26 transit agencies now on TAP

Metro held a media event this morning to recognize that all 26 agencies finally joined TAP earlier this year. For those unfamiliar, TAP cards are plastic re-loadable fare cards that can be used to ride buses and trains throughout L.A. County.

TAP cards can be purchased at TAP vending machines at all Metro Rail and Orange Line stations, online at taptogo.net or at about 400 vendors throughout Los Angeles County. To learn more about Metro fares and using TAP cards to transfer between Metro buses and trains and other municipal-operated buses, please click here.

Here’s the news release and photos of the event from Metro:


Agencies join the TAP system

To make transit more economical and convenient for travelers, all 26 regional transportation agencies in Los Angeles County have joined the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the TAP network to create the largest seamless transportation system in the nation.

The historic milestone signifies that all municipal transit agencies in L.A. County accept TAP as a universal fare media and passengers can transfer to bus or train from any transit provider. Metrolink features a TAP enabled paper ticket and Access Services clients may use their TAP enabled card to ride on participating transit agencies.

“The milestone is significant because it shows how far we have come to create a seamless regional transportation system,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “You can now use your TAP card to get all the way from Lancaster to Long Beach. No more fumbling in your pockets or purse for change.”

Bringing all 26 county agencies, with 3,800 buses, under the TAP umbrella has taken years of negotiations as each city and agency has unique needs.

“With a sense of purpose we, at Metro and our partners at the agencies, overcame many obstacles,” said Metro Board member and Lakewood City Council member Diane DuBois. “The unifying goal was to improve transportation throughout the county….not just for Metro riders…not just for the municipal agency riders…but for all riders including Metrolink and Access Services.”

TAP is a fare collection system featuring a smart card with a computer chip embedded within the plastic card. A new Tap card has an expected life of ten years and can be reloaded and reused.

“TAP may be new to some people, but we think that once they’ve used it, they will see that TAP is a great advantage over paying fares by cash,” said Metro Board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker. “Once registered at www.taptogo.net, a TAP card can be replaced if lost or stolen along with all remaining cash value or pass. So TAP is safer than cash.”

“TAP is the largest smart-card system in North America with over 23 million transactions and $14.5 million in passes sold every month,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “There are many ways to get a TAP card; they are available at our customer centers, at about 400 vendor locations in L.A. County, at any Metro Rail or Orange Line station or online at www.taptogo.net.”

Each transit agency relies on the TAP system for revenue dispersal and general managers of each municipal transit agency needed to be assured that the mammoth undertaking of tracking fares and reimbursement would be accurate.

“Altogether, there are about 650 individual products loaded on the TAP card and it charges the correct fare every time, including all appropriate reduced fares,” said Art Ida, Chair of the Los Angeles County Municipal Operators Association and General Manager for Culver City Transit. “Even though it looks like a credit card it is really a ‘smart card’ with all information on a chip instead of a magnetic strip.”

The Tap website, www.taptogo.net, where riders can buy stored value and passes and apply for reduced fares, has been redesigned and is easier to use. In addition, TAP vending machines have undergone a redesign with colorful screens, animation, photos and a user friendly navigation bar. Nearly 98 percent of customers polled like the new simplicity of navigation.

The familiar blue TAP card has undergone several design enhancements including one to commemorate Union Station’s 75th anniversary, the 25 anniversary of Metro Rail and now sports a new color scheme with scenic designs of L.A. County landscapes.


Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator   that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and it is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County.  Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is, literally, changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

25 replies

  1. Great. Now please explain to me why my Clipper card from San Francisco doesn’t do the same???? It’s not like SF and LA are in separate universes or use different currencies or something. And question two: why do the graphics on an LA TAP card look so godawful?

    • This is why Uber is so much popular; it’s easy to use and the concept is the same regardless whether you’re in LA, San Francisco, New York, or even in London or Delhi where ever Uber has a presence. You don’t need to be carrying extra smartphones for different cities, your smartphone can hail Uber anywhere.

