Metro announces new Union Station commemorative TAP cards as part of 75th anniversary celebration

tap cards

Metro will begin distributing new, commemorative TAP cards highlighting three beautiful views of Union Station to celebrate the iconic transportation hub’s 75th birthday. The new TAP cards will be issued starting on Friday afternoon. 

The Union Station 75th Anniversary Commemorative TAP Card will be available at TAP vending machines (TVMs) located within Union Station and cost $1 with the purchase of a Metro pass or Stored Value. 

The commemorative TAP cards come with three different views: a historic shot of the Union Station waiting room from 1939 (courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation), a shot of the signature bell tower framed by palm trees and a close-up of the uniquely beautiful tile work that can be seen throughout the facility.

The commemorative TAP cards come in time for Union Station’s 75th Anniversary party that begins Saturday at 10 a.m.; click here for the schedule of events. Through the weekend, the cards will be loaded into many TVMs across the Metro Rail system. Within two weeks, commemorative TAP cards will be available at all Metro Rail stations. They will also be available on Metro buses within a month. Cards will be available while supplies last.

   

Transportation headlines, Friday, October 18

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ART OF TRANSIT: A Red/Purple Line subway car in Metro’s maintenance shop. From our Instagram feed.

BART workers go on strike (San Francisco Chronicle) 

After a long negotiation on Thursday, talks broke down and workers walked out at 12:01 a.m. today, leaving tens of thousands of Bay Area workers to find other ways to reach work. While unions representing workers agreed to contribute four percent of their pay toward their pensions and contribute more to their health insurance costs, BART and workers couldn’t agree on a schedule or percentage for pay increases.

Perhaps most interesting, they also couldn’t agree on changes to work rules that BART officials said hindered their ability to run the rail system efficiently and unions said protected their rights. In particular, BART wants station managers to file reports by email, deliver pay stubs electronically and more flexibility to add or reduce service and worker hours. Unions objected to those.

BART connects San Francisco to cities south along the San Francisco Peninsula and to the many communities in the East Bay, including (most prominently) Oakland. Some charter buses are ferrying commuters, but others are out of luck or are driving. Traffic is bad and it doesn’t sound like a deal between BART and its workers is close.

Metro locks in more revenue (ZevWeb) 

Good article on the impact of gate latching on the Red/Purple Lines. The upshot: revenues from fares on the subway increased in September by 40 percent over last May before the gates were latched. If that pattern holds — key word ‘if’ — Metro could see a gain of $6 million in revenues annually from the subway. Of course, revenues are not the same as profit.

Excerpt:

Fare evaders are now unable to freely enter the system and, for the most part, have moved on to other modes of travel, Sutton said, giving paying customers a better ride by improving their security and safety—and by opening up a little more elbow room.

Even with the gates latched, some committed scofflaws will always find ways to game the system, Sutton said. About 19,000 people entered the subway without paying in September, using a variety of tricks or blatantly jumping the gates. Metro is in the process of tweaking the new system to make fare evasion more difficult, and the Sheriff’s Department is issuing citations to catch those who squeeze through.

Nonetheless,  in most places the system is working well. During one morning rush hour this week, transit patrons streamed through the gates at the North Hollywood station, tapping in succession as they rushed to catch the next train. At ticket vending machines, fare purchases were made swiftly, with no long lines forming.

Overall, I think this is a positive for the agency. Metro is hardly alone among agencies battling fare evasion; it’s good to see progress here is being made.

Suggestions for Metro: TVM software updates (Steven White: The Accidental Urbanist) 

Steven follows up on his post earlier this month about Metro’s ongoing efforts to make instructions easier to understand on ticket vending machines. This time around, Steven shows some ideas that he thinks would make instructions explicitly clear — and finally terminate the confusion over which (if any) buttons patrons are supposed to press.

He also has a few other ideas on how to make information clear to everyone:

Also, on the printed banner for the top of the machine, Metro could clarify the text and fare explanations. The design they’re currently working on says “Stored Value: Metro 1-Ride, $1.50″ which is a strange way of saying “the fare is $1.50 every time you board.” It would be much clearer to write

METRO FARES
Standard: $1.50 per boarding (no transfers included).
Reduced Fare (Seniors, Disabled & Medicare): Peak Hours $0.55 per boarding, Off-Peak Hours $0.25 per boarding
Valid passes also accepted.

STORED VALUE
Available in amounts $1.50 and higher

METRO PASSES
1-Day Pass: $5
7-Day Pass: $20
30-Day Pass: $75

With these clarifications of both text and design, I think the new TVM updates will make a huge positive difference. Buying a pass is often the most confusing step for Metro riders, and this will help ease that process greatly. Of course, feel free to leave additional comments or suggestions below.

