Metro to redesign screen options on TAP card vending machines with feedback from focus groups


Metro recently eliminated paper tickets in favor of TAP cards – the reusable card stores passes and money. This cuts down on waste and makes buying and validating tickets easier. It will also be necessary for entering the turnstiles at all Metro Rail Stations, which are scheduled to be latched later this year.

As part of this process, Metro is updating the software on its TAP vending machines (TVMs) to make it easier for customers to purchase and reload TAP cards.

Recent focus groups of infrequent rail riders were conducted by Metro Research for the TAP group in both English and Spanish. The participants found that the current TVMs are difficult to use for first-time Metro riders (think tourists and event-goers as well as new riders). Participants said that the initial screen had too many options and was confusing.  They also said it was not clear how much the fare cost and that a reduced fare for seniors and disabled riders was actually offered on the machines. They also said it wasn’t clear when they could travel at a reduced rate.

TAP instructional posters posted in direct proximity to the TVMs appeared to make no difference as focus group participants said they were solely focused on the machine and the transaction.

The focus groups also previewed a couple of alternatives for a redesigned TVM screen.  The mock-ups were designed by the award-winning Metro Creative Services staff.  The focus groups saw the new design flow as less confusing, more intuitive and more user-friendly than the current screens. Follow-up focus groups will interact with the new software once it is loaded onto test TVMs at Metro headquarters.

What do you like or dislike about our current ticket vending machines? What would you like to see changed about them?

49 replies

  1. I guess I was a little confusing, I was really asking a question as well about whether the $1.00 TAP card is reloadable. And if it’s reloadable is it only for the day of purchase?


    • Hi Georgia;

      Yes, the card is reloadable. You can register it online at and load it with a pass or stored value there or you could do it at the machine at the time of purchase.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source


  2. Steve Hymon,

    Well I hope Metro does consider moving us to simpler distance based fares because as it stands now, it is very complicated to figure things out once you factor in all these other details I mentioned.

    At the base level, it’s easy as you mentioned. But once you factor in discounted passes, transfer agreements within and with other agencies that may/may not use TAP, unlimited ride passes, which other people use, it starts to get confusing for anyone to memorize what’s the best deal. And I’m sure for the agency and bus drivers involved, it’s even more of a headache to keep up with this.

    As for how easy it would be for people to figure out because it will require a fare chart, well I think this doesn’t have to be that confusing. We live in the age of computers and smartphones. We have touchscreen iPads and Google Nexus 7s. On the TVM menu, it can be easily showing a system map of Metro Rail and touch padding “I want to go here” to station you want to go to and pops out how much it is to get there.


  3. The biggest annoyance with TAP is that the customer service center operated by Xerox/ACS only is open Monday to Friday from 8 to 5. This is absurd and should at least be extended to the same hours the Metro Customer Service Centers are open. In addition, the web site should allow for balance and expiration checks without having to register the card, and allow transfer to and from card balances for registered cards without the need to have a human assist. All this machine fixing does nothing if the bank doesn’t work well.


  4. They just need to do what London does. You just keep tapping your card all day long, and it will never charge you more than the cost of a day pass.

    Yes, I realize they’ll have to pony up some more cash to Cubic to add this “accumulator” function, but without it the system is way too confusing.


  5. I strongly agree with the idea of fare caps. Trying to figure out whether I’m better off paying-per-boarding or with a day pass is one of the most confusing things about the system. I would use Metro more frequently, and with greater peace of mind if I knew that the system would automatically calculate the most economical fare, and cap it at the day pass rate. Many other cities have this, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. (Bonus points if it can also cap me at the weekly and monthly pass rates, but that would be just a nice-to-have.)