First phase of gate latching complete

Gates will be latched today at 7th/Metro, which concludes the first phase of gate latching. Here’s the press release from Metro:

The first phase of gate latching throughout the 16-station Metro’s Red/Purple line concludes today with operations at the 7th Street/Metro Center subway station, a process that began June 19 at Union Station to bring greater convenience, accountability and efficiency to all Metro riders.

Gate latching requires passengers to use a TAP card loaded with appropriate fare to pass through turnstiles at rail stations. TAP helps to strengthen fare enforcement and is utilized as fare media on eleven other transportation providers including Metrolink, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Antelope Valley, Torrance, Foothill and Montebello. By the end of 2014 a total of 25 carriers will be a part of TAP creating, for the first time, a seamless, regional transit system.

“Now that latching operations on Metro’s subway are being completed, we’ll soon start latching procedures on five stations on the Gold Line, which serves commuters from Pasadena to East Los Angeles,” said David Sutton, deputy executive officer of TAP for Metro. “Metro will be installing new gate help telephones at all latched Gold Line locations and the schedule calls for everything to be completed by October 14.”

Metro is analyzing data to determine if gate latching has affected fare evasion, ridership and safety with a report to the board of directors expected later this fall.

Metro and its transit partners have been rolling out TAP for several years and in addition to tracking fares, TAP gathers data on passenger usage so service can be adjusted to demand.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies and civilian security personnel provide added security on board trains and buses as well as at transit facilities and stations. They randomly check patrons on trains and stations using electronic fare checkers to ensure proper payment is made. With the new fare gating system in place, Metro can better monitor passenger flow and usage of rail stations.

Following latching on the Gold Line, 14 stations on the Metro Green line and six stations on the Metro Blue Line are scheduled to be latched by February, 2014. Because of size limitations on platforms and other engineering concerns, not all stations can be latched. Metro officials note that the stations are closely monitored from the Rail Operations Center and in the event of any equipment failures or other issues, gates can be unlatched remotely.  The gates also can be accessed by customers in wheelchairs. Extra customer support representatives are assigned at 7th Street/Metro Center to provide assistance.

Metro has 87 miles of track on six rail lines with nearly 360,000 daily boardings, including many long-distance Metrolink commuters who transfer at Union Station.

27 replies

  1. “Because of size limitations on platforms and other engineering concerns, not all stations can be latched.”

    For now that is. Metro can, in the future, go back to redesign and rebuild those stations with a gated concept in mind. Some of the older stations on the Blue Line is up for a facelift anyway.

    And in consideration of these stations that will not be unlatched, Metro needs to look at preventing freeloaders from escaping out of the system with a TAP out unlatching at exit. If a person gets on from an ungated station without TAP in, no data gets recorded onto the TAP card, that person will not get an easy escape out of the system because the gates will not unlatch at exit for this freeloader. It’ll prevent this person from exiting from a gated station at their destination and serve a reminder to all freeloaders that their days of riding the system for free at taxpayers’ expense are numbered.

    This is exactly how TAP in/TAP out systems like the DC Metro, SF BART, London Underground, and the Tokyo Metro work. It gives this psychological effect to freeloaders who think they’re getting away with it, only to be shocked to learn that they can’t get out of the station at their destination because now there is a “must have TAP in data recorded onto the TAP card so that TAP out can unlatch the gates at exit” rule.

    Furthermore, it’ll make stationing of officers more efficient as all they have to do now is to stake out at the exits of every station and keeping an eye out on these freeloaders who can’t get out. There will be no excuse. Gates do not unlatch at exit because no TAP in data recorded onto TAP card, therefore they rode system for free all the way to this destination, therefore they are guilty as charged and will be caught redhanded.

    Besides, we’re going to be moving to time or distance based fares anyway. Metro admits we have to do fare reform. If we’re gonna have to move to a different fare structure, time or distance based fares is going to need a TAP out system in place anyway. Might as well do it now at the same time while gates are being latched for TAP in to save taxpayer money down the road. Cheaper to do it the same time than doing it separately, and if we’re gonna have to do it anyway, just do it now.

  2. “Furthermore, it’ll make stationing of officers more efficient as all they have to do now is to stake out at the exits of every station and keeping an eye out on these freeloaders who can’t get out.”

    I’m actually seeing officers stationed at exits more often now. However, they must be getting bored (or are not properly informed) because they commonly ask for TAP cards from the entering riders too — immediately after passing a ‘latched’ turnstile.

