The downtown-elevator loophole

Bart elevator.JPG
Photo by Simon Miller

Muni rider Beth has discovered a bit of an issue …

Many of us ride BART and Muni every day without even thinking about the elevators. They fit so few people, they’re slow, and their floors are often bespattered with mysterious liquids. (Sounds like a precursor for a ride on a Muni bus, no?) It wasn’t until I started taking my daughter in her stroller on BART semi-regularly that I discovered something really odd.

In the four downtown stations (Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, and Civic Center), the elevators are outside the fare gates. That means you can go from the platform to the concourse level … and not pay.

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that this has its consequences. I got on BART from, shall we say, a southern San Francisco BART stop, and went to Civic Center. I came up on the elevator and left the station without paying. I know, I know. It was not my most conscionable moment. Then I got back on at Civic Center, went down in the elevator, and went home.

That’s when I got charged a $5.20 “excursion fare” for my journey, which would have otherwise cost me $1.75.

However, if you only get on and off at one of the downtown stations, you could conceivably ride for free. And that’s BART or Muni — the elevators go to both platforms. (In fact, they’re the only way to get directly from the BART platform to the Muni platform without going to the concourse first.)

SFMTA PR Officer Kristen Holland says to watch out for fare cops. “The 42 SFMTA Transit Fare Inspectors who are out on Muni every day are very knowledgeable in the creative ways that people try to evade paying their fair share on Muni.”

I agree, you should pay the fare. But odd that nothing more is being done to address this specific situation. I suppose there’s not much BART and Muni can do about it, considering how hard it would be to build new elevators inside the gates, or gates just outside the elevators.

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