After Constant Repair Issues – and Some Ridicule – BART Scraps Fruitvale Fare Gates

A BART repair crew fixing one of the new gate prototypes at Fruitvale Station. (Matthew Green/KQED)

BART has decided to scrap a set of sometimes criticized, often mocked experimental fare gates at Oakland's Fruitvale Station after encountering chronic maintenance problems with the devices.

The test mechanisms feature a fin that pops up from the top of the main gate barrier as it closes -- thus, in theory, discouraging those who might be inclined to jump over them. They were installed in July as part of BART's search for ways to reduce fare evasion on the system.

BART Takes on Fare Evasion

Tamar Allen, the agency's assistant director for operations, said in a memo to the BART board of directors last week that the gates appeared to have reduced fare evasion at Fruitvale by 17 percent.

But Allen said the pop-up mechanism was finicky and suggested it was hard for BART technicians to maintain the precise timing necessary for the fins to always retract properly.

The other major issue involved people who aren't fazed by the fins and have no compunction about vaulting over them.

"The pop-up mechanisms are regularly kicked by individuals jumping over the barriers," Allen told the board. "Although several steps have been taken to strengthen the mechanisms, considerable maintenance is still required to constantly fix damage."

All in all, she said, the gates pose "an unreasonable maintenance burden" and thus are not viable for continued use.

However, a set of test gates installed in late June at Richmond Station remain in place. Those gates feature a different approach -- essentially, a double stack of the conventional fare gates -- to make it harder to enter or leave the station without paying.

In a report to the board on July 25, Allen said a preliminary review found that the fare evasion at Richmond had fallen 55 to 60 percent after installation of the stacked gates.

Experimental double-decker fare gates installed at BART's Richmond Station. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

On social media and elsewhere, the Fruitvale gates were often ridiculed for their ineffectiveness. Some people easily jumped the fins, and other patrons were nonplussed when the barriers did not open as expected. A BART station agent called the gates "a complete joke."

Some have also criticized the Fruitvale and Richmond gates as an example of "hostile design" – elements built into public amenities that often target homeless residents or others living in poverty.

BART staff is scheduled to deliver a report on the test gates to the agency's elected board of directors on Sept. 26.