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’m sure the new design will be better, as most of Metro’s design studio work is…

    But I wish focus groups would include both frequent and infrequent users. I took the survey to see if I could be included in this group, and was deemed ineligible because I’m an infrequent rider.

    Appealing to infrequent riders is NECESSARY, but I believe that MOST riders are actually frequent riders and Metro should get their opinions as well. The best system will work well for both, while recognizing that they may have different abilities to navigate and needs or uses for the system. A system based only on feedback from infrequent riders will not necessarily be the best system (nor would one based solely on feedback from frequent riders).


  2. I use to use the metro frequently and rode again this winter break and found it hard to purchase a pass. TAP cards should be come more efficient because some of the TAP cards that my friends used were deemed expired by the machine when the card had monetary value and was not yet expired. Also, the people who were surveyed should be more diverse; that is the people who are surveyed should be frequent and infrequent riders, especially since most revenue is from frequent riders and the survey does not reflect that. As that does not represent the population of people who use METRO


  3. Steve, Southern California Transit Advocates is working on having a field trip to the TAP Lab soon. Trust me, we are FREQUENT users and are glad Mr. Sutton (in charge of TAP) is working to give us a chance to give input…


  4. Other transit agencies have already conducted this exercise; ask your peers what worked (and what didn’t) for them. You don’t need to wait for the next APTA conference. Learn from their experience, and try not to repeat their costly mistakes. Be sure to document your process, so others can have an opportunity to benefit as well.

    Good ideas can come from anywhere. If you want to learn how to take a difficult concept, and make it understandable for the general public, go visit a science museum — they excel at that sort of thing.

    Consider creating a TVM simulator (e.g. an interactive web page) where people can “test drive” your interface before facing the real thing.

    Steal from the best: Check out BART’s “LEARN BART! Your Guide to Ride!” — a gentle introduction to riding their system, presented in comic book form.


  5. Absolutely, tourists and first timers. Can’t keep track of all the people I have helped before.. Now if we can just get Metrolink on board TAP. And the Flyaway buses.


  6. It’s about time. I’ve helped several tourists and local riders trying to go from Long Beach Transit Center to Downtown LA. But here is the worst part, the machines at both stations, especially at Long beach Transit Center breakdown or stop taking coins too often. Plus people forget to tap there card after adding value because those machines are isolated from the vending machines. The result, people get unnecessary citations. So if this the future, Metro really needs to put extra effort on redesigning the entire system and make it efficient, reliable and universally accessible.


  7. Oh thank God. I’m a semi regular rider and I still have difficulty with those machines. It’s hard to tell which buttons line up with the on-screen options.


  8. If I recall correctly, the fact that a one-use ticket is accessed from the “Pass” menu. I assume that a pass is always multi-use.


  9. Still does not make it clear which choices are for a pass, and what that pass is valid on.

    And this is your key problem LA Metro; You have not defined what the blue card does well enough.


  10. Really? They left out infrequent users?

    How dumb can Metro get? Has Metro forgotten that LA is one of the biggest tourist cities in the world who brings billions into our city every year? Tourists are the biggest infrequent users that will be using Metro when the go around the city so that’s the group they need to consider the most!

    Seriously, people working for Metro must be the dumbest people on the planet. No wonder our public transit sucks, the people working for them are total idiots! They all need to have their pays slashed because I’m not paying increased taxes for their incompetence.