Metro's response to CityWatch article on problems with TAP cards

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Matthew Hetz published an article at CityWatch today with the headline “The TAP card, discouraging mass transit one card at a time.” The article listed several issues that Mr. Hetz has had with TAP.

Here is Metro’s response to Mr. Hetz:

Dear Mr. Hetz:

Thank you for taking the time to evaluate the TAP system.  Here are answers to your concerns.

Expiring Cards

For two plus years there have been signs on buses and trains, web ads on metro.net, as well as 174,000 brochures distributed on the system to alert passengers to check their expiration of their TAP cards. Originally, TAP cards were designed to be good for three years, and  there are still three-year cards out there for sale.  With improved security we have now opened up the expiration period to ten years so the 3-year cards will eventually be sold and phased out.   TAP card expiration can be checked at a TAP Vending Machine, at one of our 500+ vendor locations or a bus fare box.   The expiration also displays on the screen when a TAP card is tapped on a gate, station validator or on your web account.

Improving the Website

The website is one of our top-ten high-priority projects.  There is definitely need for improvement.  Something easy to use like Amazon, is our goal.  In the interim we will also be making minor improvements where we can.

TAP not available at my Ralphs

Not all Ralphs sell TAP however over 500 vendors as well as four Metro Customer Centers in LA County sell TAP.   Vendors are listed by zip code at TAPTOGO.net and at Metro.net.  TAP has the largest vendor network in the country.

Much more after the jump!

TAP Vending Machines

There is improved signage on TAP Vending Machines and nearby which provide step by step instructions with pictures on how to purchase a TAP card and fare.  Metro has many fare options:  stored value, 1-day pass, 1-ride, 7-day pass, 30-day pass, senior/disabled 1-ride off peak and peak.  All are available at the TVM.  Unfortunately, with many options does come some complexity.  We will be introducing new TVM screens in late summer or early fall that are more intuitive and helpful to the first time user.

Delay in Balance Protection Card Registration

We aware of this problem.  Our customers purchase about 100,000 cards each month.  This volume may cause delays at times.  Occasionally, cards purchased at TAP Vending Machines can take up to a week for the TAP Service Center to input the card numbers into the system.  We are working with to improve service.

Mr. Hetz, I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your concerns in more detail and to hear your suggestions on how we can improve the website and our service.  I would also would like to show you our redesign of the TVM screens.  Please let me know when you are available after the 19th of August.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

David Sutton, Deputy Executive Officer, TAP

46 replies

  1. Sounds like you guys just made a bunch of excuses for the lousy TAP system. It’s taken over a year from TAP to renew my expired card.

  2. Wow… I guess they don’t have proofreaders at TAP. (And, btw, I agree that the website is a disaster–and customer service is ineffective.)

  3. I like TAP. My only problems with the system is the lack of functioning TAP readers (At Willowbrook for example, a whole train of people have to take turns tapping at one reader on the opposite side of the turnstyle, because the two in front, and one on the other side are broken), and the absolute need for locked gates/turnstyles to keep people from boarding without paying.

  4. Wow, that’s news to me. When someone purchase a new tap card, it may not be ready to use for up to a week. No one wants to sink in money to something that is useless for some time. Metro should not charge the $1 or the card replacement fee or the cards are not ready for usage.
    I only saw an announce at metro.net that the senior tap cards are expiring. There is no announcement on the regular tab card.
    If you tap the card on the bus’ farebox, you will never see ther expiration date because sometimes the displays on the fareboxes are not working.

  5. I love how the article starts off with “The TAP card (Transit Access Card) is now mandatory to ride light rail and subway on the Metro system”

    IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN THAT WAY. People were supposed to TAP as they went through the gates when they were unlatched. They were supposed to TAP at the readers when gates weren’t installed. People were supposed to pay. That statement alone states that people weren’t tapping. And I love how Metro responds back with the excuse that they’re selling 100,000 cards per month and can’t keep up with demand. Gee, I wonder why?

    All of this proves that faregates were needed, fare evasion was rampant, and Metro did nothing all these years under the misguided information that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    And then the article goes onto mention how TAP is one of the worst contactless transit cards on the planet. This isn’t new. People have been complaining for years right here on The Source on how the website was terribly built, very confusing to navigate, and the TVMs was so difficult to use.

    I have to agree that in this day and age, having to actually go to Ralphs or going to TVM machine to do a simple thing as add money to the card is a waste of time. These things have to be done online, automatically.

