Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, BART began adding a 50 cent surcharge to paper tickets, meaning anyone without a plastic Clipper card would be charged more. This was clearly meant to encourage the use of Clipper cards, as the BART website states, “Riders are encouraged to get a Clipper card (www.clippercard.com) to avoid the surcharge.”
For many folks, this may not seem like a big change, as Clipper cards are easy to get and 50 cents is not a life-altering amount. But we must think about BART users who are homeless, do not have internet access, or who do not have an extra 50 cents. This new charge is discriminatory and favors those with more money and access
In order to get a Clipper card, a person must pay 3 dollars at a specific BART station and provide proper identification. Of course, this fee is easily waived if the card is purchased online and Autoload is set up at the time of the purchase, according to the Clipper card website. If a person is unable to pay 3 dollars in person for one, it is unlikely that they will easily be able to order their card online and set up Autoload. Homeless riders without internet access would have to travel to a library or other public place, possibly requiring them to use BART if they lack transportation. And on BART, they would be charged an extra 50 cents as a penalty for not having a Clipper card. For those relying on spare change from strangers, 50 cents is not a small amount of money, and 3 dollars is much more difficult to collect.
The Bay Area strives to help its homeless population. Last year, mayor Ed Lee created the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing in San Francisco, and a lot of money has been spent trying to address the issue. But according to the San Francisco Chronicle in September, the problem has not gotten any better, even though it should have by now with all of the efforts. Poverty is common and costs of living are higher than ever.
This new charge seems discriminatory towards homeless BART riders, and those without Internet access. We are living in a time when more and more convenience comes with this access even though for some, having that is not a possibility. The Bay Area of all places should recognize this and make BART more accessible and affordable to ride.