The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is moving closer to its long-stated goal of replacing the fare gates at its stations with modern ones. The agency plans to award a $47 million contract to transportation infrastructure and equipment company STraffic, which will replace BART’s worn fare gates with new ones.
According to Sylvia Lamb, BART’s assistant general manager of infrastructure delivery, the agency hopes the new gates will deter fare evasion, modernize its aesthetic, and reduce maintenance costs. The transit agency’s board of directors received an update on the fare-reliant agency’s long quest to implement new gates that prove harder to jump and prove more reliable. Bob Powers, BART’s general manager, stated that the agency will soon be on a “path that’s going to get us to a systemwide replacement very, very quickly.”
The replacement of fare gates throughout the system was originally estimated to cost $90 million, of which BART has already raised $72 million. BART will update that cost estimate, according to agency officials. Thursday’s presentation was informational only. At the second presentation, to be made on April 13, BART directors will seek the board’s approval for the $47 million fare gate contract.
BART has estimated that fare evasion could cost as much as $15-25 million in lost revenue every year, although the exact figure is difficult to pin down. Therefore, the push to replace fare gates predates COVID-19 by several years, but the pandemic has made the effort even more critical. The pandemic gutted BART’s ridership and fares, which used to make up the majority of its revenues. Facing a major financial deficit if and when federal pandemic relief runs dry, the agency needs to shore up its revenues, and ensuring people pay their fares is a component of doing so.
Within seven months of getting the board’s green light, BART expects to have pilot gates delivered to the West Oakland station by STraffic, which is headquartered in South Korea and has offices in Washington, D.C. The contract covers the design of the gates and several other costs, but not the actual installation of fare gates.
To inform the endeavor, BART built and installed prototypes that it deployed in several stations in its system beginning in 2020, particularly around elevators, in an effort to make it easier for elevator users to tag in and out of the system. It has also retrofitted some of the older gates in an attempt to make them more resistant to fare evasion.
In conclusion, BART’s efforts to replace the fare gates have gained renewed importance due to the pandemic, as it has left the transit agency facing a significant financial deficit. Therefore, the agency needs to ensure people pay their fares, and replacing the old, worn-out fare gates with new, modern ones that are harder to jump and more reliable is a step in the right direction. The $47 million contract with STraffic is expected to help BART deter fare evasion, modernize its aesthetic, and reduce maintenance costs.
San Francisco Examiner. “BART tentatively picks company to design better fare gates.” 24 March 2023, https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/transit/bart-tentatively-picks-company-to-design-better-fare-gates/article_e7f42940-c9a6-11ed-b66d-fbbae709650c.html. Accessed 2 April 2023.