    If there is an issue with realtime updating of info, which is likely because TAP online and having it reflected takes a long time due to batch processing, all Metro has to do is sell contactless card readers to the public and process all the loadings in real time.

    Why should only Ralphs and other TAP centers have those card readers? All it is an USB contactless card reader. It’s not space age stuff. You can buy one online for less than $40 on eBay. Heck, Sony makes those USB card readers in mass quanities:
    http://www.sony.net/Products/felica/business/products/RC-S380.html

    Just make a deal with BestBuy or something to sell this to the public so that people can just directly hook these up to their computers at home and be able to TAP their card, open up taptogo.net and load cash in real time at the comfort of their own home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at any time of their convenience.

  6. What, what? You actually have employees manually entering in TAP card numbers at the Service Center? That’s insane.

    No wonder taptogo.net is unusable. Great idea, absolutely horrible execution (probably not Metro’s fault–some contractor I’m sure that took millions in taxpayer money and provided crap).

  7. Student TAP system is BAD TO STUDENTS. A semester is 16 weeks, and it takes 8 weeks to get the card, not to mention all of the other bureaucratic bs one must go through. In the end, you are not really saving much, since Metro is NOT helping us get to classes on time, or save money. Why must I re apply every semester? WHY? Why was my letter from the Dean of my university rejected, and not returned to me with any explanation, the TAP card just didn’t come, and I ended up paying full fare, (after buying a regular TAP). This truly SUCKS for students.

    Now as a regular citizen, why does it take 6-8 weeks to issue a refund if a TVM eats my 20 for a weekly pass? Why cant they just load the pass remotely. In 1999 when Metro still had small rectangular tickets, if the machine ate your money, you called, and they honored your ride. There are enough cameras and technology to show that an incomplete transaction was made, and best believe if i’m on a budget, i’m fuming since my fare was eaten, forcing me to one; ask drivers for favors for a week, borrow from a friend or family, or impulsively fare evade the day of to not risk being late. TAP is convenient until METRO starts taking your money with little to no service in return when it comes to hiccups.

    It has improved, and I have had faith in METRO and this tap system, but in all honesty, its taking too long. We have lives to live, stop experimenting with us!

  8. People have been complaining about this since day one, and the only response is “it’s on the machines”. It’s not clear, it’s not easy and it is confusing as all get-out. And the TAP cards, while a good idea, were clearly not thought out carefully and completely. That they expire – something NO ONE knows until their cards suddenly do, in fact, expire – should never, ever happen: It’s bad enough that this is required for all riders – this is the ONLY city (in the world as far as I know) that requires ALL riders to use a pre-purchased, bulk card rather than allowing the casual rider to purchase tokens or short-term trip tickets on their own. But still, once you are forced to buy it, the card should last forever with free replacement. Charging each time, especially for occasional riders, makes the system undesirable on too many levels. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Really guys, it sounds like you want to keep the metro as elite as possible, only available to those who can afford to drive if they so choose. I have offered to sit down w the planners and discuss ideas to solve these things, but no one has ever responded. Guess you don’t want to hear form a focus group that includes those who disagree with your decisions – and may have some interesting solutions.

  9. I have purchased multiple TAP cards because I cannot get them enrolled in balance protection. For both of these, it’s been more than a month and I still get the message that the card with my serial number has not been found. I think it’s worth looking into if the one week estimate is accurate or if we should expect it to take longer.

  10. Metro is taking the TAP call center back from ACS who has let the queue time fester to a point where 22% of calls are abandoned and the “average maximum delay” for wait time was 31 minutes. Still, the TAP service center is only open Monday to Friday 8-5 – which is a huge burden on low income people who may not be able to wait on hold at work during their break or lunch – and only operates in English and Spanish, not the several other languages that Metro staff speak and communicate in.

    And there is poor communication with municipal operators. You’ll note that Mr. Hetz’s expiration problem occurred on Culver CityBus – which does NOT have the same marketing apparatus as Metro does. If you only rode Culver CityBus you would never see any advertising or brochures on TAP expiration at all. Foothill has recently been doing more on this front but the other munis are woeful in notifying people about expiration risk.

    The technology is fine, but the execution by ACS/Xerox of customer service is atrocious. No metrics have ever been published as to hold times, no customer satisfaction scores have ever been produced, etc. Unfortunately David Sutton has to clean up the mess of past mismanagement, but it needs to happen much faster.

