Downtown Berkeley BART phases out paper tickets

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The Downtown Berkeley BART station will officially eliminate its paper ticket system Sept. 24, promoting the use of “reusable, reloadable, and regionally accepted” Clipper cards.

The Embarcadero, 19th Street Oakland and Powell Street BART stations phased out the paper ticket feature from machines earlier this summer, making Clipper cards the only option for purchase, according to a statement from BART.

According to BART spokesperson Anna Ducksworth, BART has been working on implementing this system for the last couple of years in an effort to increase Clipper card use.

“While a majority of BART users — around 86 percent — do use the Clipper card, there is still a substantial amount of people still using paper tickets,” Ducksworth said.

There are many reasons as to why BART is making the switch. Environmental concerns, however, are on the forefront.

Clipper cards are reusable, long-lasting and reduce paper waste, which is important for a service that had 126 million trips in 2018, according to a BART fact sheet. 

Eliminating paper tickets is also an environmentally friendly decision. According to Ducksworth, the remaining 14 percent of BART users still use paper tickets. These tickets, however, will end up as waste in the trash.

In addition to environmental concerns, the paper tickets have proven cumbersome, often jamming the machines, causing longer lines and maintenance issues.

According to the 2018 BART fact sheet, BART is the cleanest major transit system in its class, “emitting fewer pounds of CO2 per passenger mile than any other transit system.” In addition to going paperless, BART is also working on switching its electricity to fully renewable resources by 2045.

Using Clipper cards also saves money both on BART — there is a 50 cent surcharge on every rider with a paper ticket — and on various transit agencies in the region, such as AC Transit and Muni. Nearly all of these agencies accept Clipper cards and offer reduced fares to Clipper card holders, according to a BART announcement.

ASUC Executive Vice President, or EVP,  Andy Theocharous said the EVP office welcomes the change, because it allows for additional Clipper card usage, which previous EVPs have advocated for.

“We are concerned about the sustainability of using paper tickets, and we congratulate the BART team on this initiative,” Theocharous said.

Theocharous also explained that the EVP plans on collaborating with BART in the future to provide discounts for UC Berkeley students using Clipper cards.

The change to a fully paperless BART system, however, will be a gradual one, with systemwide expansion expected by 2020, according to the BART statement.

“All of the fare lines are going to still be accepting paper tickets, that’s the important thing to understand,” Ducksworth said. “If, say, a person still has a stack of paper tickets at home, he or she will still be able to use it.”

Contact Audry Jeong and Marlena Tavernier-Fine at [email protected].