Pay your Metro Rail fare using tokens

Hat tip to L.A. Streetsblog’s Dana Gabbard for a post asking a question we get occasionally: can tokens still be used to pay Metro fares at ticket machines?

The answer is yes, as the following plucked from the Metro website explains:

If you don’t have a TAP card:

  1. Push button A – “Purchase new TAP card + fare”
    (If you don’t see this choice, press “CANCEL” before beginning.)
  2. Push button F – “TAP ($1 fee) and Metro Pass”
  3. Push button C – “Metro Rail 1-Ride”
  4. Insert – $1 in cash and 1 token.
  5. Take & tap – Take card from tray below and tap when entering system.

If you have a TAP card:

  1. Touch – Touch your card to the TAP target.
  2. Push button F – “Add Metro Pass”
  3. Push button C – “Metro Rail 1-Ride”
  4. Insert – 1 token.
  5. Touch – Touch card to TAP target again to load fare.
  6. Tap – Tap when entering system.

How do they do that? ExpressLanes transponders

ExpressLanes transponder

How do the FasTrak® transponders determine who’s traveling in the ExpressLanes?

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways, and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

Most of us know that changes are coming to the 110 Harbor Freeway. This Saturday — Nov. 10 — the HOV lanes will become High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes as part of a one-year demonstration project known as Metro ExpressLanes. The project will test whether ExpressLanes can help improve mobility in the traffic-choked 110 corridor. You may also know that Metro ExpressLanes will open early next year on the 10 San Bernardino Freeway. And that these changes will open the lanes to solo drivers who pay a toll.

Those who use the ExpressLanes must have a transponder in their vehicle. The transponders can determine:

– how much toll to collect from each vehicle because the amounts charged will vary depending on traffic congestion?

– what the real-time speed of traffic is in the ExpressLanes?

– who to bill for travel in the ExpressLanes?

– how to aid CHP with enforcement of the ExpressLanes?

How can a small piece of equipment know so much? In part the answer is that the transponder does not do all of those things but is the first step in making most of them happen.

Prior to about 1990 (and even now on older highways), tolls were collected by human attendants or electronic baskets at toll booths positioned along the highways. The toll booth system required that drivers come to a halt to hand over the toll. With modern ExpressLanes, like the one about to be tested inL.A.County, stopping is no longer necessary. There are no toll booths or attendants.

Different cities have different systems. But for the year-long ExpressLanes demonstration, Los Angeles is using FasTrak®, which is the name of the electronic toll collection system. It includes a transponder that is mounted on the inside of a vehicle windshield. The transponder is a small battery-powered radio frequency identification unit that transmits radio signals. Stored in the transponder is basic account information, including an identification number.

When the transponder passes under the overhead L-shaped antennas along the ExpressLanes, it communicates the account ID to the antennas. The antennas respond by messaging that information to a computer that calculates the toll rate for the individual commuter.

The antennas track the vehicle and transmit its path to a computer that contains individual vehicle accounts. After a vehicle exits the ExpressLanes, the antennas tell the computer that the vehicle is gone, and the account is charged, if necessary. (Trips for eligible carpools, vanpools and motorcycles are free.)

Sensors measure congestion and transmit the speed of traffic flow in the ExpressLanes to a computer network. The computer network manages capacity in the lanes by using an algorithm to adjust the toll, based on traffic conditions. The tolls will range from 25 cents per mile to a maximum of $1.40 per mile. The more traffic in the ExpressLanes, the higher the toll assessed. The less traffic in the ExpressLanes, the lower the toll. However, the toll amount is locked in once the vehicle is in the ExpressLanes.

If speeds fall below 45 mph for more than 10 minutes, the ExpressLanes signs alert solo drivers to not enter the ExpressLanes until speeds climb back to 45 mph or faster. However, solo drivers already with a trip in progress in the ExpressLanes will be allowed to complete their trip. This helps ensure smoother flowing traffic in the ExpressLanes for all who use them.

If a sig-alert occurs and the toll payer is not able to travel at the minimum average speed of 45 mph, the customer’s FasTrak account will automatically be credited with the toll by the next business day. Net toll revenues will be reinvested into transit and other transportation improvements in the corridors where they are generated.