  11. I commend The Source for trying to address TAP which seems to constantly be plagued with issues – the balance protection issue seems to be one that should be at least communicated via the web site. How hard is it to populate card numbers into a database? Certainly TAP managers have know about this issue for at least the 2 years I have been dealing with it.
    “cards purchased at TAP Vending Machines can take up to a week for the TAP Service Center to input the card numbers into the system”
    One week is a flat out lie. Every person I have talked to and my experience has been 3 to 4 weeks until a card is updated in their system. You should not have to log into the website, fail and call and they have someone tell you it will take 3 weeks.

  12. For those looking to find which vendors or Ralphs store offers TAP cards, you can use Metro’s Pass and Token Directory. Here is the link: http://www.metro.net/interactives/datatables/pass_token/ Simply type in ‘Ralphs’ or other store name in the main search or type in your zip code or city to find near-by retail locations that sell passes.

    Jung Gatoona
    Contributor, The Source

  13. Bad signage and a crappy tap card website weren’t a shock to me. Seeing confused riders standing in front of ticket machines every time I ride isn’t either. I also can understand why some of the tourists I’ve helped get a ticked at the machine feel bothered that they have to by a plastic card they are going to throw in the trash once they get home. I am surprised at this news of card expirations. I had no idea that my card expired after a certain point. Card expiration was definitely not made obvious to the public.
    Metro….. spend more time fixing the Tap cards and making the system more convenient for riders and less time arguing. Enough excuses. This makes me want to join the Bus Riders Union.

  14. What amazes me to this day is how Metro could ruin something like TAP when there were perfectly good examples they could’ve researched and modeled after from places like Washington D.C.’s SmarTrip, Boston’s CharlieCard, Chicago’s ChicagoCard, San Francisco’s ClipperCard (I believe it was called Translink back then), Tokyo’s Suica and PASMO cards, Seoul’s T-Money card, Hong Kong’s Octopus Card, Taipei’s EasyCard, Singapore’s EZ Link Card, and London’s OysterCard.

    All of these were already in place and running successfully when Metro implemented TAP. Different cities from all around the world, but the underlying thing is all the basic technology and contactless card system.

    All Metro had to do was look at what they do and do exactly what they do. But they had to try to reinvent the wheel. What were they thinking? Did they think they knew how to run things better than all those mass transit centric cities listed above?

  15. James Schmidt,

    I was surprised about that fact too. Then when I Googled “TAP card expire” the very first google result came with The Source article back in 2011 with 47 complaints about this.
    http://thesource.metro.net/2011/07/14/tap-card-caveat-these-puppies-expire-after-3-years/

    That was in 2011. We’re in 2013 now.

    Your government at work, indeed.

    Metro,

    What happens if I have $20 left in my TAP card and it expires? How do I get my $20 back? If TAP cards expire, surely you must have a SOP in place to refund the money left in the card. Where is this noted anywhere on the taptogo.net website?

  16. Ivan,
    I think David Sutton was referring to the time it takes to bet the cards enrolled into balance protection. Every card I have purchased or reloaded at a TVM has immediatly had the entire amount of money available in its “cash purse” to use for travel. This includes one time when I loaded money on a T.A.P. card at a Metro TVM and then used it right away to board a “Muni” bus operator (Foothill Transit).

  17. Frustrated,

    As we are seeing from Matthew Hest’s article, T.A.P. may not be ready for prime time. This is another reason I am against the turnstiles being installed and now latched. But it does now present itself as a hammer or stick to get the faults fixed. Too bad some kid is going to have to jump a turnstile in late August, to get to school and may end up in jail because of it, just because his T.A.P. card never showed up.

  18. I’m going to buck the trend of everyone complaining here and just mention this is the first I’ve learned that TAP cards are now valid for 10 years. We complained, Metro listened. Great to hear that. Ok, carry on everyone.

    • actually, they only partially listened = and heard what they wanted to hear. Your card (based on the info in the original response) will expire 3 yrs from original purchase. You have to BUY another card – purchase again – to get the 10 yr card (which may or may not be in circulation as we speak). And none of this addresses the same issues we’ve stated over and over since the Metro opened – issues they clearly don’t want to hear or deal with.

