Updates on locking the gates and Expo Line opening

Two key updates from today’s Metro Board of Director committee meetings:

•Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky directed Metro staff to come up with a plan and timeline for locking the turnstiles at Metro Rail stations. Here’s a staff report about the testing of the locked gates that has taken place over the past several months.

•Metro CEO Art Leahy told Board members that he will have meetings in the next 10 days or so to try to determine an opening date for the Expo Line, which could be as soon as early spring. The opening will depend on several factors, most notably the state Public Utilities Commission approval of the line and local fire and safety officials signing off on the line.

30 replies

  1. From the turnstile-debacle report: “Locking gates resulted in significant shifts in customer behavior”.

    Shouldn’t that read “Putting 4 to 6 armed Sheriff’s deputies inside the paid area plus 4 to 6 LACMTA personnel in bright neon green vests in front of the turnstiles resulted in shifts in customer behavior”?

    “Customers who use rail only may be able to extend the use of their pass by failing to TAP.”. How? Either the TAP card is valid or it is not. Doesn’t the central computer know what day of the month it is? Or is there a flaw in how the cards are validated?

    “Out of over 26,031 transactions, Inter-Agency Transfers accounted for 17 total or .07% of total transactions.” Indeed, for the test was not ever done at stations where they would be prevalent like Wilshire/Western (Santa Monica Rapid 7) or LAUS (Lots) or during Rush Hour at 7th/Metro Center (Santa Monica Rapid 10) and Pershing Square (Torrance Bus). Nor was the test performed at any Light Rail stations where non-TAP agencies interact with Metro.

  2. “Reported results include information on…the number of citations issued.”

    Where’s the info on this part? How many freeloaders were caught during the gate locking test?

    “There was an overall increase of 68% in the number of cash tickets purchased
    throughout the 10 stations tested. Cash ticket purchases include one-way and Metro
    Rail Day passes (non-TAP customers). The greatest increase in sales was 107% at the
    Hollywood/Western station. The largest stations, 7t” Street/Metro Center and North
    Hollywood, recorded increases of 18-22%. Total revenue increases are projected to be
    in the 18-22% range in a locked environment.”

    107% revenue increase at Hollywood/Western alone and this was just a few hours of gate locking on a single day. You’d have to wonder how many millions in lost revenue Metro lost out in the years that they were operating the Red Line for sticking to the belief that the honor system would work.

    Next up, provide incentives to get more people to TAP. The 2 year software coded expiration date has to go. Provide cheaper fares like the MBTA’s CharlieCard for those with TAP to provide incentives to use of the card.

  3. “The schedule for camera installation at gated stations is August 2012 for the Red and Purple Lines, September 2012 for the Blue Line and December 2012 forthe Green and Gold Lines.”

    Whoa! How much extra is that costing and is it being “charged” to the Turnstile-debacle?

    Also, what were the customer counts on the days (see pie charts) that the fare media was surveyed when the turnstiles were unlocked? Metro claims that a large number of people bought tickets when the turnstiles were locked, but did a large number of riders “disappear” when the locking took place?

    And what is the cost of ripping out the turnstiles and returning them? Shouldn’t that figure be in any decision matrix?

  4. I see people reaching over the emergency gates and open the door without going through the turnstiles (including exiting the stations). I cannot tell if they have a TAP card.

  5. It is time to lock all the turnstiles on Metro rail now. People need to buy the TAP Card now so they can use the system to ride the Metro Bus and Metro Rail. The Tap Card is the easy to buy at any Metro customer Service center or at the Metro rail Machines.

  6. Jason Morris: TAP cards are certainly not easy to buy if you ride a bus or live in an area where TAP cards are not convenient to purchase (as I do). They’re certainly not easy for people who are from out of town or use the system only occasionally to understand or buy. And until Metro solves the problem of EZ pass and Metrolink transfers, the turnstiles will continue to be unlocked. The real problem is that Metro put the cart before the horse: putting in turnstiles before getting the fare system perfected. Finally, Metro has never accounted for the massive personnel costs — both at startup and ongoing — that will be necessary to make this system work.

  7. “The real problem is that Metro put the cart before the horse: putting in turnstiles before getting the fare system perfected.”

