A string of violent attacks and a significant drop in riders has BART speeding up its timeline for making some critical changes.
The agency is looking at overhauling its entire 600-gate entrance system, a project with a huge price tag.
While BART says there’s no easy fix for curbing all the violence, it has an idea of where to start: fare evasion. It's far too easy to get into a station; all one has to do is push in the gate and walk by. The concern is that people who are willing to break the rules at the gate could be willing to break bigger laws as well.
Fare evaders were obvious Monday at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco, hopping, vaulting and squeezing their way through the turnstiles. Police patrols and higher barriers didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost described a study targeting a more flexible safety platform.
"So our crews can go in and fix it and modify it, and if 10 years after we purchase it we want to change it, we can," Trost said.
The flagrant rule-breaking has BART striking a harsher tone. The prime suspect in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson at a BART station is a known fare evader. The case has prompted a lawsuit against the transit agency and seriously shaken some nerves at local stations.
"We obviously know that there’s been a history of violence at BART," said resident Alex Wade, who lives near the MacArthur station, where the stabbing occurred. "I don’t think it’s an anomaly, no."
Rider Deniz Aytac is nervous to take BART at night.
"After a certain hour, it becomes more subject, it becomes more risky to take the BART," Aytac said.
Newly added surveillance cameras are meant to remind riders they’re always being watched. But a new gate system, which the agency is currently reviewing, will cost a pretty penny, possibly as much as $200 million.
BART plans on releasing the findings of the platform study to its board in the spring, so it’ll be several months before a project could even be approved.
As for ridership? BART says safety and ride-sharing has pushed their numbers down for the past two years on the weekends and off-peak hours.