An update on TAP

Two Metro staff reports have been dispatched to the Metro Board of Directors about the TAP program. Taken together, they include some interesting nuggets about the expansion of the electronic fare cards.

The first report is an update on Metro’s TAP system. Among the highlights:

•Expect to see a ramp up soon of promotional materials for the Visa debit cards that also serve as TAP cards.

•Five stations now have gates that will light up when someone fails to TAP. Among those are the Hollywood/Highland and North Hollywood Red Line stations.

•There are now about 100 cell phone devices — called fare validators — in the field with sheriff’s deputies that can be used to ensure that someone who said they tapped their TAP card actually did.

•A pilot program is scheduled to begin in December to sell TAP cards at a limited number of ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations.

The second report looks at a broader issue, the regional fare system and some of the technological hurdles involved in getting all of L.A.’s transit agencies to use TAP.

The big highlight of this report is that it says that plans are for Metro to begin using stored value on TAP cars in the second quarter of next year. Stored value would allow customers to — as the name implies — put an amount of their choosing on a TAP card and then have fares deducted from that amount. It would be very convenient for those who don’t buy passes, but want the convenience of having a TAP card.

Categories: Policy & Funding

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19 replies

  1. Finally Metro is catching up with oh, EVERY OTHER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AGENCY IN THE WORLD!???

    Who at LA Metro had the brilliant idea to NOT activate the cash purse/top up system and just go with putting passes on them?

    See this is the problem with Metro: nobody there USES their own product to get to/from work so no one there knows how to properly implement it.

    I betcha $100 that any Asian-American living in Los Angeles who has travelled to their homelands of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong has a better idea how public transportation should be run than anyone of the board members of LA Metro.

    In fact, that’s the best idea ever. Fire everyone at the helm of LA Metro and hire public transportation officials from Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, London, Boston, New York, and Chicago instead. Angelinos don’t know jack about running public transportation because they themselves don’t use them to get to work. Hire people from other cities around the world who use transit on a daily basis and they can do a better job in a year than any one of these bastards have done in the past thirty years.

  2. I know this comment is probably too late for anyone to read, but hopefully a Metro employee stumbles across it.

    But once the stored value option is up and running then there should be no need to sell day passes…you should just do ‘fare capping’ instead.
    Basically, all that needs to happen is that once you have ridden 4 times, and spent $6 in one day, the system then will not deduct any further money for the rest of the day.
    Fare capping is a basic feature on other system, and needs to be implemented on TAP.

    The advantage of this approach is that it makes things easier for bus drivers since they don’t have to worry about selling day passes any more, and that reduces stopping times. It also means you don’t need to think about it in advance whether you will be taking enough rides to break even on a day pass.

  3. One more thing. As a software developer (aka computer programmer), I see far more complicated sets of rules in my day-to-day work. I fail to see how programming the fairly simple TAP card rules is taking years to implement.

    Interagency agreements is one thing. But implementing the cash purse, and weekly passes that start when you buy them, just isn’t that difficult.

  4. Finally, Metro is going to roll out the debit/declining balance/cash purse functionality to the masses. It’s about time.

    Now if only Metro could fix the weekly pass to start on the day you buy it, the TAP card would begin to be usable.

    As for paper tickets, Metro should not get rid of them completely. What if you are a one-time rider? You have to buy a TAP pass?

    What they could do is eliminate paper weekly and monthly passes. But first you have to get the EZ Pass on the TAP card. And from what I’ve heard, that is a long way off.

    None of these are novel ideas, by the way. Lots of other places around the country (and the world) have well-designed systems that we can learn from.

  5. As someone said above: it’s an electronic system. The weekly and monthly passes should be able to be started at any time. That’s how it works in other transit systems.

    Right now the system is completely counterproductive. I can’t buy a weekly or monthly pass at a Metro Rail station. I can’t get a TAP card there. If I do get a TAP I can’t use it as a cash purse. If I get a pass I might not be able to use it if it’s mid-week. So I’m stuck buying more expensive day passes, and then I get on the train with people who obviously didn’t even bother paying.

    There’s always going to be a need for paper tickets, as you are always going to have people who are tourists/who don’t use the system frequently enough to get a pass. However, there is a marked need to make the existing TAP and passes more user-friendly.

    Let riders buy the passes and TAP at ALL stations. Let the passes start ticking on the day they’re activated, not some arbitrary day like Sunday or the first of the month. Put in a cash purse option.

  6. I pay my fair each time, and I see folks just hop over the fences each time or just walk in (Highland Park station).

    I have actually listened in on peoples conversations, and I hear this pretty frequently
    “Yea, you don’t have to pay to ride.”