  3. This TAP Update David Sutton presented last week at the Service Council Meet and Confer has dates for all the gate latchings (see p.5)

    http://media.metro.net/board/Items/2013/07_july/20130729othersectorconferitem3.pdf

    Lock the gates already, as I understand it there are some complex issues regarding the fundamental design of TAP that means tapping out won’t happen any time soon. Ditto fare media being able to be added to smart phones. In time these things will happen but they will be challenging gven limitations.

    Also even when gates close evasion happens. I witnessed someone with a bike push it through the gap between wide gate one evening at Wilshire/Western. The gate beeped as he slipped through and went to the elevator. And if we have to station folks at the gates to enforce them doesn’t that make the financial assumptions that was used to justify them crumble? BTW I bet the work to redesign the stations you promote would be more expensive and difficult than you make it out as being.

  4. From my observations thus far, it appears the accessible gate is the weak link in gate latching. It stays open just long enough to encourage someone nearby to piggyback on a paying rider or slip through from the opposite side after they’ve passed. Hopefully this can be addressed by tweaking the timing of the gate.

    As for TAPping out, I think any technical limitations can be overcome as other TAP-like transit systems have been able to make it work. I don’t think Metro will move on it until they switch to distance-based fares, but I’m sure they will eventually transition to having riders TAP out.

  5. “And if we have to station folks at the gates to enforce them doesn’t that make the financial assumptions that was used to justify them crumble?”

    No, because you have to think in terms in mass scale. Which is cheaper?

    Hiring hundreds and thousands of officers to be staffed at 80+ and growing stations to check every rider, effectively turning transit in LA to be a “show me your papers” police state, and trying to do all that with manual labor to keep up with the growing number of transit riders, more lines and more stations are added as the years progresses AND burden the officers with the task of patrolling the station at the same time

    or

    Hiring 1-2 officers per each station to focus primarily on patrolling the station, letting the gates do all the redundant work of checking fares, and only write out fare evasion tickets when they try to jump the gate which is visibly recognizable.

    It’s just like the computer, Dana. A computer is a tool. The gates are a tool. But it does not operate on its own. You need a person behind the computer to use it as a tool, just like you need a person to watch after the gates.

    But a computer is able to do multiple tasks at a single time with just one person when without it, would require hundreds of extra people. Like fare gates is able to do multiple checks without hiring extra officers. 1000 people going through a station in an hour? You can hire 50 officers to handle that (and probably two or three shifts so 150 officers in total, add vacation time, sick time, pension benefits, lunch breaks, etc. etc.), or place 1 officer to keep an eye on fare evaders who might try to jump the gate and a row of gates (which does fare checks 24/7 without nearly a complaint) to do all the redundant stuff of checking fares.

  6. A few days ago at the Metro Board meeting, the motion was approved that “our system needs consistency and it’s important that ALL stations, including at-grade stations, be designed to accommodate gates.”

    The motion further went to say that Metro needs to report back on “criteria for designing at-grade stations to accomodate gates, and what can be MODIFIED or CHANGED in our EXISTING criteria so that we can incorporate gates at ALL at-grade stations currently under design or in the planning stages.”

    http://thesource.metro.net/2013/07/25/motion-approved-to-study-adding-gates-to-expo-line-phase-one-stations/

    I think the way Metro Board wants it is that this has to be an all gate latched system with no excuse acceptable that some stations will be left ungated. Stations that cannot be ungated will likely undergo sometime in the near future, a rebuilding of the stations to accomodate gates.

    At the same boarding meeting, newcomer Board members Mayor Garcetti and Director Jackie Walker stress that:

    “Some examples of technology include smart mobile phone ticketing payments and real time ‘open-data’ information for patrons. As the installation of our TAP and gate-latching is well under way, the MTA should take advantage and explore new technological opportunities using this fare system. The TAP system could also be a tool to maximize and provide a greater return on fare-policy and public investment once completed.”

    http://thesource.metro.net/2013/07/25/metro-board-approves-motion-for-agency-to-study-tech-options-for-tap-wireless-access-on-bus-and-rail-and-tracking-customer-complaints

    The way I read it is that our mayor wants smart phone payments need to be done, real time data gathering via TAP-in/TAP-out is necessary for transit success, and that while we’re doing gate latching, we need to look at utilizing the gates as a way to reform our fare system.

