TAP is live on the Big Blue Bus!

Our friends at Big Blue Bus were originally going to launch TAP in March but with the equipment installed and in good working order, they flipped the switch on Thursday.

This is good news for Metro as the Big Blue Bus is one of the larger muni bus operators in Los Angeles County and has routes connecting Santa Monica to surrounding areas, including Westwood, West Los Angeles, the Mid-City area, LAX, Culver City and Beverly Hills. The Big Blue Bus connects to the Expo Line at Culver City Station and the Purple Line at Wilshire/Western Station.

From the Big Blue Bus website:

You can now pay with Stored Value, an EZ transit pass on your TAP card or with your Access ID card. You no longer need to show your card to the bus operator. Instead, tap your card on the validator as you board the bus. For fast and convenient boarding:

•Tap your card on the validator

•Look for the green screen that shows your card is valid.

•Board the bus and enjoy the ride.

Fares available on TAP

  • EZ transit pass is a monthly-calendar pass that is loaded on your TAP card. It is good for local travel on 23 transit agencies, including Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.
  • Stored Value is a pay-per-ride option for TAP enabled transit agencies. Stored Value is recommended for riders who would like to pay for their Big Blue Bus cash fare or transfer to other TAP-participating transit agencies. When you tap your card, the correct fare will be automatically deducted.

Note: Big Blue Bus does not offer transfers between its buses.

Regular fare riders can purchase a reusable TAP card for a small fee:

  • Online at taptogo.net
  • By phone at 866.TAPTOGO (866.827.8646)
  • At one of nearly 400 TAP vendor locations (check taptogo.net for a location near you)
  • At TAP vending machines located at all Metro Rail Stations.
  • At Blue: The Transit Store located at 1444 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 (beginning March 2)
  • If you qualify as a Senior, Disabled or Medicare rider, you can purchase EZ transit passes on TAP at a reduced rate, but you’ll need a special TAP card. For details and applications, visit taptogo.net.

How to use it

Simply tap your card on the mobile validator and then look for the green screen to verify that your card is valid. You are now ready to board the bus. Please load a pass, transfer or Stored Value before boarding.

Tap to Transfer Information:

Reminder: Big Blue Bus does NOT accept transfers between its own buses.

How will transfers between BBB and Metro (what we call Interagency Transfers or IAT’s) work?
This aspect of TAP service is a little confusing and it depends on which bus you begin and end your trip on:

  • When you board a BBB bus first: You will need to pay the appropriate transfer fee in cash ($0.50 regular or $0.25 discounted) at the farebox and ask the BBB driver for either a paper transfer to present to the Metro bus operator OR a special TAP transfer to enter the automatic gates at metro rail station.
  • When you board a Metro Bus or Rail line first, you may use stored value (if you have it on your TAP card) or use cash to purchase your Interagency  transfer. Confirm with your Metro bus operator that the transfer has been loaded to your TAP card and then simply “tap” your card when you board your next leg of travel on Big Blue Bus.

Reminder: BBB does not accept transfers between its own buses- only InterAgency Transfers (IAT’s).

When will customers who board Big Blue Bus on the first part of their trip be able to use stored value to pay for intra-agency transfers and load the transfer on their TAP card (instead of being issued a paper transfer) to board a non-BBB bus or rail connection?

This can happen when BBB has a new farebox payment system that integrates with TAP. A timeframe is not yet available. 

Just to make sure everyone understands: when you want to transfer from a Metro Bus to the Big Blue Bus, ask the Metro bus operator to load a transfer to the BBB on your TAP card. If transferring from Metro Rail, you can purchase the transfer at ticket vending machines, which are in all Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. Select a Metro to MUNI Transfer and follow the instructions on the screens.

Here is the Big Blue Bus route map:

Click above to view larger map.

Click above to view larger map.

Metro is working toward a regional system of paying fares — and that means getting all the local bus agencies in Los Angeles County to use TAP.

Current TAP partners include: Antelope Valley Transit Authority, Culver City, Foothill, Gardena, Long Beach Transit, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (which runs DASH buses and Commuter Express buses), Montebello, Monterey Park, Norwalk Transit, Palos Verdes Transit, Pasadena ARTS, Santa Clarita and Torrance Transit. Metrolink has its own TAP enabled tickets.

17 replies

  1. My commute home involves LA Metro Bus to SM BBB, so I can try to load my IAT transfer on my TAP card. I wonder how much communication there is between agencies. I’m going to have some coins on hand in case any of this goes awry.

  2. Really gotta get the transfer thing working better. Now that Metro has implemented the 2 hour transfers between its own lines, we know the technology exists on the cards to track your past trips. It should automatically know you have just gotten off a Metro bus or rail and give you the transfer rate when you board BBB (or Culver City Bus, etc.) and the other way around.

    • Yes it should, but given the complexity of transfer rules, it becomes a difficult programming task that Metro has been so far unwilling or unable to tackle.

      • Of course, by the time everyone is onboard with TAP, they could start talking about standardizing the entire region’s fare policy so everyone is on the same page. Wasn’t that the whole point that we implemented TAP in the first place? And it’s taking forever. Up in the Bay Area, everyone from BART, Caltrain, MUNI and even the ferry system is on the same page using the Clipper Card. I don’t know why Metro has this problem when they’re practically using the same Cubic system as they are. We don’t even have Metrolink fully onboard TAP yet.

  3. “If transferring from Metro Rail, you can purchase the transfer and load it on your card at ticket vending machines,” — Steve, are you sure about this? My most recent attempt to buy an inter-agency transfer at a Metro vending machine was about 2 weeks ago, and I was only able to get a paper transfer using my stored value. If there’s an option to load the transfer to TAP then it’s well hidden, or at least I wasn’t able to find it.

    • Hey Ron —

      Good question and I’m not sure of the answer. Let me check on Monday or if I encounter a ticket machine over the weekend. In the meantime, I removed the phrase “on your card” to avoid confusion. Thanks for the heads up on that!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I have a monthly tap card, which is topped up via my paycheck at work; I use this on the Expo line. Can I use the same card on the BBB, without having to add anything, or do I have to add the BBB fare?

    • Hi Roz;

      I’m not sure of the answer. Let me check first before responding.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Hi Roz;

      You need add stored value to their TAP card. The proper one way fare at Big Blue Bus will be deducted from that stored value. The monthly pass that you have on your TAP card is likely for Metro only. Hope that helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Thanks, Steve. Thought that might be the case. It would be nice if all lines accepted the others monthly passes without having to pay another full fare. As much as I’d prefer to take public transportation than drive. I won’t be using the BBB to get from the CC station to home; I’ll stick to driving and parking for the time being, which is a shame.

  5. Supposedly automatic transfers are coming in April: http://media.metro.net/about_us/committees/images/agenda_bospacket_2015-0217.pdf

    David Sutton, Metro, provided a TAP update. Metro is
    close to implementing a mobile app for TAP card payment,
    which will be done in three phases. There will be a transfer
    available on the second boarding starting April 2015. The
    EZ pass sticker will eventually be eliminated, and a survey
    will be sent to the agencies regarding the development of a
    new fare collection system.

    • Metro timelines for anything IT related is as accurate as the marksmanship of the imperial storm troopers from Star Wars: way off the mark. Remember, we’re supposed to have the TAP website updated by now.

    • TAP will be incomplete so long as Metrolink doesn’t come on board. Metrolink needs to be pressured to stop pretending that we still live in the 1990s and join the 21st century.