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BART to stop selling paper tickets soon

a close up shot of expired BART paper tickets and a Clipper card reader
Paper BART tickets are spread out next to a Clipper sensor at the Rockridge BART Station on Oct. 28, 2013. | Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Last chance to use those old blue-and-white BART tickets you’ve kept hiding in a corner of your wallet. 

As of Nov. 30, BART will no longer accept the old magnetic-stripe paper tickets at its stations, completing a transition to Clipper cards that began in 2019 but was interrupted by supply-chain issues that caused a shortage in plastic cards, the agency announced

Riders hoping to use BART after Nov. 30 will have to buy a plastic Clipper card for $3 or register a digital card using the Clipper app.

BART announced the change in an Oct. 27 blog post, but the agency has been rolling back the sale of paper tickets at Bay Area stations since August 2019.

The pandemic accelerated the switch, as the agency announced in 2020 that as part of an effort to limit contact, it was fully transitioning to Clipper Cards, the Bay Area’s all-in-one public transit card that’s administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

That plan was interrupted by “global supply chain issues impacting the region’s plastic card inventory.” As a result, BART temporarily sold paper tickets to travelers at the San Francisco International Airport station.

Fare gates at the West Oakland BART station in Oakland on Tuesday August 22, 2023. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

The elimination of paper tickets altogether comes as BART prepares to roll out its next generation of Clipper fare machines by summer next year, where passengers will be able to pay by simply tapping their credit or debit cards without having to wait in line at automated ticket machines or filling out lengthy forms online.

London has had contactless payments on its transit system since 2012. A similar system began rolling out across New York City in 2021.

Passengers cram into a subway car.
Passengers stand inside a 6-car train heading towards Richmond from San Francisco on Sept. 7, 2023. BART recently began running shorter trains as part of service changes. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

BART announced plans in September to shift to shorter trains to boost safety on the network. But riders have not been shy about voicing their feelings about how it feels to ride the system in recent weeks.

BART also unveiled in August preparations for new "state-of-the-art" fare gates to debut in the summer of 2025, with initial installation at the West Oakland station by December.

With their distinctive blue-and-white stripe printed with arrows that automatically stamped the remaining balance left on the ticket, the paper BART tickets were a feature of the system for decades. Riders can't transfer their balances to Clipper cards, but they can request a refund for paper tickets with balances greater than $1.