Staff report on fare evasion on the Orange Line

The above report was prepared by Metro staff and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in response to a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking for more information about who is and isn’t paying fares along the Orange Line.

As the report explains, two nearly day-long fare check operations were conducted by the LASD, which patrols Metro buses and trains. As a result, the LASD estimated that during the operations there was a 22 percent fare evasion rate and a nine percent “misuse” rate — i.e. people not tapping their TAP cards even though they had valid passes loaded on them and the cards were activated.

Those, of course, are not numbers that please Metro or LASD officials. Fares only cover 26 percent of the cost of running Metro, which is a low number compared to other large transit agencies. Fare evasion is also not fair to other riders, the majority of which do pay for riding the Metro system.

As a result of this, the LASD has increased fare checks along the Orange Line, as the report states. Consider this a heads up! Everyone needs to tap their TAP cards at the validators on Orange Line platforms — even if you’re transferring from another Metro bus or train and have a valid daily, weekly or monthly pass loaded on your card and activated.

29 replies

  1. Problems w the tap cards still exist and shd be/have been solved before transit checks were instituted. These are not new complaints, and I don’t see that much if any action has taken place since the problems were aired.

    Not counting basic stuff not related to tap card problems; really guys, a single occasional trip should NOT require a tap card. Tourists shd not be required to purchase tap cards. Seniors shd not have to wait a year to receive their eligible tap card. Etc etc etc.

    How about letting me sit on a focus group and hearing what the officials say is why this foolishness hasn’t been solved before folks are penalized for this confusing, often wrong and frequently broken system.

  2. misuse rates are mostly due to lack of turnstiles.

    My experience: The transfers in 7th street/metro are really confusing. When I take day pass and the train is about to leave, I prefer rushing to the train to tapping, even though it takes only a couple of seconds to tap. Just human instincts. With turnstiles, I have no other option but to tap.

  3. Just speaking for those who may not tap at night…When it’s dark and you have a bus that comes every 20 minutes or so, you might forget to tap a little piece of plastic when all you want to do is get home and avoid being stuck in the valley at night for too long.

  4. It’s pretty easy to evade fares on the Orange Line. Officers usually don’t come on board to check TAP cards, and fare evaders can just not disembark if they spot officers checking at the station.

  5. Pat Loeb,

    Tourists to the London need to buy Oyster Cards to get around London.
    Tourists to Hong Kong buys Octopus Cards to get around Hong Kong.
    Tourists to San Francisco has to buy Clipper Cards to get around the Bay Area.
    Tourists to Washington DC needs to buy SmarTrip card to get around our nation’s capital.

    So tell me, why should tourists to LA, not get a TAP card and make them get free rides at the expense of Los Angeles taxpayers?

  6. I wonder how the people who kept saying “fare evasion isn’t a problem” feels now that we have undeniable proof that the problem is real and that we have a 22% fare evasion rate.

    Like we really needed to waste taxpayer money on this obvious result. Friggin’ denialists man. They keep pushing for their agenda like they don’t want gates or how fare evasion isn’t a problem, just so they can continue to ride for free at the expense of everybody.

  7. “As a result of this, the LASD has increased fare checks along the Orange Line, as the report states”

    And again, Metro gets the answer wrong by moving us once again, closer to a “show me your papers” police state like Nazi Germany or North Korea just to get around. Why does Metro have this fascination of doing things the wrong and expensive way?

    It’s just like that “oh we’ll just give more training to bus drivers” as Metro’s short-sighted and costly solution to the question “how do we deduct a day pass from cash value stored on TAP” when everyone says they can do it cheaper by just letting the system do it via automatic fare caps.

    http://transitwatchla.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/metros-tap-problems-bus-driver-training/

    Again, the answer to fare evasion isn’t more cops. Just let the system do the work. Board from the back and TAP-in. Exit from the front, in plain view of the bus driver, and TAP-out. Deduct fates by the distance. If you forget to TAP, automatically fine the cardholder by deducting the full fare. Condition the people to TAP-in and TAP-out because people will do it because they don’t want to be charged full fare.

    That’s how things work in real cities all over the world. Go look at Singapore, that’s how they do it on their buses and it works like a charm. Simple. Yet Metro has to take the harder, inefficient, and more costly solutions to their problems.

    At this point, you have to wonder why Metro keeps doing things the old ways. It’s like they don’t want these drastic changes for the sake of keeping their cushy, taxpayer funded government jobs and their pensions.

  8. Why should we the people have to TAP when Metro’s the one that is failing to keep their own promises?

    Ever heard of the story “The Little Boy Who Cries Wolf?”

    You can’t expect people to follow your “rules” when you break your own rules yourself. The bus doesn’t come when it’s supposed to. The bus drivers are rude. You never answer questions, only excuses. Everyone is frustrated. It takes forever to get anything done. TAP remains broken and so confusing to use. Customer service is poor. Can’t even do anything online.