  19. A concerned citizen and bus rider since the 70s and metro driver since 2010 says this:

    TAP is a dynamic and responsive way to expedite our transactions and speed up the commute for everyone involved. No system is perfect but the TAP card is a vast improvement from what was previously offered. Any concerns from the press or the average rider will ultimately lead to an even better TAP

  20. Also, it would be helpful for senior citizens who want a senior tap card to be able to get one without the current hassles. In order for me to get a senior tap card; I had to go to the Metro customer counter at Union Station. Fill out an application, provide a copy of my drivers license, have to pay to have my picture taken. Then I was issued a temporary Senior Tap Card which expired before my regular Senior Tap Card arrived and then I ended up having to use my regular Tap Card because I did not receive my Senior Tap Card in time. It is amazing how long it takes to process and be mailed a Senior Tap Card. Also, the Senior Tap Cards have expiration dates as well. With a Senior Tap Card, when you turn 65, you have to get yet another Senior Tap Card.

  21. When I first heard about TAP I thought yippee finally LA is moving in the right direction. It advertised that we would be able to use this card to do all sorts of stuff like buying goods and such too. I thought, yay just like the T-Money Card back in Korea.

    Then it turned out to be this…dud. And that’s saying it the nicest way I can say. First, it didn’t even have a way of loading cash value onto the card, only passes. It’s not like I’m going to need to use Metro all the time, just let me add 20 dollars onto it so that whenever I have the need to use Metro, it can deduct from there instead of me worrying about change. And I called to the awful customer service line only to get a response saying that cash value wasn’t an option available for Metro and the only way to do that was to go to the Culver City bus office and load up cash there in person at their set office hours. I was like WTF? Who designed and planned this thing? But since I figured it was worth to keep $20 charged up onto my card in case of emergency, I drove to the Culver City bus office and loaded up money there. Crazy. This is supposed to promote public transit, but I had to DRIVE to the office to get cash loaded.

    And it was that way for several years until finally Metro started allowing cash value option onto the card. I was like yes, finally we can get moving. Except by this time I figured out the hard way that TAP cards expire. No one said anything about expiration dates! And I had to call the stupid customer service line again and only then did they say there’s no way to get my money back and the only way is to buy another card and have funds transferred to that card! Really? So if someone has a TAP card and decides to put $100 onto the card and he decides to move away from LA, there’s no way to get the remaining balance back? They said “yeah, that’s how it works.” Insane! This has to be illegal in so many levels. They can’t just take someone’s money away!

    Oh, and don’t get me started on that webpage. Not only is totally confusing, it’s the worst and most difficult to use webpage that I ever encountered. All I want to do is add money. One simple click that says “add cash value” and I enter in my credit card or debit card to fund it from and presto it’s done, just like PayPal. Just like adding money to my Starbucks card. Simple. And Metro fails to deliver even that.

    I am so dissatisfied how Metro pulled off TAP. They promised something like the T-Money card. They gave me this. And this is how my tax dollars gets used.

    Metro, if you’re still wondering why people say Metro fails at listening to the people and why people say you’re just another tax sucking government bureaucracy, the way you handled TAP shows everything that makes you look like that. Poor planning. Poor customer service. Poor results. Poor deliverance. Poor everything. On a scale of A+ to F-, the way you did TAP is definitely a F-.

    Metro should’ve just brought over the Koreans that handled the T-Money transition in Seoul Metro to do this TAP thing. It would’ve been done right from day one!

  22. I have had trouble with TAP cards, even as an experienced transit rider, and as an experienced internet user. Many of your riders are low income people, who do not normally have access to the internet. Are they supposed to read your TAP instructions on your web site, or pay for their fare on-line?

    At Union Station, you often get passengers from out of town (Amtrak railroad, Los Angeles airport Flyway bus, and Megabus intercity bus). Many of these people are not familiar with your TAP system, or with your honor system. Local government doesn’t mind promoting tourism, and other intercity business activity, so how about making fare collection more reasonable for these people?

    I appreciate that you are aware that there is a need for improvement. How about making the head of the sheriffs’ transit bureau aware that there is a need for improvement? How about telling the sheriffs not to enforce fare collection, until you implement a reasonable, customer-friendly fare collection system?

    Prior to your implementing the TAP system, I visited San Diego and rode their light rail trolley system. I couldn’t figure out how to purchase a ticket from their machine, and a homeless person showed me how to use it. Then he asked if he could have a dollar. I was happy to give him one—he deserved it more than the people who run either San Diego Transit or Metro.

