Results of gate latching at Metro Red and Purple Line stations: many more people TAP

Here is some interesting data gathered from recent testing of gate latching at the Normandie, North Hollywood and Western stations on the Red/Purple Line subway.

The takeaways: 1) one-way fares, stored value and pass sales significantly increased when the gates were latched; 2) Free entries — i.e. mainly those not paying fares — dropped significantly when gates were latched.

Metro staff continue to work toward starting to latch the gates in the Red and Purple Line subway this summer. As part of that effort, paper TAP tickets are being tested for Metrolink passengers who transfer to and from the Metro system.

Normandie1

Normandie2

Western1

Western2

NoHo2

NoHo2

22 replies

  1. Could Metro please add an option to buy Metrolink tickets at their machines? This might be a tall order since all of this reconfiguration is being done, but if Metrolink will have some type of tap system, id hate to add 1.50 to my tap card, just to ride to Union and buy my ticket which would also be a paper Tap.

  2. I second the notion of “Transit Rider” and suggest a possible alternative. Perhaps a Metrolink “transfer ticket” or coupon could be printed from a metro rail vending machine and this could be used for credit at a Metrolink machine? That is, something that could be inserted into Metrolink’s credit card slot. This is an absolutely valid point, I imagine a large number of “occasional” Metrolink riders would need to get to Union Station first and therefore need to buy a Metro Rail ticket first.

  3. The simpler answer is just get Metrolink onboard with TAP so that we can have a seamless boarding with just one card instead of dealing with stupid transfer passes or paper cards.

    Seems like the people up in NorCal can figure this out, so what’s holding back So Cal from getting this fixed?

  4. So wait, this groundbreaking study shows that by locking the gates, people start to pay? Color me shocked! But in all seriousness though, it’s about time. Every time I tap, I watch 3 or 4 others walk through and not do anything.

  5. The latching is an interesting experiment, but in reality, it’s VERY easy to get through the gates without tapping. The “emergency exit” gates have no alarm and can easily be opened; I should know, I do it at the NoHo station to get my bike through (after tapping, of course). The Orange Line would be virtually impossible to convert to a latched-gate system, unless you build a fence around areas where you can step onto the road.

  6. Agree w/ Chris D – the takeaways from the experiment are not at all surprising. Plus, when you have swarms of Metro staff hovering around the gates yelling at everyone to tap (which happened on both of the Wilshire/Western days from above), you’re going to get a very high compliance rate.

    It would be interesting to what the results were from 2/27 where there were no Metro staff at Wilshire/Western.

  7. I agree with Chris D. In many stations it is 3 walk throughs to 1 pay. What is the point? Either show some enforcement or let the one payer through for free as well.

  8. Precisely Danny,

    The entire system cannot be turnstiled/gated and will still require fare checkers.

  9. This is not interesting, this is common sense! Lock it up and move on! This is a no brainer, why is this taking so long???

  10. Barry has it right. This was a no brainer and should have been done on day one. Now just include the option for Metrolink riders such as myself on TAP.

  11. Hrm. Those numbers look pretty fishy to me. You’re telling me that there were ZERO Metrolink and security entries when the gates weren’t latched?
    And (on the days when the gates were unlatched) how did you tell the difference between a Free entry (who did not pay) and somebody with a pass who paid but did not tap? Did you, as I suspect, count the people who paid but did not tap as fare evaders? Doing so makes your numbers look pretty good, but it’s also pretty misleading.

    Locking the gates seems to have decreased total ridership, which is unfortunate. At Wilshire/Normandie, ridership seems to have gone from 3000 to 2500. It’s tempting to count these folks as scofflaws, but they could have just as easily been put off by the chaos and confusion.

    You did get about 200 more fares, though, adding $300 to your coffers. How much extra did you pay the sheriffs and attendants to stand by the gates and help people get through?

  12. “Free entry” doesn’t mean those people didn’t pay… just that they didn’t tap. And frankly, if you have a daily, weekly, or monthly pass, it doesn’t matter if you tap or not, Metro has already got your money.

    I’m not saying people shouldn’t tap… all I’m pointing out is that locking the gate didn’t produce any new revenue based on the number of people passing thru the gates. The total number of people at Wilshire/Western was about 3,800 on 2/6/13 but only about 3,600 on 2/13/13 – so only about 200 people “gave up” trying to get past the gates. From that, we can infer that of the 1,800 or so “free entry” people on 2/6/13, 1,600 of them actually did pay Metro but just didn’t want to tap. So congratulations Metro on forcing people to tap – but don’t mislead by saying fare collection went up.

  13. Waah waah waah. Gate locking is the end of the world waah waah waah.

    Get over it; free rides are over. The rest of the world runs transit perfectly fine with locked gates, it’s about time L.A. applies the same rules as the big leagues.

    Lock’em all up!

  14. Frustrated:
    the question has always been, Is the cost justified given that the stations were not built to accommodate either gates or staff?
    These gates and their installation (including wiring) are/was not cheap, and nearly all of that money went to companies located outside of L.A. County and/or the U.S.
    Remember, most of the Gold, Blue and Expo Line stations will never be gated, so fare inspectors are not going away; there will not be any cost savings from staff reduction. There may be unforeseen costs in the future created by switching to an unstaffed gated system on those stations which can have them. Vandalism of the gates, just to name one.
    (And no, the rest of the world does not run transit with locked gates. No city in Germany does, as an example.)
    Would it have been better to keep the money spent on this system and all the other development costs local and use it instead to hire more fare inspectors? Most labor economists and many security specialists would say so.