While the principle behind most HOT lane transponders is similar, L.A. County’s ExpressLanes transponders are unique. They have been upgraded with the addition of a switch that can be changed to indicate 1, 2 or 3+ occupants in the vehicle. In this way, eligible carpools, vanpools and motorcycles can travel in the ExpressLanes toll free. The transponders can’t confirm the passenger count. But enhanced California Highway Patrol enforcement can and will. When the transponder is detected in the ExpressLanes,  overhead enforcement beacon lights emit to correspond to the switch setting on the transponder. This light is visible to the CHP, which will use it as a guide for occupancy enforcement.

If you have an existing FasTrak, it will work on the 110 and 10 ExpressLanes to pay a toll. But if you want to travel toll free on the 110 or 10, you will need to use a switchable FasTrak. You are not required to maintain more than one account. In fact, it’s recommended that only one FasTrak account is maintained based on the toll facilities that the customer uses most. If switching to Metro ExpressLanes, customers should contact their currently issuing agency for infomation about closing their FasTrak account prior to opening the account with Metro.  

Here’s more information about FasTrak, including how to sign up for an account and get a transponder.

Photo art lightboxes on the move

Detail of Sparrow Lane by Holly Andres, on view at Vermont/Beverly Station.

Have you seen this art? Metro’s Art Lightboxes are getting around. In addition to the often large-scale work that Metro Art brings to stations throughout Los Angeles County, the program also presents mini photography exhibitions by artists in select Red and Purple Line stations.

Each lightbox series is comprised of seven photographic transparencies, each measuring three by four feet and sequentially arranged on internally illuminated boxes. Initiated in 2001, each photography series remains on view in a given station for several months at a time. See past photo lightboxes here.


Photo lightboxes on display in one of the Red Line stations. The series is intended to contribute something visually engaging for customers and enhance the overall experience of taking transit.

The most recent rotation happened last week and features the following artists at Red and Purple Line stations:

The Center for Land Use Interpretation, You Are / Are Not Here at Universal City Station
Michael Light, LA Day, LA Night at Hollywood/Highland Station
Holly Andres, Sparrow Lane at Vermont/Beverly Station
Todd Hido, A Road Divided at 7th Street/Metro Center Station
Chris Jordan, Intolerable Beauty at Wilshire/Normandie Station

See details of more photographs below.

And then perhaps plan yourself a little art tour, making your way south from Universal City, through Hollywood and downtown, then loop west to Wilshire/Normandie in Koreatown.

Detail of You Are / Are Not Here by The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), on view at Universal City Station.

Detail of LA Day, LA Night by Michael Light, on view at Hollywood/Highland Station.

Detail of Intolerable Beauty by Chris Jordan, on view at Wilshire/Normandie Station.

Iconic sculpture watches over new El Monte Station

Time Piece, a sculpture designed by Donald Lipski for the new El Monte Station, which includes three double sided clocks, and is suspended by a network of cables from a 30 foot tall stainless steel arch.

An iconic, large-scale sculpture by Donald Lipski is installed at Metro’s new El Monte Station, which is opening Oct. 14!

Click here for a Source post documenting the installation of this artwork, and here for more information on Donald Lipski’s work.

Read the full press release:

Iconic Sculpture Watches over new El Monte Station


      An iconic sculpture by Donald Lipski will welcome transit riders at the new El Monte Station, set to open to the public on October 14. A project of Metro’s art program, the artwork provides an aesthetic and contextual landmark at the newly expanded bus hub.

      Lipski, whose monumental works of art inhabit public environments throughout the United States, created a clock tower–with a twist. Entitled Time Piece, the artwork incorporates three traditional clocks within a highly contemporary framework. The functional, double-sided clocks are minimally suspended from a sweeping, 30-foot tall stainless steel arch using a web of thin stainless steel cables. The clocks are internally illuminated and in total provide six clock faces. Each clock weighs a hefty 350 lbs.

Lipski’s take on a modern-day clock tower was inspired by visits toEl Monte, and by imagining the hustle and bustle at the new transit hub.

