Research underway to determine if racial bias plays role in BART fare evasion response

ByAmanda del Castillo and Anser Hassan KGO logo
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
BART to undergo new study if policing tactics are racially motivated
BART is set to undergo a major study to find out if their policing tactics are racially motivated.

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- BART is set to undergo a major study to find out if their policing tactics are racially motivated.

The specific focus will be the department's response to fare evasion.

The goal is to uncover any disparity and ultimately give the transit authority recommendations to improve its practices.

The study will take place over the next 18 months.

MORE: BART moves to increase fares over next 2 years amid decline in ridership

BART claims that it struggles with fare evasion. Some officials estimates that BART loses upwards of $25 million each year due to fare evaders. And many passengers say they see it all the time.

"I disapprove. The system can't run if it's not paid for," says Sherry Olsen, a BART regular who lives in Berkeley.

A man was caught jumping the gate at the Rockridge BART station on Monday. He exchanged words with the BART attendant and then left. But what if there is racial bias by BART police when dealing with fare evasion?

"I think that's an issue everywhere. Sadly,' says Olsen.

MORE: Main reason for low BART ridership, financial issues released in new survey

The Bay Area Council released results of a survey Tuesday showing safety is the main reason why BART is experiencing low ridership numbers.

The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) previously found that Black BART passengers were stopped eight times more often than white passengers, and 15 times more likely to experience use of force by police. Building on that data, CPE is now looking into issues around fare evasion.

"We know that there is enough of a problem to warrant further and deeper investigation," says Hans Menos, Vice President of the Triage Response Team at CPE.

Over the next 18 months, CPE will be conducting focus groups and interviewing passengers to get a more qualitative understanding of what passengers face.

BART police was the first transit law enforcement agency in the country to undergo such a review by CPE. It resulted in updates to the BART's use of force policy. A review of fare enforcement policies is now underway.

MORE: BART more than doubling police presence

"What we are talking about here is oppression and mistreatment of black and brown people nationwide. And BART is just one example of how we want to uncover that. And to understand how we can improve that," explains Menos.

In a statement to ABC7 News, BART Interim-Chief Kevin Franklin writes that BART is, "committed to continuing with this work as part of the department's commitment to equitable policing."

Karen Brent doesn't have a car, so she uses BART a lot. She says fare evasion is a problem. But the bigger issue for her is personal safety on the BART trains.

MORE: BART more than doubling police presence

She points out that she mostly sees young people jumping the gates. And that solutions, like reducing fares, may also help tackle issues around racial justice.

"I feel that there are so many social issues with some of these young people who evade the fare. And they tend to be lower income and people of color. It's very complicated," she says.

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