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Steep BART Fares Fail BHS Commuters

Many Berkeley High School (BHS) students ride Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to travel to school every day. Coming from far away places, the round trip between their houses and BHS can cost up to around ten dollars. While BHS has made efforts to provide discounted tickets for transit to school, riding BART, which is expensive, is still a prevalent cause of stress for low-income students.

BART commuters commonly see teens hop over the fare gates before and after riding the train. In fact, between 3 and 10 percent of passengers ride BART without a ticket. A little over a year ago, BART increased security to prevent this illegal action, disclosing that “passengers who hop the fare gates should expect to be slapped with fines of up to $120 for adults and $60 for minors.” However, the students who do avoid paying BART fare are the ones who can’t afford it, and who by all means cannot afford the fine. This cycle of dodging fares and, subsequently, fines is risky for both students and BART’s income.

BHS makes an effort to help students who can’t afford to pay the full price of BART. On a few designated days throughout the year, students can buy BART tickets with a value of $32 for only $16. Students may order up to four tickets a month. However, students often ride BART from locations with fares higher than these limited tickets allow for. Although the students who struggle to pay for BART are helped by this discount, it does not entirely solve the problem. The small window of availability as well as the limited amount of ticket value students can receive is not a good enough solution to this problem that students face every time they want to get to or from school.

The students who do avoid paying BART fare are the ones who can’t afford it, and who by all means cannot afford the fine. This cycle … is risky for both students and BART’s income.

Throughout New York City, students can get Student MetroCards which allow them to ride the bus and subway at no cost and are limited to use between the hours of 5:30 AM and 8:30 PM, when students are travelling to and from school. Each student is given one per semester. Students can complete three rides a day on school days. Because of the guidelines for use for these student transit cards, it is ensured that students are using them solely for the purposes of being able to get to and from school safely and legally. This partnership between New York City’s Transit and school systems helps low-income students to not be penalized for their financial status and the rules it requires them to break.

If Berkeley’s ultimate goal is to have all students attend school every day, and to make sure that they travel there legally, it is not enough to just supply infrequent discounts on BART tickets. The problem of students jumping over BART ticket fare gates is not merely teen recklessness, but rather a clear example of how low-income students are not being provided the necessary resources by their city transit agency and the school system.