.BART to Increase Police Presence and Update Turnstiles in Response to Crime and Fare Evasion
BART, the Bay Area's rapid transit system, has announced plans to address recent concerns regarding safety and fare evasion by increasing police presence on trains and updating turnstile infrastructure.
Starting March 27, BART will nearly double the number of police officers on trains in response to recent complaints of heightened crime. The move comes after riders expressed concerns regarding safety and quality-of-life issues. An additional eight to 10 officers will patrol trains per shift, with BART shifting some officers from vehicle patrols or special assignments like the K-9 unit to the new assignment. The increased number of armed police officers will add to the continued presence of BART's unarmed support staff, including ambassadors, crisis intervention specialists, and fare inspectors.
According to recent BART police data, incidents of crime within the system have steadily risen since 2021. Use of force from BART police also rose, from 244 instances in 2021 to 285 in 2022. As of January, 27 use-of-force incidents had been recorded this year.
The BART Police Citizen Review Board (BPCRB), which was established after the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant at the hands of a BART police officer, is closely monitoring the redeployment of more officers onboard trains. "We hope this change will have a positive impact for our riders. We hear from constituents that they are afraid to take the service, especially late at night, and we are hopeful that the redeployment will address these concerns in a positive way," said Erin Armstrong, chair of the BPCRB, via email.
In addition to increasing police presence, BART also announced plans to update its fare gates systemwide in an effort to curb fare evasion. BART police data shows that fare evasion citations have decreased significantly since the pandemic began, with only 68 citations recorded in January 2023, compared with 400 per month before the pandemic. However, BART still receives frequent complaints from riders about fare gates, from how easy they are to jump over to gates not working or the current design not being friendly to those bringing bikes and strollers into the system.
To address these issues, BART plans to spend $90 million on updated fare gates inside stations. While the design for the new gates hasn't been finalized, the agency said they will feature "clear swing barriers that will be very difficult to be pushed through, jumped over, or maneuvered under," ridding BART stations of the orange plastic fins riders are accustomed to. The new gates will also come with 3-D sensors that can detect whether someone is in a wheelchair or carrying luggage or a stroller and adjust how long their barriers remain open accordingly.
The new fare gates' hefty price tag is being paid for with the agency's capital budget, which is separate from its operating budget that has been experiencing annual budget deficits of $300 million due to a loss of ridership. BART also secured money for the project from federal, state, and county transportation agency funds, along with funding from grants and ballot measures that call for the replacement of fare gates.
The new fare gates are expected to be installed in all stations by 2026, which is when the agency expects all designing, testing, and installation to be completed.
Overall, these measures aim to improve safety and enhance the customer experience for BART riders. By increasing police presence on trains and updating turnstile infrastructure, BART hopes to reduce incidents of crime and fare evasion, making the system a safer and more reliable mode of transportation for Bay Area commuters.