      “As the busiest bus station west of Chicago, and as a new hub of civic activity and development, the new terminal demanded something bold, memorable and dynamic,” Lipski said. “Having a vertical artwork as a focus will add immeasurably to creating a gathering place in the plaza.”

      “Lipski’s work grabs the attention of our customers as they enter or exit the station,” said Maya Emsden, Deputy Executive Officer at Metro, “and his playful use of traditional clocks in this uniquely eye-catching arrangement has become an instant icon for the area.”

      For centuries, clock towers have been prized civic monuments and meeting places, particularly at transit hubs. Time Piece pays homage to this tradition but is updated to contemporary times and the specific context of the bold, modern architecture of the new facility.       One side of the clock faces, as customers enter the bus terminal, is modern and says “Metro.” The opposite clock faces, as customers leave the station says “El Monte” and incorporates the city seal. All six clock faces display the same exact time. 

       Donald Lipski is an internationally renowned sculptor with works represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), theWalkerArtCenter(Minneapolis), and the Chicago Institute of Art and has received the coveted Rome Prize from theAmericanAcademy inRome. 

      The clocks were manufactured by The Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. A maker of clocks and bells, which has been operated by six generations of the Verdin family since 1842. Assembly for all the sculptural components, the arch and the clocks was completed by JunoWorks, a specialty metal fabricator with a history of uniquely creative projects. Artwork installation at the station plaza was provided by KPRS Construction Services, Inc. with oversight from the artist, JunoWorks and Metro Art staff.


El Monte Station
Built in the 1970s, the original transit center was the busiest bus-only station west of theMississippi. The station was demolished to make way for a new two-level station, doubling its previous size and will accommodate up to 40,000 daily riders. The new station has modern amenities including variable message signs, intercoms, closed circuit television, solar panels, wayfinding equipment and information displays, new elevators and escalators, a transit store, bike stations and lockers.


Metro Art Program

From rail and bus stations to transit facilities, construction fences and poetry cards, Metro Art enriches the transit environment and contributes to the artistic vibrancy of the neighborhoods we serve. Metro commissions artists to create engaging artworks that make the journey more inviting and pleasurable for transit users. The artworks mirrorLos AngelesCounty’s rich contemporary and popular cultures.


Established in 1989, the Metro Art program has commissioned over 300 artists for a wide variety of temporary and permanent projects. Artists are selected through a peer review process with community input. All works are created specifically for their transit-related sites. Metro’s public art policy allocates one half of one percent of project construction costs for art.


More information and free docent guided tours:  visit or call 213/922-4ART
Artwork copyrighted, all rights reserved.


To request images of artwork for publication please email


Artists of the Metro Orange Line exhibition opens October 11 at Los Angeles Valley College

One of the artworks included in the exhibition. Entitled Pond Landscape, by artist Phung Huynh, the artwork is an oil and collage on wooden panel.

•Opening Reception & Artists Panel Discussion: Thursday, October 11, 2012, 6–9pm

•Panel with artists Lisa Adams, Ken Gonzales-Day and Anne Marie Karlsen at 7pm

•Moderated by Jorge Pardo, Director, Metro Art & Design, and Phung Huynh, Assistant Professor, Valley College Art Department.

Metro has organized an exciting new exhibition in collaboration with Los Angeles Valley College. Opening this Thursday, October 11, Translations: Artists of the Metro Orange Line features the works of twenty artists commissioned for the Metro Orange Line and demonstrates how artists enliven the public space of transit.

Artworks that reflect the artists’ studio practice in relation to their Metro commissions will be on view, providing insight into the many ways artists translate their practices and material selections to create works of art for public transportation sites.

Featured artists: Lisa Adams, Sandow Birk, Caryl Davis, John Divola, Roy Dowell, Sam Erenberg, Jud Fine, Ken Gonzales-Day, Phung Huynh, Anne Marie Karlsen, Margaret Lazzari, Laura London, Daniel Marlos, Michele Martinez, John O’Brien, Renée Petropoulos, Roxene Rockwell, John Roloff, Pat Warner and Jody Zellen.

View images of all artists’ Orange Line artwork here.

