BART could offer teens discounted tickets

February 16, 2008 11:55:59 AM PST
High school students could soon have a high-tech way of obtaining Bay Area Rapid Transit tickets for half the price thanks to a program that the BART Board of Directors considered Thursday.

BART already offers the discounted orange tickets for students to purchase from their schools in any of the four counties serviced by the trains. The tickets are part of the Teen Extreme-Student Teenage Discount Program.

Customer Services Manager Julie Yim presented a new approach to the program, which would allow teens to buy the orange tickets online. One of the biggest obstacles, according to Yim, is preventing fraud. The tickets may only be purchased by students between the ages of 13 and 17 for use on weekdays traveling to and from school and school events and activities, Yim said.

She explained that the nearly 14 million BART customers between 18 and 24 years of age are the most likely to attempt to illegally use the orange tickets. If just 2 percent of those full-fare customers used the teen tickets, the district would lose an estimated $411,000 annually, according to Yim.

Part of the online purchasing proposal would require schools to verify a student's status to help eliminate fraud.

Parents of students would be able purchase the tickets online using a credit card, Yim said. Each student would get a unique account number and ticket sales would be limited to four $32 tickets per month per student.

Director Lynette Sweet said she was more concerned that much more than half of the tickets were being sold to private school students. In general, she said, public school students are the ones who need the financial assistance.

Sweet said she called administrators from some of the San Francisco public schools that had signed up to sell the tickets and some had not sold even a single one this year.

Director Bob Franklin pointed out that public school students are more likely to live closer to their schools than private school students, many of whom use BART to travel to other cities or counties.

The board told Yim to present the proposal again in April or May with more details on how to prevent fraud and how to get more public schools interested in the program.

The directors said they would like a full school-year trial of the online program and to have a survey conducted at the end. But they also said they would like to work with school administrators before the fall so they can understand how the verification process works in time for the beginning of the school year.

According to Yim, if all student age customers that are currently using full-fare tickets switched to the orange tickets, the district would lose about $2.9 million per year. But she added that if the program attracted new BART users, new revenue would be generated.