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BART to decide on gate redesign

Plan to beat fare evaders could cost hundreds of millions of dollars

Transit fare gates with a lower and upper gates to prevent people from jumping over the gates.
BART’s bizarre “stacked gates,” as seen here in July, will not be in consideration.
Photo by Corbett OToole

BART will decide this week whether or not to replace its automatic gates with new designs that would help thwart scofflaws while modernizing the appearance of stations. The transit agency will look over three proposed gate designs.

According to the agenda for Thursday’s BART Board of Directors meeting, BART staff recommends replacing the current, decades-old “pie wedge” gate design with “swing style barrier gates” that a review panel determined will prove harder to sneak through.

“The swing style barrier gate design was determined to be the most favorable in reliability, maintenance, and throughput as well as addressing concerns with different types of fare evasion,” said the staff report.

Per a May BART presentation on new gate designs, a swing gate design is “maybe comparable” to the current setup in terms of reliability and makes the gate harder to both jump over and push through, but doesn’t prevent tailgaters—i.e., people who follow very closely behind a paying customer so as to slip in before the gates fully close.

A similar “retractable gate” design that the board may consider is deemed less reliable. A “high entry gate,” a floor-to-ceiling design with interlacing bars (as seen in New York City subway stations), is simple and difficult to sneak through. However, these gates aren’t accessible to riders with disabilities. They also look dated.

A fare gate in the New York City subway, consisting of a revolving barrier made of horizontal metal bars.
“High gates” are difficult to thwart but notoriously non user-friendly.

The redesign decision could costs hundreds of millions of dollars. All of the new options are harder to maintain; maintenance costs could rise by $1-$1.5 million with the new technology.

According to BART, “Fare evasion costs BART between an estimated $15 million and $25 million each year.”

At the same time, the price tag to replace the system’s 600 fare gates comes to $150-200 million.

BART also experimented this year with curious alterations to its existing gates. Starting in June, the system spent $114,000 to install “stacked” gates at Richmond Station as an experiment in new design, later claiming that this reduced fare evasion up to 60 percent.

The agency assured the public “there have been no incidents of people being struck” in the head by the upper gates.

In July, BART spend $84,000 on a pilot of gates with an extra “pop-up barrier” that makes them harder to step over, supposedly reducing evasion 17 percent but requiring three times as much maintenance.

Neither redesign will be up for vote on Thursday.