Two Metro Board members introduce motion asking for Orange Line to possibly be gated to reduce fare evasion

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The motion from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilman Paul Krekorian is in response to this staff report that found that there was a fare evasion rate of 22 percent and a mis-use rate of nine percent during a fare enforcement operation on Dec. 3 on the Orange Line.

A similar operation was held Dec. 17 and found fare evasion rate of 16 percent and mis-use rate of eight percent.

“Mis-use” means that people didn’t tap their TAP cards even though they had valid passes loaded on them and the cards were activated.

Metro staff have said that enforcement has since been stepped up on the Orange Line. Patrons of the busway are expected to tap their cards on the TAP validators on Orange Line platforms before boarding the bus.

As I wrote the other day, 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.

The full Metro Board of Directors will consider the motion at their meeting on Jan. 23,

27 replies

  1. The folks that don’t use their TAP cards — or don’t have one — don’t read your blog. They need way more encouragement than a “heads up!”

  2. The board should investigate having the driver validate fares like on every other bus route, and save the high cost of installing gates. The route’s speed is much slower than advertised, on par with the surface running alternatives, so just run it like other rapid lines and use the savings towards other unfunded SFV projects.

  3. We could’ve built the Orange Line as a rail and built the entire system with gates in mind from start but no, it had to be built as a BRT system operated under the honor system.

    You do things for cheap, you pay the consequences later.

  4. The motion does say “and/or other actions as appropriate” so gating should not be looked as the sole answer to this problem.

    The same feat can be accomplished much cheaper by adding TAP validators inside the buses and making everyone TAP-in as they board the bus. Tie the TAP system with the APC. If the number of boardings does not match the number of TAP-ins, the engine on the bus will shut down and will not move.

    “When someone doesn’t pay, this bus ain’t going no where!”

    This will force everyone to TAP because the bus won’t run until everyone TAPs.

  5. Theo, Zev wanted his trophy. He even claimed at the ground breaking we have numerous rights-of-way that could become busways. Here is a map showing that isn’t remotely true:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/192567058/1992-Southern-Pacific-rail-right-of-way-Purchase-by-Los-Angeles-County-Transportation-Commission

    I wanted rail, perhaps a Red Line extension if/when the Robbins ban was repealed and have it grade separated in an open cut (like WAMATA has outside the urban core). And now there is some chatter about a rail conversion, maybe to light rail?

  6. Where is LASD and Metro getting these percentages from? What are the actual numbers behind them? Looking at the bar graphs from the staff report, I see approximately 865 people with no card and approximately 725 people with empty tap cards caught in the span of 11 hours *and* 30 minutes (not 11 hours as claimed) over the two days out of a total of about 17,275 customers checked. Everyone else had handed over money to Metro or another of the TAP participant agencies, but may have been confused as to how to correctly demonstrate that they had paid.

    That’s a fare evasion rate of about 9% overall.

    Not “22%” or “16%”, Chicken Little.

  7. Do we really more stupid meetings and studies for this? It’s plain as night and day that fare evasion is high. We keep wasting tax dollars on doing all these studies and meetings when we could be spending the money locking up the gates now!

  8. Josh Young
    Your idea was thought of when the current radio system was being installed except for a different reason. There has always been a problem of bus operators failing to sign on when they pull out or make relief on a bus. The idea was the bus would not start until the operator signed on. When the idea was proposed I pointed out that if the computer crashed every bus in the sytem would shut down. The idea was pulled the next day with the excuse”we never thought of that.”

  9. Erik,

    There were 744,785 boardings on the Orange Line in November 2013.
    http://www.metro.net/news/ridership-statistics/

    At a 9% fare evasion rate that you claim from your math, that’s about 67,000 boardings not being paid for. Times $1.50 per ride, that’s over $100,000 in lost revenue each month. Times 12 and that’s $1.2 million in lost revenue year after year and will continue to grow as long as the Orange Line remains operating and more people ride the Orange Line.

    At a 22% fare evasion rate which is what Metro is saying, that’s about 164,000 boardings not being paid for. Times $1.50 per ride, that’s about $245,000 in lost revenue each month. Times 12 and that’s close to $3 million in lost revenue year after yearand will continue to grow as long as the Orange Line remains operating and more people ride the Orange Line.

    Nine percent, or 22%, or whatever the fare evasion rate is, the amount is not “Chicken Little.” If you say so, feel free to pay up $1.2 million or $3 million dollars from your own pocket money to Metro each year. Surely if you say it’s “chicken little” you can sign a check to the people of Los Angeles who are footing the bill for all these fare evasion costs?

    Oh and expect the amount of your check payment to Metro to increase as more people start using the Orange Line and Metro considers fare hikes in the near future.