    They also ordered turnstiles from Cubic that could only read the RFID-fare card, the TAP card, which is completely managed (website, customer service, record-keeping) by Cubic. They could have come equipped with a Bar Code or QR code reader, or a magnetic stripe reader; having both would have allowed for Metrolink and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus tickets to have been read. It’ll be fun in 5 years or less when we all have Near Field Communication capability on our smartphones and RFID in out Credit/Debit cards but can’t use them at the LA Metro turnstiles because of some clause in a contract.


  8. I’ve been using a TAP card for this month instead of my usual EZ pass. It’s not at all easier, and putting value on it for the Culver buses requires a special trip to one of only two locations. And what happens to the EZ pass if they lock the turnstiles? To the best of my knowledge, Santa Monica buses don’t take TAP. As usual, LA is lagging behind the rest of the world. And speaking of the rest of the world, what’s with the rules on food and drink? In Berlin you can eat and drink on the subway. You can drink beer, in fact. You can buy beer on the subway platforms, in fact. It’s a sad fact that people in Europe have more liberty than people in America, and are probably more responsible, too.

  9. I have traveled in many cities with locked turnstiles. The thing which I noticed very early with the turnstiles which are in place here is exactly what people are talking about: the lack of usability for the casual traveler or those who are using transfers. in almost every other major city I have been in, there is a dual system: a tap card and a feed card. The feed works for one ways, transfers and most paper day passes. My question for Metro is what was behind the decision to not put in place this dual turnstile system when the trains are currently using both medias? And how difficult (and expensive) would it be to reprogram the system and replace one of turnstiles at each entrance to accommodate paper tickets?

    Just some thoughts.

  10. In NYC, they quickly did away with paper and coin fares. NYC is a much larger system. Make it mandatory and place TAP stations in more places. That’s the biggest issue. Check cashing places are too busy cashing checks. But buses do allow you to purchase day TAPs and I guess if you want to pump $75 in cash…

  11. Before I write about the fare gates, there is one item that everyone is forgetting about this post and I it bears repeating again: “Metro CEO Art Leahy told Board members that he will have meetings IN THE NEXT 10 DAYS OR SO to try to determine AN OPENING DATE FOR THE EXPO LINE, which could be as soon as early spring.” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Rail_(Los_Angeles_County)) is projecting an April 2012 opening for the Expo Line.

    As far as faregates/turnstiles are concerned (as someon who has never been in LA), a rapidly-expanding rail system like Los Angeles’s Metro is now officially in the Big Leagues as far as rail transportation is concerned. NYC did not officially have turnstiles until about a quarter century after our system opened in 1903, and there were no faregates for another 20-plus years or so. It was the same thing with older subway/metro systems (Chicago, Philadelphia & Boston).

  12. @Bob

    There’s also the problem of TAP cards expiring. Who’s going to move to TAP if you have to fork over $2 every time they expire? No other transit agency does this. And there’s still no clear cut answer on the SOP of how one should go about when they still have cash value left in their TAP card upon expiry. At best the $2 should be a deposit for the TAP card which has to be refunded upon return of the card. Otherwise, this is nothing but another hidden tax.

    Everything that is wrong with TAP has to be fixed first if they want people moving to using them.

  13. I am for turnstiles, but I would also love to see a pair of officers (or at least fare takers) at each major station. These personnel would be available to help the disabled, help lost tourists, and provide security.

    L.A.’s fare system is getting better, but so slowly. Most other metro systems around the world have far better fare systems than we do. Hopefully one day our fare system will allow seamless, convenient travel between Metro and all the regional Muni systems.

  14. If you intend to use public transit and live in LA, TAP cards are convenient to buy. You can buy TAP cards online. Most people buy something online (or make online payments) at least once a month, so I think this is extremely convenient. Those who are willing to use public transit probably know how to get to Union Station and buy one from the widely visible sales counter there.

    If you are from out of town, and have never used public transit before, yes, figuring out how to manage without a TAP card might be difficult. Amsterdam has recently switched to a card-based fare system (the OV-Chipkaart). While permanent cards are not easy to buy for out-of-towners, both anonymous (like our regular, photo-less blue TAP cards) or rigid paper tickets are still available from standard ticket machines. These paper tickets also contain an electronic chip inside which allows usage of the Amsterdam Metro’s “TAP” system. Day-passes are incentivized by making them much cheaper than buying several one-way passes. In the Amsterdam metro system, using regular paper tickets (Strippenkaart) is abolished since November 2011. The LACMTA might be able to learn some lessons from them in making TAP card purchases more accessible from stations.