  23. As much as I like the TAP card, there is much work to still be done perfecting it.
    I ride public transit exclusively and, use the EZ Pass Tap Card. I reload it at the local Ralph’s and have a couple of issues.
    1. When loading the NEW pass it erased the CURRENT pass (I discovered this when boarding the bus for my return trip.). Calling TAP did nothing, they referred me back to Ralph’s and the infinite loop began.). I never know if this will reoccur because there is no way to verify the status of the current pass.
    2. I buy the pass on the 25th of each month. When voicing my concern about item #1 the vendor asked why I didn’t just buy it on the 1st instead. They couldn’t comprehend why that wasn’t an option (Duh, using an expired pass to go buy a current one.).
    3. The vendor has been instructed to put the new EZ Pass flash sticker on the current one, thus negating the purpose for infinite loop until the new one kicks in. I need to explain to them why I’m the one who needs to do this.
    If I might, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions:
    1. Make it possible to verify the status of the card when buying from a vendor.
    2. Reduce the size of the EZ Pass sticker so they can BOTH be seen.
    3. Instruct the agencies to honour the flash sticker if the TAP card is voided (This would only be for 5-6 days in most cases.).

  24. I can say that the tap cards are easy enough to use once you get the hang of it. The user interface on the tap vending machines could be easier, though. I often do see confused customers that can’t figure out how to add money or buy a card in the first place. The main options these people use are ” add value ” and ” purchase new card + fare” Add value button should be bigger and more noticeable’ maybe takimg up the space of two buttons, so that users can find it fast. The ” add metro fare” should have a option to add $1.50 one way fare ad have a button to redirect to add value. I also don’t like how you can add only certain amounts of money. It would be good to be able to add $1 when you have 50¢ left on your card so you can get a one way fare. There needs to be a option were you can add any amount between 50¢ and $50. The menu should display the rest as commonly used options. I do like how you can turn stored value into a day pass.

  25. Colin 1000,

    Yes, good to hear, but keep in mind that the Seattle ORCA card (Originally an ERG product) lasts 5 years, the Boston CharlieCard (S&B product) lasts 10 years, and even the Bay Area Clipper Card (Cubic, who also won the T.A.P. contract) has no expiration date!: https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/agreement.do

    So who thought a 3-year exporation date was a good idea in the first place?

  26. Rick,

    You can load a single Senior fare ride on a regular blue T.A.P. card. This is something LA Metro has to facilitate in order not to run afoul of state law (and be denied a signicant amount of state funds). Just be sure to actually be a Senior when you use this (have proof of age) or you can be cited by T.A.P. card inspectors. Remember, even with the turnstiles latched, passengers must still have proof of payment on them when riding the Red & Purple Lines.

  27. TAP is okay, but it’s the “little things” that are adding up the confusion.

    A contactless card means something has to be directly written into the chip inside the card. Even if you load up $40 onto the card online, there’s no magical wireless technology to transmit that info and write that info onto the chip inside card itself. That’s why when you load up cash or passes at the TVMs, you have to place your card up to the reader so that info gets written onto the card.

    Metro expected people to do all their cash value loadings in person by coming to their select locations which may or may not be anywhere near their home or do that directly at the TVMs.

    What Metro should’ve done is instead sold something like a “TAP card & TAP USB contactless card reader” package to the public for $40. It comes with a TAP card that’s valid forever (no expiration dates) and an USB card reader. Something similar to how they did with the Metro ExpressLanes transponder. Metro ExpressLanes were sold at AAA. Metro should’ve done the same by selling a TAP card + TAP contactless card reader package by working together with BestBuy, Ralphs, CVS Pharmacy, Target, etc.

    Everyone has a computer or at least knows someone who has a computer these days. It shouldn’t be that difficult to just hook up an USB contactless card reader to a computer and have everyone who needs a TAP card have their own TAP loadable TVM right in their home hooked up to their computer. It’s probably cheaper that way too than spending tens and thousands of dollars for just one machine at each station. Googling up “USB contactless card reader” shows up with many results on alibaba.com where each individual unit is like less than $10. C’mon, you can do everything for something that China makes for under $10 that people can just buy and hook it up at home versus a TVM machine that costs $60,000!
    http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/contactless-smart-card-reader.html

    Besides, it’s not like Ralphs or those Checked Cash places are running million dollar supercomputers to load up cash onto a TAP card via a contactless card reader. All they are using are the same computers we use at home. Why not just sell the darn readers to the public so that people can do it at home then?