      TAP cards can only be used in LA and is only transit cash. Can’t use it outside of LA and can’t use it to buy anything else other than paying for transit. You’ll need three transit cards just for the three biggest cities in California. LA requires a TAP card, San Francisco will need a Clipper Card, San Diego requires a Compass Card, and they’re all non-interchangeable with one another. And you can’t even use Amtrak California or Metrolink or Coaster with these things.

      The whole TAP card thing was botched right from the start because they failed to consider everything. They should’ve listened to those who understands these things, but went right ahead without thinking things out clearly.

      Can’t we just all like ditch this whole thing together and just make transit payments doable with Apple Pay and Android Pay? It’s so much easier that way. Unlike TAP cards, you can actually buy other things with Apple Pay and Android Pay, and it won’t just be “LA transit cash” anymore either.

  2. Wait a minute, not all the transit agencies accept TAP cards. Alhambra, Cerritos, and South Pasadena are good examples.
    Metrolink cannot load a pass onto a regular TAB card. Its machines do not dispense regular TAB cards.

    I believe that the TAP card system is not successful until ALL the transit agencies in the entire Southern California utilize the TAP bard system.

    • Hi Ivan;

      The bus systems in Alhambra and Cerritos are very limited — I believe just a couple routes each. South Pasadena does not have a bus system, although I do believe there is a van or small shuttle bus that brings riders to the Gold Line station. You are, of course, correct about the Metrolink issue although Metrolink tickets are TAP compatible so that Metrolink riders can transfer to Metro.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Now there’s some weasel wording in “regional” transportation agencies. Many cities run their own shuttle services that don’t accept the TAP card. http://www.metro.net/riding/maps/other-carriers/ have some of them, and still others like Bell, Cudahy, and Lynwood aren’t even listed. All of them are public transit, all of them are in LA County, yet they do not accept the TAP card. It should be a requirement to accept Metro funding to accept the TAP card.

  4. IMHO, TAP is incomplete without full integration with Metrolink. Those TAP enabled tickets are useful only when going from Metrolink to Metro, but not the other way around.

    I understand there’s an issue that Metrolink uses a more complex fare system than Metro, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Over in the Bay Area, the Clipper Card can handle both the complex fare systems of Caltrain and BART alongside MUNI.

    If San Francisco can do it, so can LA. So why the hold up?

    • OC isn’t LA County, it’s a different jurisdiction so you probably need to take it up with the OC Board of Supervisors and the OCTA board members for this.

      That being said, it shouldn’t be undoable as the Clipper Card up in the Bay Area is a multi-transit card that can be used a wide variety of transportation across multiple counties. It’s more like, what’s wrong with LA County that it takes them eight years since TAP’s introduction in 2007 just to get them to agree on this one whole thing.

  5. technophile
    You missed your chance to become the CEO at the MTA with your vast knowledge concerning the operation of a public transit system. Oh, wait a minute, said knowledge is limited to Tapping your card and taking a seat on the bus.

    • I would have to disagree. People are getting tired of the same people over and over again. Politicians are politicians, people who have “experience” really means that they’re just part of the cogwheel who don’t stray from the status quo. Nothing new happens.

      OTOH, as Carly Fiorina said in last night’s debate, it’s also true that sometimes you need an outsider who isn’t entrenched in politics to fix things, one who wasn’t part of the machine to challenge the status quo.

      And it should be noted that the location of last night’s GOP debate, the Ronald Reagan Library (where Metro should have services to), Ronald Reagan himself was an outsider, first as Governor of California with no political experience, and as the President, without any Washington experience.

      And how is he remembered? As the Great Communicator who won the debates than all the political guys with years of experience behind them.

  6. I’m wondering when seamless Metro to Muni Transfers will be implemented? Up to this point a rider would have to load a Metro to Muni transfer on to a Tap card before it was needed.

  7. I would like TAP integration across all municipal lines, too, but what would make EVEN MORE sense would be to make this “smart card” technology actually smart. As in the 21st century. Why can’t I pay for a pass or fare on my phone and scan my phone or use NFC? As it is I’m about to Uber for $4 where I could just take one bus for $1.75. Why? Because Uber doesn’t require me to find an ATM and break a $20.

    • “make this “smart card” technology actually smart. As in the 21st century. Why can’t I pay for a pass or fare on my phone and scan my phone or use NFC?”