Valley College Art Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 11am-2pm and 6-9pm (5800 Fulton Ave. Valley Glen, CA 91401). (Closed for the Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving holidays)

The gallery is located in the Art Building on the northwest corner of campus. Map. The exhibition ends December 13, 2012. Read the exhibition press release here.

Go CicLAvia, Go Metro Art!

Expo/Crenshaw Station, Wanderers, Willie Robert Middlebrook, artist

This Sunday, when you’re walking, cycling, skating or otherwise playing your way through the streets at CicLAvia, be sure to check out bounties of art along the way! The 9.1-mile CicLAvia route–with new spurs to Exposition Park, Chinatown and Boyle Heights–connects with 14 Metro Rail stations, each featuring artwork created specifically for its site. See map with Metro stations here. Explore Metro Art here.

Some of the newest artwork in the Metro system is showcased along the recently-opened Expo Line (fortuitously, the CicLAvia route intersects with the Expo Line for the first time, providing easy access from neighborhoods along the east-west corridor to this quintessential L.A. event). Each of the 10 new stations displays a series of mosaic and porcelain enamel artworks along the platforms, with a total of 176 original artworks spread between Culver City and downtown LA.

So, here’s an idea:  take the Metro Expo Line to CicLAvia (or Red, Purple, Blue, or Gold Lines), and explore L.A.’s unique artistic landscape along the way for a fun-filled day of cultural and civic enrichment. Then congratulate yourself on a day well-spent!

Here are a few highlights from the Expo Line:

Jefferson/USC Station, Urban Dualities, Samuel Rodriguez, artist

La Cienega/Jefferson Station, Engraved in Memory, Daniel González, artist

Expo/Vermont Station, Neighborhood Portrait: Reconstructed, Jessica Polzin McCoy, artist

Expo/Crenshaw Station, Wanderers, Willie Robert Middlebrook, artist

Monumental sculpture, Time Piece, at new El Monte Station!

Time Piece, a sculpture designed by Donald Lipski for the new El Monte Station, which includes three double sided clocks, and is suspended by a network of cables from a 30 foot tall stainless steel arch. Photo: Donald Lipski.



An iconic, large-scale sculpture by Donald Lipski is installed at Metro’s new El Monte Station, which is opening Oct. 14!

Lipski, an internationally renowed sculptor in the field of public art, created a monumental clock tower–with a twist. Entitled Time Piece, the artwork includes three double sided clocks suspended from a sweeping 30-foot tall stainless steel arch, using a web of thin stainless steel cables.

The functional sculpture echoes the grand clock towers historically found in transit systems, but is updated to contemporary times and the specific context of the new facility.

Built in the 1970s, the original transit center was the busiest bus-only station west of the Mississippi. The station was demolished to make way for a new two-level station, doubling its previous size and accommodating up to 40,000 daily riders.

Click here for a Source post documenting the installation of this artwork, and here for more information on Donald Lipski’s work.

Detail of Time Piece. Photo: Donald Lipski.


Four new "Through the Eyes of Artists" posters coming soon!

Metro Art is excited to announce the four artists selected to create new posters for its award winning Through the Eyes of Artists series. Jessica Polzin McCoy, Ramon Ramirez, Mary Kay Wilson and Wakana Kimura have designed original artworks that celebrate Claremont, Pico Rivera, San Fernando and Inglewood, respectively. Transit users can expect to see the new posters in the coming months.

Jessica Polzin McCoy in her studio. Jessica’s poster will feature Claremont. Photo: Todd Gray.

Now in its tenth year, the Through the Eyes of Artists program commissions local artists to create original artworks that express the uniqueness of Los Angeles County neighborhoods, as a way of encouraging people to take Metro to explore destinations served by the agency.

The four latest additions will bring the series to a total of 29 neighborhoods featured. Explore Through the Eyes of Artists posters.

Ramon Ramirez in his studio. Ramon’s poster will feature Pico Rivera. Photo: Todd Gray.

Mary Kay Wilson. Her poster will feature San Fernando. Photo: Todd Gray.

Wakana Kimura. Wakana’s poster will feature Inglewood. Photo: Todd Gray.