said BART spokesperson Anna Duckworth in an email. Clipper card vending machines were added to all BART stations in December 2017, and a 50-cent surcharge was added to the sale of paper tickets in January 2018, according to Duckworth.

“Since December of 2017, our efforts have increased Clipper usage from approximately 68% to 85% of all BART trips,” Duckworth said in the email.

According to the press release, the decision to transition to Clipper-only stations was made for a variety of reasons, including the reusable nature of Clipper cards, the fact that they can be used with multiple local transit agencies and the fact that fares can remain secure on registered Clipper cards.

Additionally, Duckworth said in the email that having only Clipper cards available will make BART travel faster, as lines will be shorter and less fare gate maintenance will be needed.

George Figueroa, a BART station agent at Downtown Berkeley, said he has some concerns about the transition. Figueroa said he feels that station agents and the public were not consulted on the change and that he thinks the transition will “punish the poor, tourists and people who only ride one time.”

“We want to stress this is (a) pilot program for 4 stations so the overwhelming majority of our system (42 of our 48 stations) will continue to sell paper tickets until next year,” Duckworth said in the email.

Even in the four stations transitioning this summer, paper tickets can still be used to both enter and exit through fare gates, according to the press release. Additionally, fare can be added to paper tickets at machines inside the paid areas at these stations so that customers can leave the stations.

Already, there are two BART stations, the Pittsburg Center station and the Antioch station, that have never dispensed paper tickets, having only provided Clipper fares since they opened in May 2018, according to Duckworth. She added in the email that this system has “worked well” at these stations.

“The move to a paper ticketless system is one most major transit agencies nationally and internationally have already made,” Duckworth said in her email.

Contact Ella Langenthal at [email protected].