BART’s Paper Ticket Elimination Begins with These Stations

One station serves the biggest tourist hub in San Francisco.

A passenger uses an add fare machine at Powell Street BART station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Photo by Kevin N. Hume)

Four BART stations will stop issuing paper tickets this summer, leading up to a Clipper-only transit system in 2020.

By Aug. 5, the 19th Street Station will no longer dispense the magstripe tickets, followed by Embarcadero Station on Aug. 19, Powell Street Station on Sept. 3, and Downtown Berkeley Station in late September. BART expects to eliminate the paper tickets altogether in 2020, it announced this week.

The paper ticket can still be reloaded and used but BART has been discouraging its use for some time now. Since January 2018, they cost an extra 50 cents for each trip. Plus, Pittsburg Center and Antioch stations opened in May 2018 without a paper ticket machine.

“BART is working to move toward a Clipper-only fare payment system because the region has prioritized the use of Clipper as the Bay Area’s all-in-one transit card administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission,” BART said. “Clipper has many advantages over paper tickets.”

The transit agency touted that Clipper cards are reusable, long-lasting, used by most Bay Area transit agencies, and make the fare gate lines go faster. Riders don’t have to register the blue cards but if they do, they can set up automatic payments and transfer the balance if the card itself goes missing.

Magstripe tickets, on the other hand, can jam the fare gates and contribute to paper waste. Though staff will hand out free Clipper cards for the first few days of each station’s transition, the transit agency didn’t mention where this leaves clueless tourists or cash-strapped riders — especially homeless ones. It may pay for itself thanks to the surcharge BART instituted but some people simply don’t have three extra dollars on hand to pay for or replace a Clipper card. 

Still, the Clipper-only push has been working. The agency’s 2018 annual report found that since the surcharge took effect, BART riders using Clipper cards went from 69 percent to 83 percent.

UPDATE, July 1: The article has been updated to reflect BART’s change of plans announced on Friday. Previously, paper tickets would have left the Downtown Berkeley Station by July 8, 19th Street Station on July 22, Embarcadero Station on Aug. 19 and Powell Street Station on Sept. 3.

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