  7. “There are some complex issues regarding the fundamental design of TAP that means tapping out won’t happen any time soon”

    Whatever complex issues there are, doesn’t mean that said problems aren’t solvable.

    Our TAP system relies on Cubic technology. The same Cubic technology is being used with the ClipperCards up in the Bay Area where they are able to do tap-in and tap-out for BART and CalTrain which runs on a distance fare system, alongside MUNI which operates on a tap-in only flat rate system.

    And, TAP was initially introduced in LA to create a foundation for a truly functional regional fare system. Remember, the objective was to have all the SoCal region’s transit agencies, including Metrolink to move to TAP. And Metrolink operates on a distance based system as well, like BART and CalTrain. So it would make sense that TAP should have TAP out capability if eventual usage on Metrolink was put into consideration during the planning stages.

    So whatever “complex issues” there are with TAP, moving to a TAP-in/TAP-out system is not a unsolvable problem. We wouldn’t have used it if Metrolink were not able to use it and in order to Metrolink to use it, it needed to have a TAP out feature since Metrolink operates on a distance fare model. And if in the near future Metrolink has to move to TAP, it definitely needs TAP out capability or else it will conflict with Metrolink’s distance fare model.

  8. LAX Frequent Flyer,

    That motion was only for Expo and when they were talking about looking at the design of the stations to see if they can reworked for gates, that was only for Phase II, which haven’t been constructed yet.

    I wouldn’t count on any rebuilding of current in use stations. That would likely require shutting down the lines while the stations are rebuilt and be in the hundreds of millions of dollars range, which makes no sense if the only purpose is gate latching as that will only a yield a few million at best.

  9. We will eventually need a TAP out policy when it comes to properly deducting transfer amounts automatically when transferring from one agency to another,

    As it stands now, when one transfers from Metro-to-Muni or Muni-to-Metro using cash value, one has to verbally ask the bus drivers to provide them with a TAP transfer pass (i.e. Culver City Bus to Expo Line) or ask the bus driver and hope they know how to only deduct $0.35 instead of the full $1.00 fare because they just came off the Expo Line (Expo Line to Culver City Bus).

    This leads to a lot of confusion where cash value TAP riders can be charged $1.50 + $1.00 instead of $1.50 + $0.35 when going from Metro-to-Muni, and $1.50 + $1.00 being deducted instead of $1.00 + $0.40 when going from Muni-to-Metro.

    And it further complicates the issue because bus drivers rarely know how to operate the fare box machine to deduct the proper amount.

    Furthermore, where’s the proof that a person just got off to begin with? A cheater can just show up near the Culver City Bus stop near the Culver City station and say “I used the Expo Line” and get on the CCB for only $0.35 instead of a $1.00. Likewise, a person can say “I used the Culver City Bus” and get on Metro for only $0.40 instead of $1.50. The proof doesn’t exist without a TAP out data being recorded onto the TAP card’s chip.

    The only way to do this is to have an effective TAP out system so that “TAP out Culver City Station” gets written onto the chip inside the TAP card, in which when the cardholder subsequently gets onboard the CCB transfer, the farebox will know that this cardholder just got off Metro at Culver City station, therefore it should only take away $0.35 instead of $1.00.

    Likewise, when going the other way, a TAP out has to be done for the CCB where “TAP out Culver City Bus” has to be written onto the TAP card so that once the cardholder subsequently TAP-in at the Metro Expo Line Culver City station, it would know only to deduct $0.40 instead of $1.50.

    No matter how you look at it, TAP out seems to be necessary going forward.

  10. I was merely trying to share that tapping out has obstacles. Not that it isn’t well worth pursuing.

    Lock the gates already , “Hiring hundreds and thousands of officers…” is a strawman argument. Having effective proof of fare enforcement doesn’t involve a hoard of sheriffs.

    Matt I think hits the nail on the head — any talk of rebulding existing stations will wilt up when the fiscal and engineering realities become apparent. And I am aghast at the lighthearted way some seem to think we should pour infinite amounts of funds in pursuit of plugging the holes in the latching and TAP via expensive upgrades, station rebuilding etc. Especially for the gates it seems folly to headlong pursue a course whose goal is the limited amount of additional fare revenue gating brings versus what the former proof of fare system brought.

    I end with my usual summary — it is a political process and we’ll see how it plays out.

  11. Matt,

    They don’t shut down entire LAX or TBIT while remodeling and expansion construction is going on there, right? So, why can’t existing train stations be remodeled the same way?

