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BART set to ax $6.40 ‘excursion fare’ for riders

BART riders pass an add fare machine at the Powell Street station on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in San Francisco. | Noah Berger/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

If you're a BART rider who's ever had to leave the station for a canceled train or forgotten item at home—then you've probably paid the dreaded "excursion fare."

The fare charges riders for entering and exiting a station without ever boarding a train.

But the fare's days appear numbered after BART bosses approved an exemption from the $6.40 fee—so long as the rider leaves within 30 minutes of entering the station.

Before the 30-minute grace period can begin, BART must speak with transit smart card Clipper's operator, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said.

BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said in a Thursday email that officials are figuring out if the 30-minute rule can work with the current Clipper card system, or if an upgrade to Clipper 2.0 is needed.

While the planned change is not set in stone, BART bosses are confident the grace period will become reality.

"It will definitely become policy," BART board President Rebecca Saltzman said in a text message. "The only uncertainty is when it will happen because we need to work it out with Clipper."

According to BART, 80% of excursion fares were charged to riders within 30 minutes of them entering the station according to 2022 data.

BART said the grace period would cost the transit system $1.3 million a year, but BART bosses believe the change would offset losses by improving the ridership experience.

The motion passed by directors did not mention print tickets, which are only sold at San Francisco International Airport currently due to a Clipper card shortage, according to Saltzman.

Saltzman went on to say that BART plans to phase out paper tickets entirely in the future.

Public commenters said during the meeting that the excursion fare is a hassle that drives customers away from BART.

BART customers sit and wait for a train at the Powell Street SFMTA station in San Francisco Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

“This will truly affirm BART is the people’s system," said frequent BART public commenter Alita Dupree.

Another commenter, George Steves, said the excursion fare is often punishing at night when trains are canceled during less-frequent service hours.

Steves said riders are faced with the choice of either waiting more than 40 minutes for the next train or paying the excursion fare to leave so they can find another way home.

BART board Vice President Janice Li echoed public commenters during the meeting.

"If you have to pay it, it sucks," Li said.

BART is currently facing a financial crisis and is making changes like the slashing of the excursion fare in the hopes it can boost ridership back to pre-pandemic levels, reducing the need for state and federal funding.