    Oh yeah, and perhaps you’d like to donate some more of your money to fill up the fare evasion costs for the rest of the Metro system as well? Feel free to do so.

  10. I think the whole Orange Line needs to be rethought. Its taken me up to an hour and a half to get from Chatsworth to North Hollywood, the buses aren’t big enough to hold the amount of people riding, and it really misses a large chunk of the valley. I mean, it’s a bus with its own road that it doesn’t have much of a right of way on. Light rail would be nice, subway even better. Too bad at this point some of us would be dead before they even start the project.

  11. It is ridiculous that you have to pay for a transfer. It is better to up the single ride fee and make transfers free up to a couple hrs. Nobody will ever understand that you have to TAP again when you transfer rail lines, since most civilized cities in the world do not require this. And having to pay to take a bus from a rail line is insulting – they should pay you to have to transfer to a bus.

  12. Actually Donk, most civilized cities in the world require you to TAP-in upon boarding and TAP-out upon arrival at destination and you only pay the fare by the distance travelled. You end up paying less if you travel shorter distances and you end up paying more when you travel farther.

    Free transfers concept is only an American thing.

  13. Vinny, when the Orange Line extension opened up as a BRT extension, that was the nail in the coffin for any foreseeable rail conversion. There is no way it’s going to be converted to rail now that we have this lengthy stretch of bus way. If it were ever to be converted to rail, it would have happened with the extension.

    I am still waiting to see how Metro and the County Supes are going to gate the Orange Line stations. Whatever gate solution they come up with is guaranteed to be hilariously awful.

  14. Okay K Hoffman, let’s look at your numbers. Using the stats from the “Let’s gate the Expo Line” report, gating 18 stations on the Orange Line will cost at least $1 million each, perhaps a lot more given that these are glorified bus stops with no raised platforms and the “Metroliners” enter them on roads, which humans are well adapated to walk on. Then the turnstiles themselves are being leased at an average of $7000 per station per month (based on the current $300k for 42 stations today)

    So, that is $18 million for the installation (which any contractor in the U.S. can bid on regardless of their location and employees’ residence) plus $126,000 per month sent to Cubic in San Diego to lease the faregates (or $1,512,000 per year) to chase after $1.2 million in additional fares you think Metro is going to collect each year. The Orange Line is maxxed out on capacity, so, no, ridership is not going to grow much without conversion to rail.

    Can we please try stepped up roving fare enforcement instead turnstiles? It would mean locals being employed and keeping locally generated taxes here, not sending them to another county or state (or country).

    • Well Written.
      I like how when Universal City wanted an underground walkway for the Redline stop instead of a bridge over the road, Supervisor Zev said it cost too much money. Now he’s saying $18M for gates on the Orange rapid line should be investigated? Not genuine at all. He’s just trying to create similarities between the rapid bus and a train, like when he motioned to name it a color and how it’s on metro rail maps.

  15. I’d just like to point out that just as many “civilized cities” operate their transit systems on the proof of purchase system (“honor system”) as on the tap in/tap out system or on the tap in only system. Berlin and Vienna are on the former; Washington and San Francisco are on the second (only for the trains; SF is on proof of purchase for buses now that they have all-door boarding); New York is on the third.

  16. “Can we please try stepped up roving fare enforcement instead turnstiles?”

    ABSOLUTELY NO!

    Unless you haven’t heard the news lately, the police here are have become very corrupt thanks to abuse of POBOR. It’s now open season on the mentally ill from the Kelly Thomas case verdict. There is a lawsuit against LASD deputies under outgoing Sheriff Baca. Torrance PD officers are justified in shooting the wrong truck, almost killing the Hispanic newspaper deliverers during the Dorner manhunt. This is the police state society we live in today. You want these thugs hiding behind their badges doing massive fare enforcement at the expense of taxpayers?

    If it’s using taxpayer dollars between corrupt cops versus gates, I’d take the gates anyday. Gates don’t ask for breaks. Gates do not have unions. Gates do not ask for vacation pay or have a need for pension benefits. In the long run, gates are cheaper than massively hiring more corrupt officers.

    And if it’s locals being employed you’re worried about, then I have better idea. Bring Cubic or any other fare gate manufacturer to build a plant right here in LA County. We need jobs, lots of people are unemployed. And we’re going to need them anyway as we expand our Metro Rail system thanks to Measure R projects and hopefully the new measure that is to be introduced in 2016 ballot. We might as well bring the fare gate manufacturing jobs here, just like Kinkisharyo is building a plant here for our new rail cars. That will create more jobs, hire locals, help our local economy and make us gain experience in building our own fare gates right here in LA.