Kudos for Steven to take the time to mull over this stuff. It may not be the most fascinating thing in the world, but ticket machines are the first point of contact for thousands of people new to the Metro system. And that first contact should be as good as possible; not a War of the Worlds type scenario.

Streetsblog LA’s Damien Newton: Everyone on the road breaks the law (L.A. Times)

Damien ventures into the belly of the beast — i.e. the Times newsroom — for a video interview with editorial writer and avowed motorist Carla Hall over biking in L.A. Damien is both predictably articulate and well dressed as Carla asks him questions about the cyclist/motorist conflicts. From the accompanying article:

He doesn’t care if you’re on a bike; he cares that you stop thinking of bicyclists as an odd nuisance — and stop framing the debate as “drivers vs. bicyclists”:

“The subtext is ‘We need to get along with these weirdos, because they’re out there.’ ”

It helps his message that he’s not particularly weird himself. He’s 36, married to an engineer and a father of two small children. He cheers the new state law requiring drivers to stay three feet away from bicyclists, but he’s not going to be the purist with a yardstick attached to his bike to make sure motorists are observing the law.

My three cents: sure, there are cyclists who break the law or do stupid things. But….please. Motorists literally get away with murder or almost murder every single day in this region. Cars running red lights, not stopping for crosswalks, tailgating, speeding, weaving, driving drunk — these are all things that are commonplace because enforcement is light or non-existent. Meanwhile, over the past century, the L.A. region was paved nearly from head-to-toe often with only regard to the car and not the pedestrian or the cyclist. And thus my response when I hear someone in a car complain that a cyclist or walker is slowing them down: BOO HOO!

TODAY’S TIMEWASTER: 

The L.A. Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals play at the L.A. Coliseum in 1959. There’s about an hour of footage starting with the beginning of the game.

Metro to redesign screen options on TAP card vending machines with feedback from focus groups

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Metro recently eliminated paper tickets in favor of TAP cards – the reusable card stores passes and money. This cuts down on waste and makes buying and validating tickets easier. It will also be necessary for entering the turnstiles at all Metro Rail Stations, which are scheduled to be latched later this year.

As part of this process, Metro is updating the software on its TAP vending machines (TVMs) to make it easier for customers to purchase and reload TAP cards.

Recent focus groups of infrequent rail riders were conducted by Metro Research for the TAP group in both English and Spanish. The participants found that the current TVMs are difficult to use for first-time Metro riders (think tourists and event-goers as well as new riders). Participants said that the initial screen had too many options and was confusing.  They also said it was not clear how much the fare cost and that a reduced fare for seniors and disabled riders was actually offered on the machines. They also said it wasn’t clear when they could travel at a reduced rate.

TAP instructional posters posted in direct proximity to the TVMs appeared to make no difference as focus group participants said they were solely focused on the machine and the transaction.

The focus groups also previewed a couple of alternatives for a redesigned TVM screen.  The mock-ups were designed by the award-winning Metro Creative Services staff.  The focus groups saw the new design flow as less confusing, more intuitive and more user-friendly than the current screens. Follow-up focus groups will interact with the new software once it is loaded onto test TVMs at Metro headquarters.

What do you like or dislike about our current ticket vending machines? What would you like to see changed about them?

Metro converting ticket machines to TAP only

As some Purple and Red Line riders have noticed in recent days, Metro is in the process of converting ticket machines at stations to TAP only. That means that all paper tickets will disappear except for Metro to Muni transfers.

The conversion has taken place at ten subway stations and will continue in coming weeks to include all Metro Rail stations, as well as the Orange Line and any other Metro ticket vending machines in the area.

The bottom line: If you don’t currently have a TAP card, you will need one in order to pay fares at Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. (Please see below for more information for Metrolink riders).The ticket machines are being converted to TAP as a prelude to locking the turnstiles at some Metro Rail stations. The first gates are expected to be locked later in 2012.

 

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Board OKs gate-locking plan

At the tail end of its meeting this morning, the Metro Board approved the staff plan on locking gates at rail stations and converting ticket machines completely to TAP. In other words, the ticket machines will no longer issue paper tickets with the conversion set to begin in a few more months.

As the Metro staff explains, the gates WILL NOT be locked all at once. Rather, the agency will aim for first locking the gates at the Normandie station on the Purple Line subway in late summer and then subsequently lock the gates in the remainder of the subway stations over the following seven months.

As the process continues, Metro staff will continue to work with other agencies — including Metrolink — on upgrading fare media so that passengers can pass through the gates.

Here is the staff report on the issue.

Stored value now available at TAP website and on all ticket vending machines!

Over the past couple of months, Metro customers have been able to add stored value to their TAP cards at 22 ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations.

The test of stored value has gone very well — so well, in fact, that Metro today is selling stored value at all ticket vending machines in Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. The machines will allow customers to add stored value in increments of $10, $20, $40, $80, $100 and $200. Cards also remain for sale at 22 machines — here are their locations.

