Transportation headlines, Monday, May 19

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ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Riding the Metro (L.A. Register) 

A reporter with the new L.A. Register takes a few rides on Metro Rail and then compares it to the D.C. Metro before lobbing a few questions at Metro CEO Art Leahy. Some interesting observations about the difference in fare evasion on the two systems.

Fare dodging is an organized rebellion in Stockholm, and it’s winning (New York Times) 

Proof that fare evasion is a problem that many other transit agencies grapple with. In this case, an organized group in Stockholm asks members to pay a fee and then skip paying fares; the group then covers the cost of citations that members receive for fare evasion. It’s a growing problem and Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually.

Gas tax hits rock bottom in 10 states (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)

The purchasing power of the gas tax in 10 states is at a new all-time low. Why? The gas tax in those states hasn’t changed in many years, while inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money collected. California isn’t on the list. The gas tax here is 18 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1990. Here’s a recent L.A. Times story about mileage taxes versus gas taxes.

North Figueroa bike lanes: public safety reps against public safety project (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A proposal to install bike lanes along Figueroa in northeast Los Angeles is getting mixed reviews. The city’s transportation department included the lanes in its bike lane plan dating to 2010 but public safety officials have expressed concern the lanes could slow emergency vehicle response times. Streetsblog’s response: the bike lanes are a project to improve road safety. Interesting debate.

16 replies

  1. IF “Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually,” imagine the look on their faces if they compared their numbers with METRO! They would probably pass out due to shock. METRO would probably be happy if there was only 3% fare evasion.

    Unfortunately, fare evasion is a regular and uncontrolled activity. And those of us who use METRO on a daily basis, see it all the time on the BLUE, GOLD, GREEN, RED/PURPLE and ORANGE Lines and bus services.

    Fare evasion and has a DIRECT impact on the trains and buses. And as a result, safety for all riders is being jeopardized.

    LA county sheriff and METRO Fare Inspectors really need to gain better control. And just FYI officials, but standing at the exits checking fares is NOT enough. And please stop giving verbal warnings to those who are caught. It’s simply NOT enough.

  2. The Stockholm article puts a slap into the face of fare evasion denialists who kept on saying that fare evasion was not a problem with their groundless ramblings that Europe runs perfectly fine under the honor system.

    This is yet more proof that Metro should stop listening to people who have no idea how to run transit, keeping special interest groups out of public transit policies, and learn from cities that get transit right!

  3. Fare evasion needs to be addressed seriously. Metro has serious financial issues and they can’t rely on Congress anymore for funding. Locking in capital should be their highest priority. This should’ve been an obvious no brainer since Metro started running the Blue Line over 20 years ago.

    Why can’t we move to TAP in and TAP out system like London? Instead of making everyone pay before they ride, fares are deducted at the end of journey, so if they want to reach their destination, they have no choice but to pay in order to exit out of the system.

    After all, we spend millions of dollars in the TAP system. The cool thing about contactless cards is that it automates everything that’s confusing. Just do a TAP in and TAP out and all your problems will be solved. By doing so, not only will Metro solve fare evasion, they can try out new things like distance based fares and true data collection to know how people actually use the system, not just where they get on, but where they get off and at what time of day. That data should be valuable to Metro to coordinate schedules.

  4. Some fare evasion is unintentional. The L.A. Register reporter cited one case, and while I would say that the recent rearrangement of the “tap-across” stations at 7th/Metro have made it difficult to forget to tap across, the same cannot be said for transferring between the Blue and Expo Lines at Pico (or at 7th/Metro, for that matter), and it’s also not difficult (I’m pretty sure I did it myself, the last time I went into Los Angeles) to forget to tap in at a station like Wardlow. And for that matter, at least the last time I rode the Green Line, the turnstile between the Blue and Green platforms, while its behavior made perfect sense in one direction, made no sense at all when transferring the other direction.

    Which begs the question of what purpose could it possibly serve to require passholders to “tap-across” when transferring, and why don’t TVMs at non-turnstile stations simply have an option of activation-on-purchase when buying a day-pass?

  5. I suppose the not-quite-obvious TAP-to-“transfer” issue will be resolved assuming the new fare structure goes into place. If they indeed make the fares time based, I suppose one would only have to TAP to enter the Metro station. Perhaps the superfluous TAP pylons could be turned into balance checkers and fare renewers, the latter for those for who cannot complete their journey within the proscribed 1.5 hours.

  6. The “tap across” confusion as James Lampert mentioned could also be done away with.

    Instead of tapping everytime one makes a transfer, it’ll be a tap in when you enter the system and tap out when you exit the system.

    London doesn’t require you to tap everytime you transfer to a different line. You just tap in to gain entry into the system. When you transfer, you’re still “in the system.” When you reach your destination, that’s when you TAP out upon exiting through the gates and that’s when the fare deduction takes place based on numbers of zones traveled through.

    If Metro could only visit and learn from how London operates their fare structure, they’d get everything in order.

  7. Of course, a tap-in tap-out system (and I believe the Bay Area’s “Clipper” system is also tap-in tap-out on lines like BART and CalTrain with distance-based fares) is one more thing to go wrong, with most stations unattended.

