BART Fare Evasion

Context

The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a public transportation system with 48 stations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area serving over 120 million passengers per year. It is the fifth busiest heavy rail transit system in the United States and receives 80% of its funding through rider fares. This is in stark contrast to the majority of transit systems which are funded through state, city, and other local sources of income.

Problem

The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) estimates lost revenue between $15 - $25 million each year do to fare evasions. In parallel, there have been increased calls from paying passengers to address the problem. In its 2019 budget BART lists fare evasions as the number one issue affecting "quality of life" for its transit system. BART has seen a 200% increase in fare evasion citations between 2017 - 2018. BART has recently begun to install new fare guards and to add more BART police to curb this issue. 

Exercises to create empathy with users can be enlightening. Through suggestions with UX researchers helping to facilitate the IDEO course I experimented with a variety of different ways to limit my mobility while moving through the BART fare gates. What I learned surprised me.

I tied my legs together before trying to make my way through the gates and felt more anxious than I would have guessed as other passengers tried to push in behind me. But what was most surprising was how I felt when I bent down and walked through. As the gates closed near my head I actually felt scared. 

My Role

I am currently enrolled in IDEO's Advanced Design Thinking certificate program. The certificate consists of several courses, and this project is part of the course on user experience research called "Insight for Innovation".  The project is broken down into the four skills below.

  • Observation, Ethnography, Field Study

  • Research design utilizing extremes

  • Interviewing

  • Empathy

  • Insights

Takeaways

  • Coming soon!

Observation

Getting Started

  • Investigative (Desk) Research 

  • Competitive Analysis

  • Online observation

  • In-person observation

The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) estimates lost revenue between $15 - $25 million each year do to fare evasions. In parallel, there have been increased calls from paying passengers to address the problem. In its 2019 budget BART lists fare evasions as the number one issue affecting "quality of life" for its transit system. BART has seen a 200% increase in fare evasion citations between 2017 - 2018. BART has recently begun to install new fare guards and to add more BART police to curb this issue. 

Takeaways

  • Online ethnographies and observation. Most of the work I have done previously happened in communities where access to technology was very limited. For this project, I used Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages, and comment sections in online newspaper articles to gain insight into users.

  • Investigative research is key. Before embarking on this field observation I did a good bit of research. This helped me understand which stations to go to, what issues people were having, and the various stances different stakeholders were taking. Get the big picture before you head into the field. 

  • Discretion is 1/2 the journey. Through years of working with people and doing qualitative studies, I have come to realize just how much less is more.  In much of my research, I have not filmed or photographed events because of the sensitive nature of these rituals for the communities I work with. For this project, I took a relatively large camera to take photos of fare evaders and garnered far too much attention. Next time, I will just use my phone to record!

Analyzing Extremes

Extremes

  • Mapping user journey

  • Identifying extreme behaviors

  • Identifying extreme users

More coming soon!

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© 2019 by Zayin Cabot, Ph.D.