  28. Japan was selling Sony Felica card readers for years for that exact reason. TVMs cost too much, people hate long lines, it’s cheaper to sell card readers and more easier to load money onto their Suica, PASMO or any number of contactless cards with their own computer or laptop hooked up with an USB card reader.

    Sony’s RC-S380 is NFC capable, therefore it can read and write both Felica (contactless standard primarily used in Asia) and MIFARE (contactless standard primarily in US/Europe) contactless cards. Metro should have no problem running a Java applet to recognize this device so that people who have this NFC card reader/writer to do TAP charges at the comfort of their own home.

    http://www.sony.net/Products/felica/business/products/RC-S380.html

    Beats the heck out of trying to fumble around the TVMs and such.

  29. Metro / TAP’s responsiveness is encouraging. I would suggest to Mr. Sutton that he convene a focus group with Matt and some other TAP users to get diverse expertise on how to improve the system. With some effort, I think it can become easier and more intuitive to use.

  30. The article may actually be too lenient on the TAP card. I can think of another, rhyming name for it. Not only the TAP web site, but the “customer service” phonne line is useless.

    Not only TAP itself, but try calling Metro when you have issue about how to use the card on a bus or train, especially when transferring from another agency’s line, you won’t get accurate and up-to-date information.

    There seems to be no coordination with non-Metro agencies over how to get and use transfers. With locking gates added, this issue is critical for riders who use both Metro and a municipal service in the same trip.

    Seriously – the cards out there are good for only three years?
    I have never seen an expiration date displayed when using a TAP card on a bus or at a gate.

    I could go on, but the article speaks for me and many other transit users.

  31. I had never had a problem with my TAP card or TVMs. I sort of memorized what buttons to push to get my weekly or daily pass. I have a second card for the debit which I mostly use on DASH buses. The main issue with the TVMs are the numerous options. I have never needed them so I never get confused. For first timers, I understand the difficulty.

    I agree the website sucks big time. I registered my two cards, but I forgot my username/password. I go on it maybe once every few months, but stopped after a while. It was so difficult to figure it out, too. It probably has improved, but I have no way to know, now.

    I understand why TAP cards costs $1. Otherwise, they would be thrown away after every single ride trip much like paper tickets were, Do what Singapore does have certain cards you pay a deposit for the card and get back when you are finished. In Korea, you needed to buy a T-money card, but got a discount off the cash fare, plus the card can be used in places like 7/11. The 3 year thing sucks, too. Im still a year away from expiration, so im not fuming yet.

  32. One way to get around the confusion and hassle surrounding getting “Students (K-8 and 9-12)” and “College/Vocational” TAP cards is to just do away with all them and simplify it to a simple “Youth TAP Card” instead. That’s how the rest of the world does it – by age.

    Then there will be less paperwork to deal with and reduced passes will be available until a set certain age. It’s like senior citizen passes (62 years and over) except in reverse – just make it Youth Passes – anyone under the age of 18 or 21, whichever Metro prefers. That way anyone can apply for a Youth Pass and it’ll be valid until 18 or 21 and all you need is proof of birthday.

    All of these “Students in grades 9-12 are required to have a valid photo ID or school ID to purchase fare or ride with a Student TAP card. Complete instructions and requirements are included on each application” or “To qualify for a College/Vocational TAP Card, proof of eligibility will be required” just to have Student and College/Vocational passes just add up to more paperwork and more confusion and slows down the entire processing, getting through the bureaucratic shuffle to mailing out the cards and finally arriving in the mailbox. It must be costly to even hire manual labor on Metro’s end as well to check if all the paperwork is correct just to issue and approve darn card.

    http://www.metro.net/riding/fares/
    http://www.metro.net/riding/fares/collegevocational/

    All of it can be easily simplified if it just goes to a simple “Youth Pass” where the only requirement is proof of your birthday (State issued ID, passport, birth certificate, baptismal records, etc.) Nothing else needed like student ID or a letterhead from the dean, which can add up to more burden to gather all the materials and check everything is in order.

