Costly BART Fare Evasion Program Nets Peanuts

BART’s new fare crackdown costs $62,000 a month, but has only collected an estimated $4,000 in each of its first two months.

BART officials have an welcome surprise in the data on their first two months of a pricey fare evasion crackdown. Thanks to some fantastic reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle, we see that the $740,000-a-year fare enforcement effort, with all of its new officers, equipment, and the issuing of around 1,300 citations so far, has only resulted in “about 100” people paying the fine.

Breaking down the math, that $740,000 that BART now spends on fare enforcement efforts costs the system about $62,000 a month. The fare evasion fine is $75, so “about 100” paid fines over two months would equally roughly $7,500 — or $3,750 per month.

Those numbers are imperfect estimates. Some of the fines were issued to juveniles, who are only fined $55 for evasion. People have 30 days to pay the fines, so more revenue may still be trickling in. And those who receive the fine have a community service option, which would not be reflected in these estimates.   

But there’s no question that very few ticketed fare evaders are paying the fines. BART is able to refer unpaid fines to the California Franchise Tax Board, who can garnish wages or levy the fines into an individual’s state taxes. They could also refer unpaid fines to a collection agency.

“We’re not saying we wouldn’t consider it,” BART Deputy Police Chief Lance Haight told the Chronicle, referring to the collection agency option. “It could be a remedy we would seek in the future.”

This fare citation data comes from only the first two months of the program, as BART didn’t start enforcing the policy until March 2 of this year. There’s plenty tinkering they can still do to make the program more effective. But with so few people paying up, the system is not working just fine.

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