Here's how BART's new entry gates aim to reduce 'chaos'

Prototypes of three different fare gates will debut Thursday at the West Oakland BART station. The gates are designed to reduce fare evasion.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

Riders at BART's West Oakland station on Thursday are expected to be the first to experience the new way of entering the rail system — through fare gates more than 7 feet high, with strong, clear polycarbonate doors.

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The new gates contrast with the hip-level gates that BART has used since its inception and that are easier for fare cheats to jump or pay through.

A prototype of the new fare gates will go live Thursday at the West Oakland BART station.

A prototype of the new fare gates will go live Thursday at the West Oakland BART station.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

The debut of the gates at West Oakland Station begins with a $90 million project to replace all of BART's more than 700 gates — including elevator entrances at the station's platforms — by the summer of 2025.

Here's what we know about BART's new fare gates, and how they differ from the old ones.

How new portals make it harder to evade prices

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BART's new fare gates at the West Oakland BART station are the first of their kind introduced for the transit system.

BART's new fare gates at the West Oakland BART station are the first of their kind introduced for the transit system.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

One of the main reasons fare evaders may have difficulty getting past the new gates is that the clear saloon-style doors cover most of their height, and are located inches from the ground. The new gates at the entrance to West Auckland station resemble a wall with a steel bridge over the swinging doors connecting the gates.

This design leaves small openings for people to crawl under or jump over the gates.

BART riders will enter the stations the same way they did with the old gates, by tapping with a Clipper card. Then, a green arrow will light up below the Clipper card reader and the doors will open, swinging away from the passenger.

The agency says that the speed of the doors is adjustable. The new gates can also handle higher traffic volumes at the turnstiles than the old gates, according to BART, which means less waiting during busy periods.

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The gates have been redesigned to withstand abuse

Prototypes of the three toll gates were installed and tested at the West Oakland BART station.  The new gates will eventually be installed throughout the system.

Prototypes of the three toll gates were installed and tested at the West Oakland BART station. The new gates will eventually be installed throughout the system.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

BART laid out 70 pages of technical specifications for the construction of its new gates when it awarded the contract to STraffic America, the company that replaced toll gates for rail systems in Seoul, South Korea, and Washington, D.C.

This specification originally called for the construction of gates powered by electric motors and equipped with “soft locks” where the gate doors were programmed to push against people trying to open them.

However, Sylvia Lamb, BART's assistant general manager, said tests found that pressing the doors resulted in “a little flex in the gate, still more than we would like” with the software locking. So, BART asked STraffic to revise the design of the gates to instead include a “mechanical locking system” unique to BART that “would hold the gates steady” when people tried to force the doors open, Lamb said.

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“It will be more difficult to pass through these price gates than any other gate in the world,” Lamb said.

New gates could help BART's finances And safety

BART spokesman Chris Filippi tests prototypes of the new toll gates at the West Oakland BART station.  The gates will sound an alarm if a passenger's Clipper Card does not have enough funds.

BART spokesman Chris Filippi tests prototypes of the new toll gates at the West Oakland BART station. The gates will sound an alarm if a passenger's Clipper Card does not have enough funds.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

BART officials estimated in 2017 that the agency lost up to $25 million in revenue due to fare evasion. This estimate was based on a conservative assumption that between 3% and 6% of passengers did not pay fares before the pandemic.

BART expects to recover more fare revenue through the new gates. It couldn't come at a time when it's needed most for the agency, which projects a nine-figure operating deficit starting in 2026 amid a slow rebound in ridership after the pandemic.

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So far, BART has recovered about 45% of its 2019 ridership, or about 185,000 paid riders on its busiest weekdays.

Prototype toll gates are being tested by workers at the West Oakland BART station.

Prototype toll gates are being tested by workers at the West Oakland BART station.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

“As we figure out how to balance the budget and how to make ends meet, our agency has had to pay more attention to making riders feel good about riding BART,” said BART Director Deborah Allen, who championed the new fare gates.

Allen believes the new gates will improve safety and reliability on BART and reduce “chaos” in the system, whether criminal activity or antisocial behavior that could disrupt service or increase filth on trains.

Although not all fare evaders commit other crimes on BART, transit police officials have acknowledged that fare evasion contributes to crime in the system.

Officers now patrol the trains more often, and BART police officials said the reinforced gates will allow officers to shift more of their focus toward enforcing the rules beyond fare payment.

The West Auckland Gateways will not be a finished product

Prototypes of the toll gates have been installed and tested by workers at the West Oakland BART station and are scheduled to go live Thursday.

Prototypes of the toll gates have been installed and tested by workers at the West Oakland BART station and are scheduled to go live Thursday.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

The gates being launched at the West Oakland station will not include mechanical locks, and BART expects some of the more aggressive fare evaders will be able to push through the new gates.

The new toll gates come equipped with cameras and alarms that go off when more than one person tries to pass through the gate, or “piggyback,” as well as when someone tries to jump over the gates or crawl under them, according to BART. Tapping with a Clipper card that doesn't have enough funds will set off door alarms as well.

The West Auckland Station gate range will include three different gate materials, including doors with frames covered in perforated metal. Testing of the West Auckland gates will determine the final design of the gates manufactured by STraffic, Lamb said.

BART will install the new gates in batches, and officials will announce the next eight stations to get gate replacements at the Transportation Board's Jan. 11 meeting.

Government bailout funds depend on replacing the gates

The West Oakland BART station is the first in the transit system to receive the new fare gates.

The West Oakland BART station is the first in the transit system to receive the new fare gates.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

The debut of the new gates at the West Oakland station will coincide with an increased discount — 50% off fares — for low-income BART riders.

BART will collect fare evasion data

About 25% of riders reported seeing fare evasion acts, according to BART's recent quarterly performance reports. However, the true prevalence of fare evasion on BART is unknown because the agency does not track such data.

This will change with the new toll gates, which will be equipped with sensors that can track the number of times people push through the gates and try to evade the toll.

BART officials admit the new gates won't put an end to fare cheating, especially the more aggressive offenders. It is not clear how effective the new gates are in reducing fare evasion. For reference, STraffic gates manufactured for Metrorail in D.C., with gates shorter than the new BART gates, Reducing fare evasion by 70%

Signage will accompany prototypes of the new fare gates at the West Oakland BART station.

Signage will accompany prototypes of the new fare gates at the West Oakland BART station.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

Allen hopes the new gates will end informal fare evasion by people who can afford the fares but choose not to because of lax enforcement.

“Besides the people who mess up and don't pay, there are regular working people who have watched people who don't pay, for years, raise their hands and say, 'Well, why should I pay?'” Allen said.

Reaction in West Oakland BART

BART Senior Director of Engineering Programs Vahid Amiri stood at the West Oakland station Thursday morning alongside other BART employees as they watched people use the gates for the first time. I saw police nearby. Amiri said that more people were stationed at the BART station to support the transition process.

Amiri said the morning went smoothly and no technical problems were reported.

Martha Lincoln, who usually commutes to work via BART, had no problems getting through the new gates on her bike, but she's not a fan of change.

“It seems like a lot of resources are being used to criminalize poor people,” she said.

Alvin Williams, who rides BART daily, believed no one was trying to evade a BART fare at the station Thursday morning due to police surveillance, but he speculated people would still be able to get through without paying if they ran through the doors at the same time as someone else. person.

Out of curiosity, a man who was with Williams tried to press on the locked gate door to see if anyone could push through, but it wouldn't budge.

“They want their money,” Williams said.

Staff writer Claire Fonstein contributed to this report.

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