    Nice try Erik. You’re in the losing end in this battle. The gates are here to stay.

  17. Fare Boxes on the buses is all they need to do. Sure, it violates the Light Rail using buses concept but let’s be real.

  18. Erik,

    You just proved yourself with your own math that installing gates is better overall for Metro.

    Without gates, Metro keep losing $1.2 million deficit each year
    With gates: $1.5 million investment cost per year – collect back $1.2 million revenue = Metro has a $300,000 net deficit

    $1.2 million deficit.> $300,000 net deficit.

    That’s what you just proved. By installing gates, the deficit goes from $1.2 million without gates to only $300,000 by investing in gates. That’s a 75% reduction in deficit of over $900,000 a year, a huge step forward in the right direction for taxpayers in this city. In the end, we end up recuperating back a net of $900,000 each year by installing gates than not.

    Wouldn’t you then agree that by installing the gates, Metro has another $900,000 that can be put back to better use like more buses and trains? And that’s just one year, on the Orange Line alone.

  19. I am sorry that you presume every law enforcement official to be a “corrupt” “thug” K Hoffman. But I stand by my premise with the caveat that fare-evasion is no more a crime than a parking violation, which Metro has also understood via the creation of their new fare-evasion penalty court system. While there may be a need for the “paramilitary “LASD (quoting a recent LA Times editorial on Lee Baca) to perform security on Metro property, fare enforcement can readily be done by the a position equivalent to a parking enforcement officer. And the penalties for fare evasion need to be in line with the penalties for parking violations.
    P.S. You are still assuming that everyone who rides Metro pays $1.50 per ride when in fact many are allowed substantial discounts.

  20. And how much is “stepping up more fare enforcement” is going to cost?

    The last statistics show that the entire Metro Rail system had close to 9.5 million, encroaching upon 10 million riders per month.

    http://www.metro.net/news/ridership-statistics/

    At this point, it’s become realistically impossible to do fare checks relying on officers as we’ve been doing. LA County does not have the money to massively hire thousands of officers just to do the sole task of checking fares. Hiring 1000 officers at a rate of $50,000 per year, not including pensions and benefits will cost LA County over $50 million a year.

    If it’s going to be a simple task to check the fares, gates are cheaper in the long run.

    There’s a reason why there’s many cities all over the world with high ridership numbers rely on a gated system over random fare inspections by officers. Metro’s ridership numbers have surpassed that point. Metro ridership numbers have far outpaced and went far beyond the expectations in ridership numbers compared to our peer honor system cities such as San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento and Phoenix.

    Los Angeles’ transit ridership numbers is now among the big leagues and is going to increase as the years go on. Therefore, we need to stop copying the way little league cities and learn from the major league cities of mass transit. Los Angeles is growing up!

    Learn from New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

    “How do we manage a mass transit system where there’s so many new problems arises from high ridership numbers?”

    That’s the questions we need to be asking. And the answer to that question are from the cities that have high ridership numbers. Utilization of fare gates. Best way to strategically position limited officers. What fare system is the most balanced and fair for all. What technologies can be applied to make the operations run more smoothly. Those are the questions that LA Metro is going to face in the future. And we need to learn and study from the major leagues of mass transit from now on.

  21. The simplest solution to the Orange Line is to do it the same way as the Silver Line: add a fare box and TAP-in upon boarding.

    Problem solved. The whole concept of treating the Orange Line like a light rail run on buses was a dumb idea anyway.

  22. “fare enforcement can readily be done by the a position equivalent to a parking enforcement officer. And the penalties for fare evasion need to be in line with the penalties for parking violations.”

    Your beloved honor system model that you are so infatuated about does exactly that in Germany.

    Guess what? It doesn’t work.
    http://www.thelocal.de/20120203/40509

  23. Eric Griswald;
    While fare evasion appears to be a minor offense the use of meter maid type personel usually will not work. From experience, fare evaders for the most part become very aggressive and unruly when caught. That is why so many end up being not only cited but arrested. I may be wrong but I believe security officers working for the sheriffs have been tried. Not the MTA security which would led to other problems due to their in house mind set they are real police officers. With regards to the Orange Line, just put fare boxes on the buses and allow front door entry only except perhaps North Hollywood Station where a old concept, traffic loaders , could be used.

  24. And usually when one fare evader gets caught, it means that the fare enforcement is tied up to writing the ticket to that one person or arresting that one person when they get unruly. This gives other fare evaders enough time for them to make their escape by getting off at the next station.

    It’s called the “sacrifice one guy to let other fellow fare cheaters make their escape” play.

    C’mon. Everyone who rides Metro sees this happening everyday. Don’t tell me people working at Metro don’t notice these things happening and are not aware of the tactics they use.