    It looks like no one fears the repercussions. If metro was serious about stopping fair evasion, they will end this honor system crap. Install gates at EVERY stations, and not this free spinning crap. Didn’t a press release say “We have to get people used to the turnstiles?” Hogwash. Just put the barriers up, and people will figure it out, if they can’t they’re idiots.

    On Tap…I hope I don’t have to get another visa card. Just let me store $20 on the TAP card, like what they do in London with their oyster cards, and I’ll be happy. Do they just don’t GET IT?

  7. All steps in the right direction, even if extremely slow.

    Stored value cash purse, please!

    Smart cards around the world are light years ahead of us….

  8. I was visting LA earlier this year and one thing I found odd about TAP is how passes worked.
    I arrived in L.A. on a Friday and duly bought a TAP from a Ralphs since I wasn’t renting a car and would be relying on Metro. I wanted to put a weekly pass on, but was told that I’d have to wait till Sunday till it would activate, and that i’d have to buy day passes in the meantime!

    If it’s an electronic system, then why can’t you just load the pass on any day of the week, and have it run 7 days from that point?
    Eg if you bought it Monday it would expire Sunday, or if you bought it Wednesday it would expire Tuesday.

  9. I wonder whoever works in Metro has ever been to NYC, Chicago, DC?

    First of all, no one should be able to get into the station without paying a fare – this keeps the homeless and criminals out of the stations.

    Second, there are TONS and TONS of people getting on the train without paying, the gates are wide open. Check out Norwalk Green Line Station on a Monday morning. As someone who is honest and pays and pays taxes it is somewhat disgruntling.

    Third, you are paying officers to check fairs. The trains are FULL! and full of people that I saw never pay. I have never seen one officer. Take the those salaries and use them to clean up the trains and place maps inside them. If you made the gates so they wont let you in without paying a fare, you would not need nearly as many of the officers that supposedly exist. In DC for example you can’t even get out of the system until you pay since it is based on how far the ride was.

    Last, $75 for a month TAP Pass. Let’s do the math. A normal commuter works 20 days a month, $3 round trip = $60. What are you doing with that extra $15 I am paying an extra $15 as compared to non-TAP users to make the system more efficient? As with DC, NYC, Chicago, why not have a card that you load and pay as you use/go. Chicago will also charge a credit/debit card on file once your balance is too low and reloads a predetermined amount.

    Whoever came up with the system in LA did so in a way that seems it has never been done before. Oh yea, why not a third rail line instead of those gaudy overhanging wires (105 freeway)?

    I just recently moved back to SoCal and I am unaware if there were/are any public opportunity for discussion regarding this but if so, I would like to be invited.

  10. I have been user of the cash purse function and the regular card since the official roll out of the tap card and i am very annoyed it took this long. There have been many times i wanted to reload my card but keep finding that i still have to go to culver city’s transportation department/city hall to do so.

    I am annoyed that i could not do it at metro rail station or buy day passes on taptogo. I understand things take time but it’s severely lagging on the technological standpoint.

    How will the cash purse function at rail stations if it deduct every time it’s tapped? i hope that is worked out long before the function is available to metro users.

  11. So let me get this straight. Metro is looking at rolling out Visa cards for use in contactless fare payment, but these cards will only allow pre-existing tap products (day/week/month/quarterly passes) but no new declining balance option?

    The potential benefits to customers are limited:
    *) one fewer piece of plastic to lug around (for a small subset of customers who have Visa ATM cards)
    *) as this enables no new fare payment options there are no other benefits. There are already limited-value debit cards for sale, so that aspect of the product is not new.

    The benefits to Visa seem much greater:
    *) Metro, a government agency with some trust from riders, markets a Prepaid Visa Debit card to the unbanked. Visa (and the issuing bank) earn a service fee for each purchase/refill.

    More at

  12. As a daily bike commuter, infrequent transit user, getting a Tap card has had little appeal to me since I usually never want passes, but simply fare for small and infrequent trips. If stored value ever finally comes on-line, maybe I’ll finally get one.

  13. Little trick until Metro implements their cash purse?

    I’ve put cash on my TAP card at a Foothill Transit Store and it works like a cash purse on Foothill Transit busses AND on Metro Rail (I haven’t tested it on other transit yet). The only problem is you have to get to a Foothill Transit Store to do it and there aren’t many. It’s so much more flexible and convenient for a casual rider than having to load day passes.

  14. Now this is a step in the right direction.

    You can’t have a serious transit system without having your fare cards sold at EVERY rail station, so I hope this pilot program moves into full-blown implementation sooner rather than later.

    And stored value TAP cards: nice. As long as it’s bug-free, people will love it. “I can see the promised land . . .” 🙂

  15. •A pilot program is scheduled to begin in December to sell TAP cards at a limited number of ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations.

    why is this just a pilot program? this makes SO MUCH SENSE.