    Last time I was in Boston (or maybe it was the time before), I opted to put my 7-day pass on a Charlie Ticket, rather than a Charlie Card (I think I could have done either, with no difference in price), and one rainy night, I found myself stuck outside the faregates at the Symphony Hall station (I REALLY didn’t want to have to walk back to Copley Square at that hour, in that weather!), because all the magnetic readers on the faregates were bollixed up. Would have been even worse if I’d been trapped somewhere inside the faregate.

    Speaking of Boston, the MBTA’s “Charlie” fare system gets its name from the hapless protagonist in the song, “MTA,” who was stuck on the Boston subway system for eternity, because he couldn’t come up with the exit fare.

    As I recall, both Philadelphia and Chicago allow free rail-to-rail transfers at specified points. And Chicago has a lot of staffed stations, which came in handy one time, when I went up to the wrong “L” platform by mistake, at a station with no crossover bridge between the platforms, had to exit the platform, and found myself locked out of the platform I’d intended to use until either the anti-pass-sharing lockout timed out, or (as was thankfully the case) the station agent, on hearing my explanation, let me in manually.

  8. Of course, as Metro staff have indicated numerous times, requiring tapping out to unlock the gates on exit would introduce delay, require additional fare arrays to be built, and possibly additional queuing area, since the stations were not designed for tap in tap out as were systems in San Francisco and Washington. On the other hand, currently Baltimore and Atlanta require tapping out as a second check on exit of the systems…. but they don’t get the same level of ridership as the Red Line does.

  9. Metro is funded by the feds? A commentator here stated that Metro relies on Congress for funding. Everyone is paying taxes that are collected by the Feds so it is only fair that we get our share. California pays more in taxes than it receives back (look it up) and the only “funding” that Metro receives is for infrastructure construction like the freeways and new lines like Crenshaw and Regional Connector. It is very short sighted and naive to complain about funding when everything boils down to fare evasion, especially since it happens all over the world and short of threatening bodily harm, it will continue to occur the world over.

    The tap out on exiting the stations is ridiculous as is distance based fares in a City/County as large as LA.

  10. 1. Metrolink uses a distance based fare structure
    2. TAP eventually has to include Metrolink for a true regional fare system
    3. Therefore, TAP has to include distance based fare capability
    4. Metro will have to move to a distance based fare structure too because it’s totally stupid to run a fare system where going from Sylmar to San Pedro is the same price as going from Koreatown to DTLA.

  11. James Lampert,

    Yes, but Charlie didn’t live in a world of NFC enabled smartphones, contactless card systems, automated fare gates, and 24/7 access to credit and debit cards as we do today. It’s ridiculous to compare a folk song from the Depression era to 2014 where we have all these technologies that is able to solve many complex problems.

    If you don’t know how London’s Oyster card system works, it actually allows the cardholder to go to a negative balance as they exit.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_card

    “It is possible to have a negative pay-as-you-go balance after completing a journey, but this will prevent the card from being used (even if it is loaded with a valid Travelcard) until the card is topped up.”

    21st century technology is able to solve the problem of “Charlie” unable to get out because he lacks a dime to get out of the system, because “Charlie” in 2014 now has a contactless card which allows him to go into the negative balance to get out of the system. However, if “Charlie” wants to ride the system again on his return journey, he must now bring his TAP card back into positive balance. See, problem solved. For every problem that you can imagine, technology solves them and likely have been answered by other transit agencies somewhere in the world.

    Furthermore, the whole chaos theory about moving to TAP in and TAP out is unsubstantiated. When Metro moved away from the honor system to a gated system, there were wild theories around that it was going to lead to utter chaos and decrease in ridership numbers. None of that happened. Ridership remains on the increase and everyone has gotten used to the idea of tapping in as they go through the gates.

    There should be no problem in doing a tap out on exit. Those gates are already built with bidirectional capabilities with a contactless card reader on the other side. If we spent millions of dollars in moving to TAP and installing gates, we might as well just go all the way and get things done right.

  12. TAP in and TAP out will be the ultimate in data collections because now Metro would be able to know for sure the demographic data on how far an average rider rides the bus or train, allowing for a more realistic fare pricing model.

    Right now, Metro has no idea how people use the system and how far riders take the bus or train. Metro’s R&D department admitted this on May 7th in the comments section of this article:

    http://thesource.metro.net/2014/05/06/results-for-metros-biannual-onboard-survey/#comments

    Carl on May 7, 2014 at 1:28 PM said:
    How about letting us know the average distances traveled or average travel times?

    Matthew Kridler on May 7, 2014 at 1:53 PM said:
    @Carl

    That is not currently possible, as Metro does not do distance-based-fares. In order to calculate that data you need a system that requires you to “TAP” when you both enter a train/bus and exit a train/bus. I hope that makes sense.

    Matthew Kridler
    Metro Research & Development

    IMO, it’s very short sighted of Metro and utter ridiculous that a public transit system hasn’t thought about the importance of data collection of how far travelers ride Metro. Isn’t distance an important factor in transportation? Duh?

    • Hi folks;

      No more repeat comments from those who have already commented please.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  13. @George H: You do know that Stockholm has turnstiles/faregates and has always had them, right? They have spent all kinds of money on this equipment, and yet the above article proves how useless it ends up being. Actually, it is only the staff examination of tickets that does anything to catch these fare dodgers. But please, be sure to send those purchase orders!