Escaping from BART? (Or, oh crap, I have to go back to Oakland now?)
February 4, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

What happens if I don't have enough money on my farecard to get out of BART?

My understanding of how BART fare-paying works (with old-fashioned paper farecards, none of this "Clipper" stuff) is:

(1) I must have at least the minimum fare ($1.75) on my farecard in order to enter the BART system.

(2) since BART fares depend on distance, whether the trip crosses the Bay, and so on, when I'm leaving the system it's possible that I could have had at least $1.75 on my card but not enough for the trip I actually took. If this happens, I'm supposed to put the difference in the addfare machine and then I can escape.

But what happens if I just don't have the money? The BART Basics Guide does not cover this question. Do they take me into a back room somewhere? Do they just wave me through? Does it depend on whether I look sketchy or not? Do they tell me to go back to a station closer to where I started out, for which there is enough money on my card?

This is something I've wondered about theoretically; I do not intend to actually evade fares.
posted by madcaptenor to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Last year I was coming into DC after being out of the country for awhile. They had adjusted the fare and when I got to the turnstile/swipe thingy I was 10 cents short with no American currency in my pocket. I walked over to the woman in a booth who was dealing with someone else who had the same problem. Her response? "Call someone and get 'em to bring you a dime". I had no cellphone, so my wife & I combined our cards or something and crammed 2 people into one swipe.

I guess it'd be the same thing with BART, although your customer service folk may be nicer. In Korea I've seen people have to fill out some kind of form if their card comes up short (It's a flat 900 won, about 81 cents, with additional charges for really long distances)
posted by GilloD at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2011

Hypothetically, BART agents could give you a ticket for fare evasion. It is your responsibility to have the fare to get you to your destination. If you had $1.75 on your and knew it would cost more than that to your destination, you're attempting to evade the fare. You might find an agent sympathetic and let you go. But you probably won't.

Then again, last year a BART cop tased a guy for alleged fare evasion.
posted by birdherder at 6:22 PM on February 4, 2011

You get a citation. You fill out a form and they basically send you a ticket for the BART fare owed + a fine.

I now just have an autoloading Clipper card.
posted by Gucky at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2011

It's very similar to what happens if you hit a Bay Bridge tollbooth with no $, btw.
posted by Gucky at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2011

(sometimes, when you have the money but you didn't know the add fare machines won't take anything bigger than a 5 or credit cards, and it's late at night and you're at an exit without a station agent, you just leave, but you feel bad about it)
posted by brainmouse at 6:36 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I ran into this problem at the SFO station on my way back home to Boston. I didn't realize the exit fare machine didn't take credit cards and I had misjudged how much I needed. The gate agent let me through as I explained, flustered, what my problem was.

But seriously why would some take credit cards and some not?!
posted by kpht at 6:41 PM on February 4, 2011

I always figured the reason for needing at least $1.75 on your card to get in was specifically so that they could send you back to a closer station - so that there would have to BE at least one station they could send you to. Otherwise, why would they care whether you end up putting more money onto your card before you get on, or afterward, just before exiting.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:43 PM on February 4, 2011

You take BART back to a station that will let you out. That's why there's a minimum amount, such that even if you enter and leave through the same station it's still $1.75.
posted by rhizome at 8:01 PM on February 4, 2011

This has happened to me before--usually I have a handful of fifty cent bart tickets floating in the bottom of my purse, so I grabbed a couple of those and offered it to the station agent in combination with my not-enough ticket. They let me out the gate and it was no big deal.

They have also let me out the gate to go add to my ticket in a card-accepting machine, then come back and swipe it through.

I've got long eyelashes which I am not afraid to use, though, so YMMV.
posted by chatongriffes at 8:06 PM on February 4, 2011

IIRC I've been in several BART stations that have "add fare" machines inside the gates for such a thing. I am thinking the downtown SF stops - none of the other come to mind.
posted by MillMan at 8:29 PM on February 4, 2011

Millman, I think all the stations have them. But what if you don't have money to put in the machine?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:17 PM on February 4, 2011

It's not strictly an answer to the question, but I'd feel remiss if I did not mention that this very situation is the premise for the classic Boston folk song, "Charlie on the MTA". Seems old Charlie had enough fare to get on the train, but not enough to get off. His wife brings him a sack lunch every day that he grabs through the window as his train passes the station. He will "ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned."
posted by Rock Steady at 9:29 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I never understood why, if Charlie's wife could give him a sandwich every day, she couldn't give him a nickel.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

This happened to me once. I think it was right after a fare raise so I put too little on the card, and then I just didn't have any cash for whatever reason. The guard just let me out. I think from the slight panic in my eyes that it was clear it was an accident and not the smallest con job ever.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:04 PM on February 4, 2011

You take BART back to a station that will let you out. That's why there's a minimum amount

I believe stations where the closest trip is more than $1.75 (SFO, Millbrae, San Bruno, etc.) won't let you in the gates with a $1.75 ticket for this reason.

such that even if you enter and leave through the same station it's still $1.75
If you do this it's $5.20.
posted by clorox at 3:13 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's anything like London's Oyster card, it lets your card go into negative credit. Obviously you then have to add money to it before it can be used again.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:08 AM on February 5, 2011

In DC, with the SmartCard, it will let you leave the system with a negative balance and you have to pay it when you put more money on the card.
posted by elle.jeezy at 7:06 AM on February 5, 2011

If your paper ticket doesn't have enough money on it the gates don't open and you have to go to the adfare machine. It's happened to me a bunch of times just 'cause I'm kind of dim.

And, yes, entering and exiting the same station is one of the most expensive things you can do on BART.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:40 AM on February 5, 2011

What grapesaresour said. This has happened to me a couple times; in every instance, the guard let me go without adding the (very small) amount of money necessary to make fare. I suspect this would be different if I owed more than a dollar or so, though...
posted by prior at 7:32 PM on February 5, 2011

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