    I think TAP is a great system, but like any public transit system, it will be hard to completely control and offer the convenience that we currently enjoy. Ensuring riders pay before enhances the comfort and safety of our rides, so I fully support the efforts being made in any capacity to add to Metro’s patronage.

    Frankly I would like to know the success rate of bringing in money from citations of people who get caught without valid boarding passes.

  15. Well that’s rubbish. Mostly during non-peak hours and not including Union Station, Metrolink still represented nearly 10% of the total entries. Yet we’re still waiting to hear from either Metro or Metrolink on exactly how they’re going to resolve the TAP issue. If TAP was cost effective and, you know, actually worked, I could see other agencies jumping on board willingly. What does it say about TAP that Metro has to force other agencies like this?

  16. Montreal also has 100% contact-less faregates. Regular users can purchase an OPUS card through the mail, from a fare vending machine, or from any pass sales outlet, but the card costs something like $5. Occasional users are provided for using RFID-enabled paper tickets called “L’Occasionelle” that allows them to use the contactless readers, although the paper tickets can’t be reloaded. (One ticket can hold up to a week’s pass.)

    I still think that locking the gates is worrisome in Los Angeles, however, because we lack something that most gated metro systems have: station agents. In most gated rail systems, if you can’t get through the faregate (for whatever reason, including if you have a strange, but valid, type of fare), you can address your issues with a station agent. In LA, I don’t know what they’ll do if they start locking the gates, but the cost to employ a dozen or so station agents full time would easily wipe out the savings from reduced fare evasion.

  17. If you call customer service they will transfer any unused funds from the expired card to your new card, my expired card was registered so they could look it up easily. TAP works great for me, generally I keep $20 or $30 on it. I also has the capability of holding a pass and $$$. I loaded a day pass on it and TAP knew not to deduct from my cash balance.

    • Hi Neal —

      I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s mentioned during the CEO report at the beginning of the meeting. I’ll post anything quickly if there’s news. There’s also a phone in number for board meetings for any members of public or media who want to listen live. Of course, I can’t happen to find the number at the moment, but I’ll put it on the blog early next week.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  18. Berlin, which actively promotes itself as a city for conventions and conferences, accepts conference badges as valid passes during the run of the conference. These have to have a special local transit agency marking, so it isn’t just any conference badge that works, but they do allow attendees to print the badge from home so that public transportation is available from the time that person arrives at the Berlin Airport(s).

    They can do this because they don’t have faregates or turnstiles!

  19. Don’t get your hopes up. All other “opening dates” of the Expo. Line have been CANCELLED! Its for SHOW, not for USE!

  20. On two occasions during the test, I tapped my card at an elevator entrance, only to find the elevator was out of order. At the regular turnstile, tapping produced a message that the card had been recently used and a red light flashed. In a real, locked circumstance, what would happen? Would the gate remain locked with the user legitimately trying to enter being barred, or would the gate open?

    Has a comparison been made between the purported loss of rail revenue and the loss of revenue from out-of-order fare boxes on buses? I would guess that the buses lose more money than the rail stations.

  21. Erik G. makes an interesting point. Because when I visit other cities, I always wait until the last possible minute to make my hotel and air reservations, which makes online mail-order rail pass purchases useless:



    And, should overseas online purchases be unavailable, I’m much too lazy and impatient to walk over to the rail travel desk at the airport rail station:


  22. The ridership figures of the LA Metro Rail system nowadays warrant a need for a closed, gated system. The honor system just doesn’t cut it when it has expanded so much.

  23. Steve: Any further update re the Expo Line Opening. I’m really tired of watching the empty trains pass my car and am anxious for Phase 1 to open — even if it is to La Cienega. You mentioned that you would post a call in number that the public may utilize to listen to Thursday’s Board meeting. Have you located it yet?

    • No updates yet on opening date. But testing is ongoing and seemingly going well.

      The phone-in number is 213-922-6045. Thanks for reminder to post that!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  24. “The ridership figures of the LA Metro Rail system nowadays warrant a need for a closed, gated system. The honor system just doesn’t cut it when it has expanded so much.”

    @LAX: You do realize that almost none of the Blue, Gold and Expo Line stations will ever be able to have turnstiles, right?