Metro testing new security technologies to crack down on fare evasion

We’ve had a few questions about fare evasion from riders lately. Metro has a couple of new technologies it’s testing — one involves better using security cameras to track issues at stations. The other will use TAP mobile validators to better track the location of security officers.

One other thing worth mentioning: You may not see a Sheriff’s Deputy near a turnstile one day. But they may be there the next.

Here’s the news release from Metro:  

To help reduce fare evasion and to better safeguard public funds, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced today that testing is underway on two key innovations.

Metro’s Video Analytics software monitors activity at stations through existing video surveillance cameras. The software then highlights behavior that is out of the norm and alerts security personnel.

“The Video Analytics software is currently in its “training” phase during which it monitors thousands of riders tapping their TAP cards and entering the system,” said Metro Chief Executive Officer Phillip A. Washington. “If the software detects something out of the ordinary, such as a person jumping over the turnstile or using the ADA access gate without tapping, the system highlights it with a red box and sends video alerts to security personnel at that station who can conduct fare checks.”

Metro is also upgrading its handheld Mobile Phone Validators (MPV) with law enforcement-specific, GPS- enabled software. An MPV is a Samsung smartphone with the ability to detect if a TAP card has been used to pay for transit fare. The new upgrades also show the location where the MPV is being used.

“On the Metro system, conditions change constantly and law enforcement needs tools to assess needs and redeploy resources accordingly,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Transportation Policing Division Chief Ronene Anda. “As wireless internet is rolled out on the subway system, the MPV upgrades will help our deputies get to where they are needed as never before.”

The Metro system was originally designed in the 1980s as a “proof of fare” system in which, proof of a valid fare must be held by the passenger and provided to law enforcement when asked.

Over the past 15 years the security environment has changed, compelling Metro to augment systems to protect against threats that were not originally envisioned.

“We are in a time when we must guarantee the safety of places where large groups of people congregate and a transit station is one of those places,” said Metro Executive Officer of System Safety and Law Enforcement Alex Wiggins. “The system is inherently safer when we monitor access to our platforms, buses and trains.”

There have been other recent security upgrades on the Metro system. In October 2015, Metro introduced three new technologies, SkyWatch Tower, Security Kiosk and LexRay.

SkyWatch tower is a portable security platform that can be used at Metro parking lots and structures countywide. The tower can be raised to 24 feet high and provide 360 degree views for observers and CCTV cameras. Nine new security kiosks will bring necessary law enforcement resources such as desktop computers, landline telephones and two-way radios to nine Metro Rail stations. LexRay allows law enforcement to see live feeds from Metro security cameras on a smartphone or tablet, giving deputies a preview of what might be encountered while they are responding to a call.

13 replies

  1. Seems like they can do better than installing a big brother system that in the future will become flawed, obsolete, and expensive to maintain (escalators come to mind. Are they going to finish covering those ever?)

    There are plenty of honest hard working individuals that would be a station attendant standing behind reflective glass to assist/ monitor the stations.

    • With unionized labor, you are talking massive pensions, health benefits, workers comp, vacation, not to mention a healthy wage. It might be reasonable at the subway stations, but certainly not at the light rail stations.

  2. What about those stations that don’t have gates? The Expo line is full of fare dodgers of varying ages and sexes.

  3. how about enforcing full fares for bus riders? I’d estimate that between 40-50% of my boardings, I encounter at least 1 rider who only puts $0.09 in the fare collection. Once I heard a rider say to another “just drop whatever coins you have in the slot and keep walking” Sometimes the drivers seem a little peeved, but most times they don’t even care…

    I’m sure it’s challenging to enforce the payment of the FULL fare, but what if you had just one deputy / sheriff on heavily trafficked bus routes that stands near the driver and inspects for full fare? OR an certain announcement / sound accompanied by “insufficient fare” that the driver can press to shame fare evaders? I think in most cases, the public humiliation of being “outed” as a cheapskate would deter future violations.

  4. I see people go through the wheelchair gates without paying or swiping a card. They are clearly evading and I see it everyday. Also, I see people turn around and leave the station when they spot security. So that does nothing to catch the evaders. Security needs to either check passes on the trains or check people immediately after they exit the train.

  5. I seen people going thru the gates and the fare inspector are right their and they are just talking to each other. Also I just seen them go into the driver cab on the rail and just sit and fall asleep I think their should be better supervision on the station not only at for the public side but for the law enforcement that should be checking for fare.

  6. More security cameras, who knows if they’re working or not, and over-priced mobile prison towers do not deter fare dodgers and criminals. They are just wasteful spending of our precious taxpayer dollars that can be used elsewhere. BART played around with fake security cameras thinking they were going to deter criminals and they were forced to admit that some of the cameras were fake when there was a murder involved on their system. http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Use-of-decoy-cameras-seems-to-set-BART-apart-6760101.php

    You need a full time station staff who are placed right by the gates who can assist passengers as well as keeping an eye out for fare dodgers. Every other city that runs transit right does this. If labor costs are an issue, outsource it to an outside private firm who can do it for cheaper than unionized public employees, you know how like banks and supermarkets hire armed security guards from a private security company instead of using the LASD deputies?

    Find new ways to make revenue to make up for the added cost. Your stations lack any economic activity that can be used to bring in more revenue into the system. When you add a store to a station, that collects more sales taxes from consumers. More sales taxes equals more tax revenues. More stores in the stations opens up opportunities to collect rent income to Metro. Added stores bring in employees who work there who add more eyes to the system without added cost of hiring extra security. Every other city that gets transit right does this.

    • The unions would simply never allow private employees to do this work and they have the political power in Los Angeles to stop that. It would be a non-starter.

  7. Just staff the stations to prevent it, and stop writing people up and essentially creating fare evasion. Its really not that complex.

    Someone said Unionized workers? How much do you think MTA Security, LASD, And LASD pull per hour? Who cares, they lolly gag at Coffee Bean all day, and only check skaters to get write ups.

    Its silly, and created this system of infractions via fine, instead of people just coming prepared all of the time because there is no chance of getting past the attendant.

    Cameras are no good since they “catch people” and are much less preventive. I just saw someone recently go past the gate into the tunnel, and there is a camera at the entrance of the no trespassing zone. What purpose did that camera serve? Then even if they catch him on tape, they dispatch the cops, and tell the subway conductor to “proceed with caution” further slowing the system down, where as this guy would’ve never made it down there had an attendant seen him walk right through.

    Better yet, people with no money will know that the system is off limits since someone will stop them at the entrance.
    Just sayin.

  8. I agree that there should be security personnel positioned at the turnstiles at least during rush hours (6 am – 10 am and 3 pm – 8 pm) instead of waiting at the bottom of the escalators checking TAP cards. This is the best way to deter fare evaders.

    • I’ve seen this at Both Sierra Madre Villa and Union Station. Sadly though, all other station along the Gold Line are unguarded.

  9. How about if arrive to the station, my train earlier than it was supposed to (oh it happens), go out to grab something or make a phone call, then TAP again and it’ll actually let me in again.

    Sorry, but I don’t care about any sobby excuse, train left early, I stepped outside the station, and now since I can’t tap again, I have no choice but to force myself thru the handicapped turnstile so that I won’t miss yet another train.

    Until Metro figures this part out, I won’t feel guilty forcing myself through a Turnstile because hey, there is a Pass on my TAP that was already validated just 10 min before and I’ve yet to be scolded for.