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BART unveils preparations for new gates to deter fare evaders

BART General Manager Bob Powers, left; Sylvia Lamb, assistant general manager infrastructure delivery; and state Sen. Scott Wiener look at preparations for new fare gates at the West Oakland BART station in Oakland on Tuesday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

BART took state Sen. Scott Wiener on a tour Tuesday evening to see the preparations for the agency’s newly designed fare gates, set to hit the transit system by the summer of 2025.

Wiener joined BART General Manager Bob Powers to ride from Civic Center to West Oakland Station for a look at the preparations for the $90 million project that the transit agency calls its “highest priority.”

“We decided to do this because public transportation in the Bay Area is front and center for millions of people,” Wiener said. “We know that, coming out of the pandemic, federal emergency is receding faster than ridership is recovering.”

A man in a gray suit and classes stands with his hand in a strap on a train.
State Sen. Scott Wiener rides a BART train in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Wiener said that constituents have raised concerns about transit—specifically BART.

“People have concerns about some of the conditions on the trains, some of the challenges around homelessness and fare evasion,” he said. “We are supporting BART in its effort to improve the situation.”

For Emery Dora, who works in the biotech industry and travels from Pleasant Hill to South San Francisco every weekday for work, there is not a day where he doesn’t see someone try to get a free ride.

“I usually get on pretty early in the morning, around 6:45 a.m., and even at that time, I see people jumping over turnstiles pretty much every day,” he said. “I feel like workers don’t really care. It might be just apathy or just letting it go, but I pay my fair share because BART is important. It’s an important service.”

READ MORE: Downtown San Francisco BART Fare Gates Removed After Vandalism

The “next-generation fare gate” project, as it has been dubbed, was passed in March by the BART Board of Directors with the goal of deterring fare evasion and reducing maintenance on the system's 700-or-so fare gates, according to Sylvia Lamb, assistant general manager of BART.

West Oakland Station will be the first location to get the new gates, with installation slated for December, BART previously announced.

Lamb spoke at West Oakland Station, pointing at the markings in front of the current fair gates as the area where the infrastructure is changing.

“You can see some of the markings where we are already doing scanning of the floor,” she said. “It is not just the fare gates; we need to understand the infrastructure here before we take those gates out and put the new gates in. There’s rebar and wiring. Everything is 50 years old.” 

According to Lamb, the new gates will fit directly into the footprint of the old machines—a detail that prompted the transit agency’s board of directors to award the $90 million contract to STraffic America in April.

As she spoke with the media, a person jumped over the fare gates, something Lamb said would be more difficult with the new fare gate size.

A passenger taps into a fare gate at the West Oakland BART Station on Tuesday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

The new fare gates will be over 6 feet tall and will be lower to the ground to deter fare evaders from crawling underneath, she said. The machines will also be equipped to know if someone is “piggybacking” off of a paying rider and distinguish that from someone bringing in luggage or pushing a stroller.

“Obviously, people are very creative, and we’ll continue to watch and will address those issues,” she added.

Initially, BART said that all 700 gates in the system will be replaced by 2026 but announced during the tour that the timeline has been moved up to 2025.

BART plans to move away from the fin-like gates riders have become accustomed to seeing, although an official design has yet to be determined, according to Powers.

The agency will use the information from the prototype at West Oakland to further the design of the gates in the rest of the system, Powers explained.

Correction: A prior version of this article incorrectly stated the date of the tour. It took place Tuesday evening.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at jumanzor@sfstandard.com