  15. Erik,

    How about San Francisco? London? New York? Tokyo? Hong Kong? Washington DC? Boston?

    If fare gates don’t work what is the rationale that these cities uses them? Surely if no gates are much more better then transit oriented cities like these wouldn’t be using them.

    Get over it. You’re just angry because you don’t get to have free rides anymore. Too bad, it’s a done deal.

    It’s time LA steps up to the big leagues, lock all the stations up. Should’ve done so since the start instead of relying on the honor system. Pfft, what a joke.

  16. Erik,

    The problem with your theory is based on that transit ridership numbers will not increase. On the contrary, as gas prices rise, more people will be turning to taking mass transit and you just cannot forever rely on human fare checkers to handle the increased volume of people taking mass transit.

    Sure the economics may not make sense now. But figure in more and more people taking transit and more rail lines and stations being added over the course of the years. Is it realistic to keep hiring fare checkers to do the job? If LA Metro passenger volumes rise to 1,000,000 riders per DAY, is it realistic to hire 10,000 fare checkers?

    More people are taking Metro Rail than ever. Using human fare checkers is both expensive and inefficient. Human fare checkers are what they are: human; they need breaks, they need to eat, they need to go to the restroom, they have families, and they need time off. Fare checkers are not supermen. Better to just leave the redundant tasks to machines which won’t complain, don’t need overtime pay and will just sit there 24 hours a day, 7 day a week, 365/366 days a year.

    Furthermore, the anti-fare gaters need to drill that into this into their heads: fare gates aren’t a replacement for officers, it’s a machine that helps them do their job more efficiently. And as passenger ridership rise, it’s a no brainer that we need them. Fare gates are machines that leaves the redundant task of fare checks to a machine so that they can focus on more serious matters like ensure safety of the area from muggings and theft. It’s better to have 2 officers patrolling the station and leaving the task of fare checks to 10 fare gates (more efficient) instead of 20 officers doing both jobs of fare checks and patrolling the area and 0 fare gates (highly inefficient). Police officers aren’t supermen; they are human just like the rest of us. Redundant jobs like fare checks should be left to machines so that only few officers are needed per station to focus on more serious matters.

  17. Old people don’t realize that times change.

    Change. That’s why we all voted for Obama. You want change, change is going to happen. You can’t choose which change you don’t want to do just because you don’t like it. If you don’t like change, you should’ve voted for the other guy.

    More people are using Metro. We are building new stations and have multiple rail projects going on. We have a lack of funding due to tax cuts. We have one of the lowest recuperation of fares among the major cities. This calls for change. Not the same old ways, but real change.

    Hiring more people to do fare checks is out of the question. Maybe it made sense when there were low ridership numbers and all we had was one line. But today is different and it’s going to be a lot more different in the future.

    As more people start using rail, it’s not the question of whether we need it or not, it’s the question of changing the way of thinking to future proof our system with new ideas than relying on old fashioned ideas and methods that do not fit the description of our transit needs.

    Metro should not just stop at locking only the Red and Purple Lines. The entire system needs to be gated and locked up. The honor system was a stupid idea and it should never have been implemented in the first place. Any new rail projects and stations will need to have the locked gate system in place from planning stages. And it should be done now, immediately. A common sense idea like this should not take this long to implement.

    Get in with the program. It’s change and it’s happening. When will we see other changes to way Metro runs business? I’d like to see it happen sometime in my lifetime.

  18. Frustrated,

    London has stations without faregates. And of course, they had a regionally integrated fare system already in place before they moved to gates. Even after 20 years since the Metrocard was created LA County doesn’t.

    And all of those cities you list have staffed-stations to assist passengers. LA Metro doesn’t.

    Be glad you are able bodied, if you are, because when these turnstiles get locked, life is going to get even more difficult for the least amongst us.

    Get all the agencies on board, including Amtrak Surfliner and then you can start to talk about turnstiles. And prove that even the most severely disabled person can use them without anyne around, at 2am trying to catch the last train of the night.

  19. Erik,

    Don’t you think “how should the disabled get through fare gates” solution hasn’t been implemented in other cities that do use fare gates?

    Yes, they do that by having wider fare gates. It’s not that hard to do google image of “fare gates wheelchair” and see what other countries do. Give it a try, welcome yourself into the 21st century.

    http://www.dev.ihcdstore.org/files/photo-6_resized.JPG
    http://homepage2.nifty.com/ADI/100-0149.JPG
    http://www.theprovince.com/news/bc/7663332.bin?size=620x400s

  20. To be fair, the concern Erik states is that the gates we have installed are those old fashioned spinning turnstiles similar to the ones they use for the NYC subway. The entrance to Magic Mountain has been using those same turnstiles for decades. These are narrow, tight and very uncomfortable for even able bodied persons to get through.

    Honestly, I don’t know why Metro chose such outdated turnstiles when they could’ve installed or even built an electronic fare gate which had wider spaces to allow for luggage, strollers, bicycles and wheelchairs similar to what they use in most transit cities around the world.

    Is it really that hard to just build an electronic fare gate? All the details to build one are listed under US patent 6,450,404. Just build a fare gate production facility right here in LA, build them in mass quantities using workers from LA (helps create jobs), and sell them to every single transit agency in the US and the world.

    http://www.google.com/patents/US6450404

  21. We need real change,

    And you did notice that the second picture has a gentleman in a booth helping that lady, right?