    LA needs to realize that as more people turn to transit, it’s going to get a lot more difficult to do everything by hand. They need to find ways to make things more efficient, more simple, and easier by using technology and changing their way of thinking to get things done. Issuing passes is the same thing. Filling out paperwork, by hand, with a pen, gathering all the necessary proof, sending it via snail mail, waiting for it go through the bureaucratic system of checking using manual labor, sending it out via postage (and USPS isn’t getting any better with talks of Sat delivery being cut), waiting to arrive in the mailbox to finally get your hands on it several weeks later, is just too darn inefficient.

    Simplify. Youth Passes – all you need is proof of birthday and reduced fares will be available for children and students until the age of 18 or 21. Way easier that way than “oh we also need a letterhead from the dean, we need student ID, making sure you’re actually taking classes, please also provide your GPA and your most recent report card, etc. etc…” And who is going to pay for all the manual labor at Metro’s end to check all that? Taxpayers.

  33. If anything, I encourage Matt to take up David’s offer for a tour of the TAP testing room. There are all sorts of vending machines (current and potential). Sahra Sulaiman at LA Streetsblog went last year and found it riveting.

    Also I had no idea those cards expired after 3 years. I have an iTap card (Institutional TAP card) from UCLA and it’s still going after five years. My husband has had issues with his iTap card. He was able to add money to the cash wallet part of it, and then it went more or less kaput.

  34. I haven’t done a ton of riding on Metro, but I’ve ridden a few times. I don’t mind TAP so much, but that thing about signs and such that let you know about the cards expiring – the article this is in response to is the very first time I’d even heard that the TAP card would expire. Neither my wife or I have ever seen a single sign anywhere, and there’s absolutely nothing on my actual card that says anything about expiring. I’ve also never noticed anything on the screen when I tap the card to get on a metro train about any expiration date.

    Maybe Metro has put up signs and made it clear that the cards expire, but wherever they did all this, they did it in a spot pretty well hidden from the riders.

  35. Ever tried adding senior fares to your card? It’s so hard it’s almost funny. You have to add fares one at a time, and if you use a debit/credit card, you have to re-swipe the card and re-enter your PIN for each 25c or 55c purchase. Better set aside an hour or two for the task. METRO clearly wants to discourage ridership.

  36. Just want to add that there’s a handy-dandy TAP help center at Union Station, but it’s CLOSED on weekends (the only days most of us have the time to stand in line and wait to be even further confused by a live Metro employee instead of a witless machine!!!).

  37. When I first bought a TAP card it was thought as a good idea. The actual application has been full of problems. Much more than expected. I want to warn people not to load a high amount of money into the card. Load only the amount you need or barely over. It has too many issues and prone to always cheat you out of money I once loaded a day pass into TAP and it continued to deduct fare after I would swipe on transferring connections. It requires you to swipe at all subway and rail connections with some working correctly others not. I used to be appalled at all the free riders on the blue line. Now I applaud them because the TAP system is so screwed up. As TAP was pushed on to Metro riders it was never announced that the card expires. The card has plenty on code numbers on the back why couldn’t it have printed the card expiration date.

  38. I was surprised to see that the TAP website for reloading passes actually got worse this month. No kidding. They rehauled the design to something that objectively looks worse, but they did nothing about the site’s super slow response and lag. I’ve honestly been waiting for four years for them to fix this.

    But, unlike some, I do like the TAP card system. It’s more efficient than the old paper-pass system.

  39. I don’t know. Maybe it’s an L.A. thing, but, I sure haven’t experienced nor been aware of these kinds of issues with the Clipper Card up in the Bay Area. It’s not that difficult to navigate the TAP concept nor the Metro Rail system, people. It really isn’t. I think it has more to do with people in Los Angeles not bothering to actually READ instructions, as usual. Just like when they ride the rails and board trains without knowing where they’re going, so they ask anybody and everybody who’s around rather than READ THE HEADSIGN ON THE TRAIN.

    I’m by no means a fan of the LACMTA, but, I’m not so certain that they’re always to blame for what I surely believe can be attributed to simple user error.

    • I have been wondering the same thing. They complain about an article filled with truth that they don’t believe, and then when all kinds of folks corroborate in reply, there’s no response or statement or acknowledgement of any kind. Clearly they want the Metro Light Rail system to be a bust – or at least the butt of jokes nationwide. Locking the terminals for TAP cards before solving things – from transfers, to expiration dates, to having to re-purchase the cards in addition to fares, to the vending machines, and everything in between – is so short-sighted that it boggles the mind.