In addition — and just as significant — the taptogo.net website now allows customers to put increments of $5, $10, $25 and $50 of stored value on their TAP cards (sign in, click on ‘fare products’ and then the arrows next to “fare description.’) This is especially convenient for those who don’t take Metro Rail and don’t have easy access to the ticket vending machines. The uber-alert L.A. Streetsblog site already seems extremely happy about this according to their post yesterday.

Stored value allows customers to put cash on their TAP cards and have the cost of single rides automatically deducted whenever they take the bus or train — just tap your card at the gate and go. It’s very convenient for Metro riders who don’t want to hassle with buying paper tickets before each ride, especially those who don’t ride enough to justify buying a daily, weekly or monthly pass.

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Here's a list of ticket machines selling TAP cards and stored value

Attentive readers know that earlier this year Metro began selling TAP cards and stored value on those cards at ticket vending machines at some Metro Rail stations.

Since there are more than one ticket machine at the stations, look for the ones with the green Metro placard on top with the drawing of a hand holding a TAP card. It’s the machine on the right in this photo.

Because we get frequent inquiries from readers about the location of those machines, please find an updated list of the 22 Metro Rail locations where the TAP cards are being sold after the jump. For more info on TAP cards, click here.

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Ticket machines that dispense TAP cards and allow stored value are being tested

Metro’s TAP card made two giant strides forward in recent days, with testing now underway on two key features: the ability to buy a TAP card directly from a ticket vending machine and to load a set amount of cash on the card and have the cost of riding deducted as you go.

Metro quietly began testing a couple of weeks ago on a single ticket vending machine in the Union Station Red/Purple Line station. It didn’t take long for several Source readers and the PlusMetro blog to find the machine, which sits at the far right on the bank of ticket machines on the Vignes side of the station.

Readers of The Source have long been clamoring for the ability to load TAP cards with set amounts of cash — called “stored value. It has become a fairly common feature in some regions that also use electronic fare cards and has always been a goal of the TAP program here.

How does it work? Let’s say Joe Transit puts $20 on his card and wants to ride the Red Line from downtown to Hollywood. Joe would just tap his TAP card when entering the subway station and $1.50 — the price of a single-ride ticket — would be deducted. That means Joe doesn’t have to spend time dealing with getting a ticket from the machines.

One question we expect to get from readers: How will stored value work with day passes?

The answer: A TAP card can hold both day passes as well as stored value. So if you plan to ride four or more trips in a single day, load a day pass from the ticket machine or inform the bus driver and the TAP card reader will automatically default to use the day pass to cover the cost of your trips for the day. Also, if you have money stored on the card, you can use those funds to pay for the day pass at the machine or farebox.

Also being tested is another useful feature: A TAP card can be bought directly from the ticket vending machine for two dollars. Cards are currently available for purchase on the taptogo.net website, from Metro customer service centers and 400 outlets around L.A. County. Having them available from the ticket machines makes it easier for everyone — in particular, tourists — to get one the day they need one.

One note: even if you buy a TAP card from the machine, it’s still advisable to visit the taptogo.net website to register the card in your name in case it’s ever lost or damaged. Also, you don’t need to buy a new TAP card to take advantage of stored value — it will work on your existing card if you have one.

The ability to purchase TAP cards is being expanded to 22 ticket machines in Metro Rail stations across the county — the list is after the jump. The agency is also presently expanding the ability to add stored value to a TAP card to all ticket machines in the Metro Rail system.
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Everyone's talking TAP!

The Daily News on Sunday ran a story about the gates recently installed at some Metro rail stations and TAP cards and now several media outlets are showing some interest.

The gist of the Daily News’ story was that Metro spent $46 million on the gates and $154 million to date on the gates and TAP card system — but the gates aren’t yet locked. In other words, that’s a lot of money to spend on something that isn’t being used as intended.

As we explained in May in a lengthy post answering reader questions about TAP cards, the gates aren’t yet locked because Metro is still using paper tickets, although plans are to do away with them in the future.

A few other points worth considering:

•The Board of Directors of Metro recently approved a contract to purchase paper TAP cards that will be sold at ticket vending machines and will work with the gates. The paper TAP cards will also be sold by some employers who sell their workers Metro passes. That should help reduce the need for paper tickets.

•At least one ticket machine at each rail station is being reworked to sell the plastic (the more durable) version of TAP cards. It will be a good option for those who don’t want to buy a TAP card by phone or over the internet.

•About $16 million of the cost of the gates was paid for with a 2008 grant from the state transportation bond (known as “1B”) to enhance security at stations. About $70 million of the $154 million was spent on retrofitting buses with TAP equipment. Continue reading