      If the smart card system was really smart, you wouldn’t even need to buy a pass. The TAP card system would do the work and just cap off by not deducting the funds any further once you hit the daily, weekly or monthly limit. And believe me I’ve heard all the excuses like how this can’t be done, even with bizarro statements like Metro can’t do this because it’s on a rolling system instead of a calendar system or whatever BS reason they concoct out their rear end. And it’s not like this stuff is unheard of, the system doing all the work and capping off instead of you pre-planning ahead whether you’re better off with pay-by-ride or buying a pass has been in use for years outside of the US. All it takes is a simple computer programming and all of Metro’s problems can be fixed rather quickly.

      You have to wonder if Metro is purposefully making things more difficult and harder to do because they don’t really want people to use Metro and rather just keep everyone still use cars or alternative means.

    • My guess is that the metro counts on having people put their money on the card. They probably use that excess fund to try to make more money from investments.

  8. The integration to the tap system is not a success until EVERY transit along the Pacific Surfliner is on board with the tap cards. Right now you need a very large to hold the monthly transit passes around the region.

    • Again, this is unrealistic. “Every transit along Pacific Surfliner” means that it will include Coaster, NCTD services such as Sprinter, and San Diego MTS, which already uses their own Compass Card system. TAP and Compass Cards are not interchangeable (which no reason that it’s impossible as they’re both developed by the same Cubic company).


      The line has to be drawn somewhere where TAP cards can be used. I say that the only missing link with TAP is Metrolink, much like how BART and Caltrain can use Clipper Cards in the Bay Area, and if there are any other systems that link up with Metrolink that aren’t using TAP card (i.e. Coaster at Oceanside or VCTC at Oxnard, etc.), that’s too bad for them. Not every transit agency that links up with BART or Caltrain uses Clipper Cards either, such as ACE and TriDelta.

      Otherwise, one can just as say the opposite that Chicagoans can force us Angelenos to adopt their Chicago Card system because Amtrak offers service from Chicago to LA with the Southwest Chief service and that Chicagoans should have access to our Metro system without the need of a TAP card.

      The line has to be drawn somewhere on a closed system like TAP.

      Now if we just used an open system like straight tapping from our credit cards or debit cards (Apple Pay or Android Pay), then all of these problems would go away. A VISA or MC card is accepted whether you’re in LA, San Diego, Ventura County, or in Chicago.

    • As TAP 4 Metrolink said, there is a limit to the feasibility of this.

      If one asks Pacific Surfliner then another might say what about what about Amtrak California buses? Should TAP readers be installed onto the Amtrak California bus that is used for 5804 and 5818 Pacific Surfliner?

      On the other side of the Pacific Surfliner route, should there be TAP card readers on the Thruway Amtrak California buses that one transfers at Santa Barbara to go to Solvang?

      Should Santa Barbara MTD adopt TAP cards too?

      If Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, why not Amtrak Coast Starlight? If so, since Coast Starlight reaches the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle/Puget Sound region, should it be LA that adopts Clipper Cards, the TriMet transit app and ORCA Cards or should it be the other way around?

      Who gets to decide?

      You think TAP was bad just trying to get all the LA players to agree on something, good luck trying to convince everyone else that links up to Los Angeles. Even Japan took quite a long time to get interoperability sorted out throughout other cities in Japan whom were all running different systems from one city to the next.


      • Please limit the number of links in your comments. It delays the time it takes us to publish your comment.

        Thank you,

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

      • This entire debate concerning the use and lack of use is just ridiculous. Why not just replaced them with a Visa or MasterCard and then one could use it anywhere.

      • “Why not just replaced them with a Visa or MasterCard and then one could use it anywhere.”

        That would be ideal and that’s exactly what many are saying. However, in the US, VISA and MC (technically the bank issuers) don’t make credit/debit cards with NFC chip in them.

        The only way to defacto do this is for all transit agencies to adopt payment with Apple Pay or Android Pay.

    • We live in a world where people expect instant gratification to be the new normal. “Relax and wait” is only going to create time for new competitors to scoop up the market while they dilly-dally. How do you think Uber became so successful while cab companies are going broke and declaring bankruptcy?