Fare evaders run wild: What we saw in an hour at an East Bay BART station

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Thursday, February 21, 2019
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A viewer contacted us about issues with fare evaders at the San Leandro BART station, so we checked it out.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to building a better bay area, and transit is one area that we're focused on improving. It's why we spent a week talking about BART, which hundreds of thousands of people ride every day.

We received lots of emails with questions and suggestions.

VIDEO: BART tests modified entry gates to stop fare cheats

One came from Ronald who said, "Come to San Leandro Station. We have a door that never locks and people just walk out the door without paying. I complain to the agents. She said they know and nothing gets done."

So on Wednesday, we went to the San Leandro BART station to check it out.

ABC7 News monitored the San Leandro station for an hour. We saw people jump the gate, while others squeezed next to a paying customer to get through the barriers.

BART estimates it loses out on $15-million to $25-million a year from fare evasion. There are legitimate uses for the swing gates.

One man pushed a rolling cart through, then went back to pay his fare. But the most brazen fare evaders simply walk through the emergency exit, right in front of a station agent.

RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: BART Week

So why don't the agents stop them?

"Station agents are primarily there for customer service. They are trained in responding to things like medical emergencies but they are not law enforcement personnel," said Jim Allison, a BART spokesperson.

Station agents can call BART police, but the agency is trying a new approach. In 2017, BART began adding metal wires to keep people from jumping the barriers.

Swing gates were also modified.

"They have a lock on them and if you open that, your picture will be taken and an alarm goes off," said Allison.

Fourteen stations will have these additional barriers by July. So what about San Leandro?

RELATED: Could other transit agencies have the answer to BART fare evaders?

"San Leandro is on the list for next fiscal year which begins in July," said Allison.

In the meantime, more fare inspection agents are patrolling the trains. They will ticket passengers who can't provide proof of payment.

Check out more stories and videos about BART and Building a Better Bay Area.