SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Last month KPIX 5 revealed just how common and easy it is for people to get on BART without paying.
BART’s been rolling out new security features at stations to deter cheaters, things like higher fences at emergency gates and alarms. However the main fix — new fare gates — is still a long way off.
RELATED ARTICLE: Despite Crackdown, BART Fare Evasion Remains Rampant
In fact, BART’s two newest stations set to open in San Jose later this year will still have the old fare gates. They’re the same type of gates that people pushed past and jumped over without paying as seen in KPIX footage obtained as part of a recent investigation.
BART board director Debora Allen was shocked when she learned about it. “That’s something I have been asking for since the day I was elected, is when will we replace the fare gates? They were designed in 1972 and they have been upgraded since. But it’s clear now that we are in a different time and the fare evasion is getting worse,” she said.
BART estimates that fare evasion costs the transit agency $25 to $30 million a year. The estimate for replacing all 600 fare gates is $250 million. Theoretically, BART could make much of that money back in 10 years just by cutting back on cheaters.
BART brass didn’t want to comment for this report. But, in an earlier interview, BART police deputy chief Lance Haight told us: “They have engineers working on that problem. In the interim we’re looking at what we can do to our existing fare gates to make them more resilient and difficult to fare evade.”
In a pilot project at two stations including the Embarcadero station in San Francisco, engineers have strengthened air pressure on the gates, making them harder to push open. But the fare gate for disabled passengers is electric and is easy to cruise through without a ticket or clipper card.
BART has also launched a citation team but, as our cameras showed, the tickets the team hands out are often not taken seriously. Nine out of ten violators ticketed since the program started a year ago have not paid.
“Our primary goal has never been to generate money and make a lot of money from collecting these fines. It’s really to disrupt and change behavior,” deputy chief Haight said. But, when we asked him if the agency has seen a decrease in fare evasion as a result of the citations, he answered: “That’s a difficult thing to put a number on.”
Director Debora Allen says if there’s no proof that citations are working it’s time to redirect the funds.
“Here we are one year into it and we see that people are not paying the tickets, we see what you saw with your camera. So I think we really need to rethink that. The real answer to the fare evasion problem is to harden the stations,” Allen said.
At its board hearing in January, BART heard proposals from engineers about the cost of replacing the fare gates. Retrofitting them or adding the air pressure would cost $15-$20 million system-wide and brand new gates would be $250 million. BART will discuss design plans at its next meeting.
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — At their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday morning, BART’s board of directors approved a plan to spend $96.5 million to replace 41 escalators at stations along San Francisco’s Market Street corridor.
The contract also allows BART General Manager Grace Crunican the option of replacing four San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency elevators at the Embarcadero station.
“Modern escalators are finally coming to downtown San Francisco, and boy do we need it”, admitted BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.
BART staff members said the elevators being replaced are some of the oldest in the entire system and have outlived their useful lives.
The sight of inoperative escalators has become so familiar to BART riders, many may not give them a second look. Unless, of course, they cause some real physical hardship.
“My legs get tight walking up the stairs. They’re always out. Always out,” said BART commuter Shirley Simmons.
While the out-of-service escalators have become something of a running joke among some BART passengers, others might say those immobilized stairways are emblematic of BART’s struggles on the whole.
“It makes you wonder,” said Simmons. “Do they have enough money? Something has got to be done about it.”
Not only are San Francisco’s downtown stations are a hard environment to keep escalators going, the equipment itself hasn’t made things any easier.
Many of the escalators in the San Francisco stations were manufactured by German company Orenstein and Koppel. That business went kaput not long after these were installed, so replacement parts and maintenance have been a problem almost since day one.
As part of the escalator contract, the contractor is required to keep the equipment functioning properly at least 96 percent of the time. The board hopes to assist them in that effort by installing canopies over all the station entrances in question, which should protect the escalators from the elements.
“Working escalators are so important,” board President Bevan Dufty said Thursday in a statement. “This is a game-changing procurement as we will have a single escalator technology at all our core stations.”
The new escalators come with a 10-year guarantee, and are designed for more wear and tear and larger crowds. The plan calls for installation of roughly six escalators per year, starting in 2020 when the first escalators are slated for delivery.
Getting them all installed will take seven years.
The BART web site has a page that lists the status of all escalators with current issues.
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OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The BART Board of Directors have endorsed Senate Bill 50, a proposal in the state legislature aimed at addressing the housing crisis by boosting the construction of housing near transit.
The board made its endorsement of the bill from State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) during a vote Thursday morning.
“BART supports SB50 because our region and California needs more housing and greater affordability,” Board President Bevan Dufty said in a statement.
Boardmember Rebecca Saltzman said the bill is needed even as the transit agency looks to build 20,000 housing units on BART property by 2040.
“Even when we meet this goal, that won’t be sufficient to address the Bay Area’s housing crisis or to produce enough housing near transit,” said Saltzman. “SB 50 will help ensure the production of more housing around BART stations, addressing housing needs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
SB50 would encourage housing development near transit stops by eliminating low-density zoning and by reducing or eliminating parking minimums in new developments. The bill also includes provisions to protect renters and low-income communities at risk of displacement.
Several local officials have backed the proposal, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
SB50 is set for a legislative hearing in the coming month, according to Wiener’s office.
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The failure of a switch within BART’s complex computer system triggered Saturday’s three-hour shut down of the massive transit system, stranding thousands of commuters, officials announced Monday.
BART Spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the failure was not related to crews working overnight on BART’s uninterruptible power supply in Oakland, as was originally believed.
“The failure was software related at one switch that is part of a complex computer network,” she said in a release. ” As a result, trains were not dispatched between 6 am and 9 am Saturday morning. There was no maintenance being done on the system at the time of the failure. Therefore, we know the cause wasn’t contributed to work being done overnight.”
Trost said the BART staff was waiting for failure analysis results from Cisco to understand the exact cause of the failure.
“Once we understand the exact cause we can determine any next steps needed,” Trost said.
She added that since the shutdown “all train systems have performed as designed without failure.”
The service problem originated at 2:45 a.m. Saturday with a computer network failure that impacted the system’s traction power supply system and train control routing system.
Thousands of commuters were forced to scrambled for other means of public transportation. Among those was Tammara Dozier who described her thwarted morning commute to KPIX 5’s Da Lin at the Powell Street station in San Francisco.
“Horrible. It’s cold and raining and since BART opened up at 6 a.m. it’s not been working and it’s about to be 9. I’m trying to go to Warm Springs so I can go to work. I clean houses and so I have a client … in Santa Clara. My client’s understandable, thank God, but still — it’s annoying!”
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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A “major medical emergency” prompted the closure of BART’s Powell Street station in San Francisco on Wednesday morning for just under 20 minutes, according to the transit agency.
The emergency was reported shortly before 11:20 a.m. Trains are going through the station without stopping, and are single-tracking between the Embarcadero and 24th Street Mission stations, BART officials said.
BART officials said there was a preliminary report of a person on the tracks.
Trains were going through the station without stopping while emergency crews responded, but normal service resumed about 20 minutes later after authorities learned there had been someone in the trackway but they weren’t seriously hurt, BART spokesman Chris Filippi said.
At about 11:38 a.m., BART officials said the situation had been resolved. Riders were advised to expect 15 to 20 minute delays traveling through San Francisco.