    A lot of train stations all over the world undergo constant upgrades and remodeling throughout the years of their service. Take for example, the NY Subway within Manhattan or the MUNI/BART stations within the Market Street section of San Francisco. They always have some kind of upgrades, expansion, and remodeling going on without causing major disruptions to services.

    Whatever remodeling that needs to be done at non-gated stations will have small effect on our transit system. They can be remodeled fine, just like almost every other city in the world that does remodeling concurrently without disruption to services.

    Furthermore, a lot of the stations do need a major upgrade anyway, even without gates. Constant upgrades to stations are a necessary cost in running a system. Many of those stations stink of urine, dark, and damp with nary anything interesting near them. Many of the elevators and escalators are in disrepair. It would be a good time now to remodel some of the Blue Line stations to widen the platforms, expand the station design, and add some some additional retail space for extra revenue into the system.

  12. “Having effective proof of fare enforcement doesn’t involve a hoard of sheriffs.”

    Give me solid, irrefutable proof that the “proof of payment” which is just an euphemism for the honor system works. Google “fare evasion/dodging [proof of payment city]” and they are all plagued with fare evasion problems.

    I know people like Erik Griswold et al are going to use cities in Germany because that’s what you guys love to use as an example.

    An alliance of public transportation providers in Germany has called fare dodging a national epidemic and is demanding higher fines up to €120 for repeat offenders.
    http://www.thelocal.de/money/20120203-40509.html

    OH GEE WHAT A SURPRISE. Conveniently you’ve avoided any notion of that for all this time under your supposed misguided belief that the honor system runs perfectly fine in Germany.

    Oh how about San Diego? I know a lot of you also like to use our southern neighbor as a desperate example too:

    MTS is the shortchanged about $900,000 annually because of fare evasion
    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Jun/21/trolley-undercover-ticket-mts-transit-plainclothes/

    OH GEE WHAT A SURPRISE. And San Diego has less ridership and less stations than we do and it’s costing the city $900k a year.

    How about our northern neighbor, San Jose VTA?

    VTA Admits Problem With Fare Evaders
    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Slipping-Through-The-Tracks-150090905.html

    OH GEE WHAT A SURPRISE. You get the picture. Every single city that people in your camp like to repeat over and over again are riddled with fare evasion problems. No fine increase or undercover cops are going to fix such problems.

    And yet strangely, gated cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, all known for excellent transit services some how manage to run perfectly fine and move millions of people every day under a gated system.

    Get over it. We have a gated system now and nothing is going to change us back to the stupid honor system. You pay, you ride, stop freeloading and asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for your transportation needs. You wanna go somewhere, pay up!

  13. CalTrain along the peninsula south of San Francisco does not have any kind of latched gates, but does have a distance-based fare system. It also has a wonderful incentive to make sure that you tap out your Clipper Card when you leave. When you tap in, say in San Francisco, it charges your account for the fare all the way to the end of the line in Gilroy, about 70 miles away. It reduces that amount instantly to the correct fare when you tap out at the place where you actually get off, presumably a much cheaper option. There are signs everywhere reminding passengers to tap out when they leave to avoid being overcharged. Metro should consider implementing something similar whenever it finally gets its act together to have distance-based fares.

  14. I was in Vancouver the whole last week.

    The light rail I was on (Expo Line in the Downtown Vancouver area) is in the process of implementing gate-latching. It is still using an oldschool “honor” system for now.

    And this is Vancouver… one of the more urban and transit-oriented North American cities.

    Our Metro Rail is not that far behind the big boys.

    My SkyTrain paper ticket:
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7358/9448583762_da945f7df6_z.jpg

  15. LAX Frequent Flyer,

    Most of the Blue Line stations are very limited in space, because they are in the middle of a street. There is no space for expansion and certainly none for additional retail space.

    There would need to be more than a little tinkering to add the necessary space for handicap access through gates and such. You are talking hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild these stations to be able to accomodate gates, if it were even possible given the physical limitations.

    Chicago did rebuild some of its 100 year-old Blue Line and it had to shut the line down over the entire weekend for quite a few years while doing so.

    Our Blue Line is less than 25 years old. The stations are fine. It is the neighborhoods they are in. That isn’t going to change with new stations. New stations will smell of urine just as much as a 25 year old station will.

