On Wednesday, BART unveiled the first protype for its new fare gates designed to reduce rampant fare evasion, which costs the agency an estimated $25 million each year. BART hopes to install the new elevated gates systemwide, but the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit learned that could be a challenge after the coronavirus has caused a financial train wreck for the transit agency.
“The prototype gate includes two 5-feet high swing style barriers that discourages users from pushing through, jumping over, or maneuvering under the gates,” BART noted in a press release. “These are first-of-its-kind pneumatic swing style barriers. The barriers are operated with air pressure instead of a motor.”
In September, BART’s board of directors approved a plan to replace the system’s retractable gates with a larger, swing style gate, originally estimated to cost $150 million. Riders can now get a preview of the new prototype gate while boarding at the Richmond station.
NBC Bay Area spoke to BART General Manager Bob Powers to discuss whether the agency can find the money to finish the job during a pandemic that caused ridership to plunge by roughly 90%.
“The short answer, in my opinion, is yes,” Powers told NBC Bay Area. “I think we'll be able to pulled together a funding plan that allows us to [install the new fare gates] and phase it in.”
Powers believes he can work with the counties where BART operates to find the money, as well as reduce the cost of installation from $150 million down to $90 million. If everything goes according to plan, Powers expects to install the first wave of gates in early 2021, with gates likely installed in all 50 stations within the next five years.
Powers is schedule to give a full presentation of his plan to BART’s board of directors on Thursday. A BART spokesperson tells the Investigative Unit the presentation will detail several potential options to move forward with installing the gates system wide in either four, five, or six years.
"Working with the counties and our funding partners ... I think we can be successful," Powers said. "So I am very, very pleased."
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The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit recently spent months recording on BART trains, interviewing passengers, questioning top BART officials, and analyzing thousands of crime records to explore how a world-class transportation got DERAILED. In fact, the Investigative Unit revealed BART has become one of the most dangerous transportation systems in the country with a higher rate of violent crime than subways in New York, D.C., Los Angeles, and Atlanta.