    You need to set a good example of yourself. Otherwise, people will not listen to you.

  9. What kind of irresponsible agency keeps running their transit system operating like this until they are told to do so? Didn’t anyone at Metro think that they should check their fare evasion rates when they’re operating at one of the lowest farebox recovery ratios in the world? Don’t people who work for Metro, actually use Metro to see what it’s like? And these people have the audacity to ask for more taxes and increase fares to keep them afloat? It’s like corporate governance and responsibility is non-existent.

    Someone has to get fired for this. All this time, they were saying fare evasion was “only” 5% (that’s still 5% too much I say!). But 22% fare evasion rate is totally unacceptable. That’s almost 1 in 4 people not paying for their fares!

  10. Tap user: San Francisco tourists (any infrequent riders, really) can purchase Limited Use Tickets for Muni or the Golden Gate Ferry. Unlike regular Clipper cards, these have no acquisition fees, so they’re ideal for one-time or short-term needs.

  11. Or just do what cities in Asia does and make the TAP card a fully refundable deposit instead of a fee. When you return the card, you get your money back. Then the card can get recycled back into the system to another tourist or other infrequent users, creating less waste, becomes helpful for the environment, and overall a huge cost savings for Metro instead of constantly repurchasing cards all the time.

  12. It’s not hard to understand why there is a 22% fare evasion rate on the Orange Line. The concept is a rail line using buses. Anyone with experience operating buses would have known it would not work. Unfortunately many of those making decisions as to how to operate the agency have no such experience. Bus Operators working the Orange Line have high seniority. No traffic to deal with and they don’t have to deal with fares. The answer to reducing fare evasion is fare box’s at the front door like the rest of the fleet.

  13. @mike dunn: I don’t downgrading the Orange Line further to be just another wait-and-pay-at-the-front bus line is the answer. (Besides, I see folks sneak in the back door fairly frequently on Local and Rapid buses; it would only be worse on the Orange Line due to the long buses and customer force of habit.)

    Before we start brainstorming solutions, I’d be interested to know what the fare evasion rate is at Metro’s gate-less TAP stations. (Was this info posted previously?) Then we can compare whether Orange Line fare evasion is even unique to the Orange Line or common to all gate-less TAP stations.

  14. A few months ago, I was at a business conference in Boston. They also have a BRT line from Logan Airport to South Station called the Silver Line.

    http://www.mbta.com/schedules_and_maps/subway/lines/?route=SILVER

    Everyone pays upon boarding the Silver Line right beside the bus drivers’ farebox, like all the other buses. It costs $2.50 when you pay by cash, but you end up saving 50 cents if you do it with the CharlieCard.

    So, just add a farebox like the Silver Line in Boston. It works perfectly fine over there. Metro should really stop wasting money and precious time by trying to do things their own way when they can just do the samething from everyone else that “gets” it.

  15. Josh Young, some of us have concerns about whether turnstiles pencil out financially. I find it rather distasteful your implying those of us who said this are deadbeats who fare evade and out of selfish desire to continue that have stated our concerns. 22% evasion is startling. But how much would gating reduce that? And how much would it cost to gate the Orange Line? Could better enforcement be a cost-effective way to reduce evasion? Remember until recently Mero claimed evasion rates were something like 5%. I don’t think even now there has been any indication evasion on the rail system is anywhere near what these fare checks found. Is there some reason why the Orange Line is more prone to evasion?

  16. Station design for one. It’s a lot easier to cross concrete roadways than tracks on ballast. The side platforms allow for easy exit. I’m not sure gating would be cost effective, but other cities have proven that POP on bus transit is generally cost inefficient, especially outside of peak hours where frequencies are low and presence of inspectors is close to nonexistent.

  17. Dana,

    Give it up. No one is going to take you and the anti-gatists seriously anymore.

    You guys said fare evasion was low and it wasn’t a big deal.
    Turns out we have 22% fare evasion.

    You guys said gates isn’t a 100% solution.
    No one ever said that. There’s no such thing as 100% solution, criminals always find a way to break laws, that’s why they are called criminals. But if the 22% fare evasion can go down to 5% (as you thought it was), then that’s a tremendous improvement.

    You guys said that this will inconvenience lots of passengers and people will not ride Metro anymore.
    Ridership increased and continues to increase.

    You guys said this won’t increase revenues.
    Revenues increased.

    You guys said this doesn’t pencil out financially.
    We can always move to more profitable variable based faring structures. Metro is going to be discussing fare restructuring soon.

    You guys said there are cities that run perfectly fine without gates, like San Diego and Berlin.
    Turns out they have high fare evasion problems of their own too.

    You guys deny that gates will ever work.
    When there are plenty of transit oriented cities all over the world that run perfectly fine under a gated system with millions of riders using their transit systems everyday.