  16. Oh look, something Metrolink can’t deploy thanks to the turnstile fetish:
    http://www.gonctd.com/mobileapp

    P.S. CalTrain, being a single line operation is far less complicated to move to an RFID card.  Metrolink has at least twice as many stations, and operates in 5 counties that at present have no intention to move to the TAP system

  17. Good news. Now let’s move onto closing off the rest of the stations. Just like the Subway to the Sea, we needed this yesterday. And just like the Subway to the Sea, it’s always the backward minded conservatives that prevents us from moving forward and getting anything done.

  18. I saw someone walk through a latched disabled gate the other day, and they did NOT tap, and they were NOT disabled.

  19. Both Pasadena and South Pas Transits are not on board with Tap. Will there be problems to the inter-agency transfers? Most Metro partners along the Blue and Green lines are not on board with tap yet.

  20. Erik,

    “Oh look, something Metrolink can’t deploy thanks to the turnstile fetish: http://www.gonctd.com/mobileapp

    Oh gee a smartphone with a QR barcode. SNORE. Like a similar thing can’t be done with NFC enabled smartphones today with a TAP app with tappable smartphone at the fare gates?

    QR barcodes isn’t new technology. It’s being used to ride trains all over the world. But still, just because it has the QR code doesn’t mean there’s no more need for fare checks.

    The QR barcode has to be scanned to check the validity of the individual riders’ Coaster trip. Mind you, Coaster like Metrolink, runs on a zonal fare system. You still need human conductors or law enforcement on the trains doing runs inside with a QR barcode scanner making sure people are going to their intended destination, instead of paying for the cheapest short trip only and trying to cheat the system by taking the trip for a more expensive and longer destination. One can easily cheat the system by buying only a Zone 1 pass for $4.00 and ride it to Zone 3 and save themselves $1.50 without proper fare checks in place. So what you still have is the need for conductors and law enforcement going around to scan that QR code so that Zone 1 people are only going to Zone 1 and not cheating all the way to Zone 3. And doing this to every rider is going to get tougher as ridership increases. The other option again is to install gates at all Coaster stations.

    The underlying basis of checking fares doesn’t change. You either have conductors doing dynamic and random fare checks or install stationary fare gates. It’s the same with any system, QR barcode technology, magnetic stripe technology, contactless card technology, smartphone NFC technology, paper tickets, all the same thing. The process of fare checks doesn’t change.

    “P.S. CalTrain, being a single line operation is far less complicated to move to an RFID card. ”

    And yet mysteriously, we have transit agencies all over the world that has multiple lines and far more stations than we do run perfectly fine under a gated system.

  21. I think what this gate latching schism among transit riders show that there is a dramatic split going on between older transit riders who are used to old fashioned methods who have zero clue how technology works and have only ridden transit in LA, versus the newer generation of urban transit riders who embrace technology, who know how they work and are more likely have traveled and used mass transit outside of LA.

    I think it’s time to ditch the old fashioned ways and start moving to listening to the millennial generations’ advice. Millenials know a lot more about technology and how they can be used efficiently to run transit than old timers do. Millenials created and grew up with Amazon, eBay, Youtube, Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all sorts of new ideas that make billions through effective use of technology in which old people could never understand how they make money.

    Old people die out with old ideas. The honor system was their dumb idea and look what mess it created. Mass transit from now on should be built for and by the younger generation of Angelenos.

  22. @Lock the gates already

    You state “The underlying basis of checking fares doesn’t change. You either have conductors doing dynamic and random fare checks or install stationary fare gates.”

    Metro is already spending over $100 Million dollars to stop fare cheaters, which Metro thinks is costing them about $5 Million dollars. See http://www.neontommy.com/2009/11/las-metro-takes-aim-at-cheater

    Of course locking the gates already and installing stationary fare gates will not stop future cheaters or even prevent it from happening. Not even close.

  23. “And doing this to every rider is going to get tougher as ridership increases.”

    Well said. And not only that, you have more riders getting on at each station and people getting off at each station. Unless one has a good photographic memory, trying to do this all by hand manually using living human fare inspectors is going to be more complicated, if not down-right impossible as more people turn to transit.

    The anti-faregate camps think everything can be done the old fashioned way. Smart people realize this is an impossible task to handle as ridership grows to a point that it becomes impossible to do with fare inspectors.

