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

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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. It’s hard to see what button one is pushing – i know TAP is working on nextgen touch screen interfaces that will minimise the looking around to see what letter to tap – perhaps if the screens were angled 15˚ instead of being 90˚ they would be more user friendly also and perhaps the interface can be more iOS look and feel, have next train status so users don’t have to squint for the plasma near the turnstiles. Have an area for tourists and How To videos, perhaps under EX transit there can be a way some FAQs for Metrolink and Foothill transit.

    Just by the look and feel of this it seems much easier to use and this was done in 10 minutes…
    Example: http://mod.cr/tap.png

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  2. Cannot seem to post my comment with this news WP update.

    It’s hard to see what button one is pushing – i know TAP is working on nextgen touch screen interfaces that will minimise the looking around to see what letter to tap –

    Example: http://mod.cr/tap.png

    perhaps if the screens were angled 15˚ instead of being 90˚ they would be more user friendly also and perhaps the interface can be more iOS look and feel, have next train status so users don’t have to squint for the plasma near the turnstiles. Have an area for tourists and How To videos, perhaps under EX transit there can be a way some FAQs for Metrolink and Foothill transit.

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  3. One obvious thing that needs to be changed is the fares need to be posted. My wife and her friends, who are not regular riders, took the Blue Line from Long Beach to LA Live the other evening for an event and they were baffled by the fact that the fares were not posted at the TVMs. They had no ideas how much money to put on their newly-purchased TAP cards.

    They also said more route/station diagrams in the cars would have been helpful. If we want more people to ride we have to make the system approachable. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

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  4. How about posting images of these mock-ups on the Metro website or on The Source so that everyone can see the new design and give feedback.

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  5. Thanks for all of your feedback! Metro Creative Services is using clever design techniques to solve many of these problems in the new screens. It is great to hear new suggestions and ideas.

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  6. @Septemeber Nine: They didn’t leave out infrequent users, they ONLY talked to infrequent users.

    @Eric P. Scott: While BART may have produced a cutesy comic book, their TVM system is INCREDIBLE difficult for infrequent users to understand. I’ve visited SF many times, and have a good understanding of transit procedures in general. Two weeks ago, I spent about 15 minutes helping people buy BART tickets at the airport because nobody could figure out how to use the machine. As soon as anyone recognized that I knew what I was doing, I was hounded for help over and over and over. Finally had to tear myself away, but thought maybe I should have put on a public tutorial first. The distance-based fare system makes it even harder, because different people all had to add different amounts to get to where they wanted.

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  7. Fare must be displayed, but more importantly, total fare to destination, not just fare for the line.

    For example, someone trying to get to LA Live hotels from Aviation station should be informed the fare is $3.00, not $1.50. Similarly, if someone is trying to visit Pasadena from Culver City, the TVM should be show that the fare is $4.50, not $1.50.

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  8. I just did this a week ago at Hollywood & Highland. I remember being moderately confused when given the choice, on two separate screens, of buying the TAP card pre-loaded with one ride for $2.50, or the TAP card by itself for $1, and buying the ride separately for $1.50. Or something like that. But really, it was no big deal. I just visited Melbourne, Australia, and I tell you, you have to buy your TAP equivalents at 7-11′s and such, for $6 each! So this is much easier and more convenient!

    MTA buses aren’t going to start requiring a TAP card in lieu of paying with cash, are they? I believe right now they accept both.

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  9. Irwin,

    I agree the system is confusing. In the examples you described, most inexperienced riders will also not be able to figure out that when factoring in the return travel, it’s better to buy a day pass for $5.00. But I guess Metro doesn’t want people to know that. LOL

    Then you also have the problem of system unfairness being more visible. For example, if you make the fares show up to the destination, it will make it more visible that a person traveling on the Green Line from Redondo Beach to Norwalk will get by with just $1.50, but another person who needs a shorter ride and gets on at Avalon and transfers to the Blue Line to Compton ends up paying $3.00.

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