    Your ideas involve more costly police enforcement.
    No one wants a “show me your papers” police state system like Nazi Germany or North Korea. This idea of “more enforcement” are statist and dangerous to the core ideals of American freedom.

    And if all else fails, you guys pull out the “oh you must own Cubic stocks” remark in a desperate attempt.

    Everything you said so far turned out to be false, easily refuted, and finally going with childish accusations.

    Why should anyone take you guys seriously anymore?

  18. Josh Young, while we are on different sides on this particular issue being so extreme in disagreeing with those of us with concerns guarantees someday when an issue comes up that we may share the same opinion cooperation will be hard given memories of your sledgehammer approach. And who are “you guys” you make numerous references to? I have posted concerns. So have some other folks. Why lump us all together? Easily more than half of your accusations I never said remotely. Just to clarify — 5% evasion was what Metro staff said until recently. If you or anyone else doesn’t want to take me seriously, fine and dandy. BTW, since you mention fare restructuring while the Service Councils have been told the hearing would be March 29th:

    http://media.metro.net/board/Items/2014/01_january/20140109othersectorgatitem9a.pdf (see other important items, page 3)

    The Executive Management and Audit Committee meeting this Thursday was supposed to have an item on the hearing (#60) but it has now been cancelled:

    http://media.metro.net/board/Agendas/2014/01_january/20140116aemc.pdf

    Maybe staff needs an extra week and will instead just present at the full Board meeting on the 23rd?

  19. Dana,

    Oh puhleaze. You and I both very well know these “meetings” are just a waste of everyone’s time and waste of taxpayer dollars to hold these events.

    No one ever attends these meetings and no one is going to use up their precious vacation time in waiting forever to get their turn solely to get 3 minutes if any on the microphone because some dude from Hollywood-Highland-Dot-Org keeps hogging up the stand making ridiculous comments about the “International Jewish Conspiracy.” Gimme a break.

    The only people who end up showing up are old retirees who have nothing else to do during the weekday. Most other people have jobs. Voices and concerns are rarely heard from real people from these meetings.

    The real voices of the public these days are heard on blogs, the comments right here on The Source, curbedLA, streetsblog, Reason, Facebook, Twitter, and letters to their elected officials.

    Physical meetings are so 20th century and so inefficient. The real public sentiment can be easily found just by hanging around the internet. Why waste time and money doing these meetings when you can just Google everything what people really feel about public transit?

  20. I was talking about process, not meetings per se (which in the case of fare changes are mandated under federal regulations). Metro provides the means of sending comments which become part of the public records unlike all the avenues of expression you cite.

  21. “some dude from Hollywood-Highland-Dot-Org keeps hogging up the stand making ridiculous comments about the “International Jewish Conspiracy.”

    Gold mine! I’m not going to drive all the way to Downtown LA, waste my time and the gas it took to drive there just to end up listening to this racist. I have better things to do than listen to that hack.

    It’s much more easier to e-mail or tweet my LA County Board of Supervisor representative directly. I can speak out my grievances to my elected officials from my bed using my iPad!

  22. The Metro Orange Line should have fare boxes on every buses just like on the Silver Line. And also eliminate boarding at rear doors

  23. Dana,

    “which become part of the public records unlike all the avenues of expression you cite”

    See, that’s the problem. You’re stuck in the old ways and old thinking. No one cares about this bureaucratic BS like “oh it gets onto the public record.” Who cares about the outdated public records system.

    We already have a more efficient defacto public records system. It’s called Google.

    What makes you think politicians aren’t Googling on their own to read the public commentary boards themselves on LA Times, laist, curbedLA, streetsblog or The Source? Politicians read emails, read Facebook posts and Twitter feeds like everyone else these days.

    What makes you think that Supervisor Yaroslavsky isn’t reading all the comments throughout the blogosphere posted by average Angelenos who are sick and tired of all these freeloaders, bureaucratic BS and want him to do something about it, therefore he’s taking the initiative to do all these studies to move us away from this ridiculous honor system?

    From a politicians’ POV, reading the comments on news and blog sites is far more direct to hear the real public opinions instead of this stupid “you only get 3 minutes on the mike” BS.

    We have 10 million people living in LA County. You think 3 minutes on the mike in a small room in Downtown LA is going give a snapshot of 10 million residents in LA County? Be real.

  24. Well said.

    Town hall type meetings like the Teabaggers love are sooo 19th century. Why waste time going to these places when the comments section across many internet sites allows hundreds, if not thousands of people to freely express their concerns and frustrations without restrictions like time limits?

    Town hall type meetings may have worked back in the 19th century when cities were smaller and less populated. But it has no place in 21st century Los Angeles. Can Metro accomodate 1000s of people voicing their concerns and frustrations without time limits at the convenience of doing it at the comfort of their own home? Thought so.