    They should try just sitting in the train once in a while and try to do a fare check in their head:

    Oh yeah, did I check the fare on that guy in the Blue Dodger hat with the green T-shirt, no wait that was the other guy with the same Blue Dodger hat with the white T-shirt, hey wait, I’m not done counting yet why is he getting off oh no now there’s fifty more people who got on at this train station, hey wait how many got off, ok so I wasn’t able to fare check those people who got off, but I can check the fifty people who got on, but wait, I still have to check the 20 other people on the train that I haven’t checked yet, oh crap it’s the next station already and 10 people got off and 15 people got on……aaaaaah forget it. That’s the reality. And they believe this can be done with human fare inspectors. With a system where ridership is growing year after year. With a system that is expanding with Measure R fast forward projects. Yeah right.

    in the valley,

    “Metro is already spending over $100 Million dollars to stop fare cheaters, which Metro thinks is costing them about $5 Million dollars.”

    You are only thinking in terms of today only. Moving forward, how much more do you think it will in lost revenue be if we keep it under the honor system as more people turn to transit? That five million today could be ten, twenty million a year in lost revenue from fare evasion few years down the road as more people go Metro.

    That five million today could’ve been stopped when it was only $500,000 many years ago when we had locked gates to do with fewer stations if we did this sooner.

    All you’re doing is taking a snapshot of what the problem is today instead of thinking things forward. What will happen if more people turn to Metro? How much more money can we afford to lose? Should we wait until that $5 million becomes $100 million in lost revenue and kick ourselves in the butt why we didn’t we just spend $100 million back in 2013 to lock all the gates? That’s what you’re saying.

    • No more comments on this thread will be accepted from those who have already commented. The comment board exists for everyone to read and use.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  24. if gates can reduce fare evasion significantly, it should be done. there is no such thing like 100% fare evasion prevention. but i’ll take $100 million in a gated system which checks everybody over what we have today.

  25. My turn.

    TAP for Metrolink: TAP:Clipper = Honda:Acura = Toyota:Lexus; i.e. not the same technology, even if one company’s responsible for both. TAP gets the job done, but Clipper’s contactless smart cards have the luxury model guts inside. That makes it more capable, but also quite a bit more expensive. Is Clipper “better” than TAP? Not necessarily, but its current limitations stem more from policy decisions and software implementation, while there are things that TAP won’t be able to do as long as the old cards remain in circulation. That nasty three-year expiration is a bit of a blessing in disguise.

    What about cash value TAP transfers?: Clipper readers are programmed with each operator’s inter-system transfer rules, and are intended to automatically determine the lowest applicable fare you’re entitled to. You don’t talk to anyone, you just tap. This imposes NO additional tap-out requirement (beyond what might be applicable for a single ride).

    LAX Frequent Flyer: The NY Subway has good redundancy; it started out as three competing systems, plus they have lines with both local and express tracks (express trains can run over local tracks). MTA plans disruptions all the time, but they do a great job of managing them. Check out their Weekender app (available for iOS and Android). Unlike New York, San Francisco’s rail lines don’t operate 24/7. They substitute surface vehicles when subways are shut down. When they need to do work, they often curtail rail service three hours earlier than usual, or, when necessary, for entire weekends. Minor stuff can be handled by closing all or part of a station. If just one or two stations are shut down, trains might still pass through without stopping.

    Lock the gates already: San Francisco has both fare gates and an aggressive fare inspector program. There’s still a serious amount of fare evasion due to a significant number of residents who feel they shouldn’t have to pay like the rest of us (the euphemism for this is “social justice”). I can’t remember the last time someone checked whether I’d paid on the San Diego Trolley, VTA Light Rail, or Sacramento RT. I get the impression our state capital may actually have the biggest problem. They certainly charge the highest fares of the lot ($2.50 single ride, $100 monthly pass) — that might be a cause, effect, or a little of both.

    Erik Griswold: there’s no reason fare gates couldn’t be enhanced to scan barcodes using similar technology to what air carriers have for validating boarding passes. There doesn’t need to be one fare instrument to rule them all. For example, San Mateo County’s SamTrans accepts everything shown here: http://www.samtrans.com/farebox (in addition to Clipper). Speaking of crossing political boundaries, did you know that Washington D.C.’s SmarTrip and Maryland’s CharmCard can be used not just in multiple counties, but across state lines (and they’re each accepted in each other’s territory)? It’s amazing what’s possible with a little cooperation. People seem to get that with lottery tickets (Mega Millions and PowerBall); why should transit, tolls, and parking be any different?