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BART to eliminate paper tickets

Pilot program switches four stations to Clipper-only

Ticket machines in a BART station. Via Shutterstock

BART wants to do away with the distinctive, magnetic-stripe emblazoned paper tickets and replace them with a Clipper-only system over the next year, beginning with a pilot program that will phase out ticket sales at four stations this summer.

According to an announcement published Monday, Downtown Berkeley Station will cease ticket sales starting July 8, followed by 19th Street Station in Oakland July 22. Embarcadero and Powell Street stations will follow suit on August 19 and September 3, respectively.

After those dates, physical tickets will no longer be available at those stations, although tickets bought at other stations will still work on the fare gates there.

BART administrators argue that the paper tickets are wasteful, as they wear out or get lost more easily than cards. Procuring a Clipper card costs a little extra the first time—three dollars if bought from the machines in the station—but starting in 2017 BART tacked an extra 50 cent fee onto the old tickets, making the card option now more affordable.

The system has used the old magnetic stripe cards since the ’70s—in 1973, an electrical engineering professor with UC Berkeley demonstrated to the San Francisco Chronicle how to cheat the stripe system used at the time to drive up the value of a ticket without paying—but according to the agency’s annual report released in January, 83 percent of trips are now made with Clipper cards.

“We are developing strategies to reach 100 percent Clipper penetration in the future,” notes the report.

The transit agency expects “systemwide expansion” of the paperless plan in summer of 2020, but has published no official timeline yet.