As the turnstiles turn …

Turnstile locking demonstration day at Wilshire/Normandie Station.

Yesterday’s turnstile-locking exercise at the Wilshire/Normandie Purple Line Station was what you’d call uneventful. And that was a good thing. Of course, this first locking demonstration was purposely scheduled for a less traveled time of day in a less traveled station so that fewer customers would be impacted.

But the point was important: to continue moving the TAP (Transit Access Pass) program forward by, among other things, collecting info to help determine how many people are traveling on paper tickets and passes (and what kinds) and, thus, how best to get everyone moving around on TAP cards.

Passengers navigate locked turnstiles, assisted by Metro employees.

Travelers didn’t seem bothered by the closed gates. But there were numerous signs indicating what was going on and Metro personnel offering directions and instructions.

Customers with TAP cards tapped on the gate target and walked through as usual. Others were “tapped through” or directed to station vending machines to be assisted with loading new TAP cards, which were given to customers for this demonstration. A few pressed buttons later and they were on their way through the turnstiles. No one seemed particularly confused or dismayed. And the two or three short backups that did occur around the end of lunch time cleared within a minute or two.

The turnstile locking demo will repeat from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. next Wednesday (10/5) on the Red Line at Vermont/Beverly Station, as well as again at Wilshire/Normandie on the Purple Line. The following Wednesday (10/12) turnstiles will be closed at Wilshire/Normandie and Vermont/Beverly plus the Red Line at Hollywood/Western. On Wednesday (10/19), turnstiles will be closed at Wilshire/Normandie, Vermont/Beverly and Hollywood/Western plus the Purple Line at Wilshire/Western.

33 replies

  1. At least the HOV lanes (soon to become just Toll Lanes countywide if you read the tealeaves in the most recent California MUTCD), can be reconfigured into Bus-/Van-/and/or/Taxi-only lanes someday.

  2. @Mospeada

    I’m in agreement that those are great examples of wasteful spending of taxpayer money. LA doesn’t need anymore freeway expansions. Those projects should be scrapped and funding for those should be redirected back into public transit.

  3. “1. Stop wasting taxes on things like $200,000 grants for a bicycle event or $300,000 to change a sign at a station. There’s a lot of unnecessary spending of taxpayer money that needs to be accounted for.”

    Or how about not wasting tax money on

    High Desert Corridor (environmental) (33 MILLION)
    Interstate 5 Capacity Enhancement from I-605 to Orange County Line (1,240 MILLION)
    I-5 Capacity Enhancement from SR-134 to SR-170(610 MILLION)
    State Route 138 Capacity Enhancements (270 MILLION)
    Interstate 710 North Gap Closure (tunnel) (3,730 MILLION)

    None of these earn ANY REVENUE for metro or the city and over the past decade carpooling has DROPPED so any funds used to expand the HOV system is a joke, yet people still complain that $200,000 dollars are being spent on a bike event or to rename a station. Oh the Audacity!

  4. 1) The Kolender lawsuit mentioned seems to apply primarily to a type of racial profiling, which I oppose. I do not believe officers should stop people under such vague circumstances.
    However, I do not see how that would prevent a law enforcement officer from doing his duty if somebody has already violated the law/ violated MTA rules.

    2) No law is 100 percent enforceable. People run red lights. People jaywalk. People drive recklessly. That does not mean that the law is wrong, or that we should not attempt to enforce them.

    3) If there is a safety problem or a security problem on Metro Rail, we should not hesitate to fix it. How much did those bumpers on the Blue Line platforms cost? How much do quad gates cost? How much do all of the safety signs and fences cost? The whole entire Farmdale station is there because of safety concerns.
    One way to pay for these things would be to reduce bus service. Certainly every time that a new rail line gets built, bus service should be re-evaluated. Not every bus route in every neighborhood deserves to be saved.

    There are other ways. Fare increases. Or switch to distance-based fares, although I would only do that after bringing TAP up to full speed. More ads. Sell retail space at stations.

    Find out what Tokyo does and do that, because they clearly have everything we don’t, and buses too.

    Congestion pricing, gas taxes, sales taxes will take time to implement but are also possible.

    But cutting service, while easy, is not the only solution.

  5. “staffing each station will cost $20 million annually; where is that money coming from if not from service reductions?”

    1. Stop wasting taxes on things like $200,000 grants for a bicycle event or $300,000 to change a sign at a station. There’s a lot of unnecessary spending of taxpayer money that needs to be accounted for.

    2. Become fiscally responsible and stop depending on taxpayers all the time. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out flat rate fares can continue forever with an ever expanding transit system like Metro. What Metro has been silent on this is that they have not provided any single solution to a problem that will eventually surface. How does Metro intend to tackle this matter? As a taxpayer, I want to know what their plans are. Higher taxes? Higher fares?

    3. Make solid investments that actually earn revenue (distance fares, convert free park-and-ride lots to pay-per-parking, new revenue streams from renting out empty spaces at the stations to retailers and merchants)

    4. Spend money wisely on things that will save more down the road (converting station lighting to LEDs to save up on electricity costs). Converting all the station lightings to LEDs would cut down electricity costs dramatically which would save MILLIONs every year. The millions that are saved can then be put to better use elsewhere.

  6. @James:

    California is not a “Stop and Identify” state:

    The installed turnstiles can easily be jumped, so assuming they will keep out fare-evaders is folly, but it allows the argument that “I have passed the turnstile, therefore I must have paid the fare, so you (LEO) have no right to hassle or detain me”, despite the “false sense of security” I mention above

    And again, staffing each station will cost $20 million annually; where is that money coming from if not from service reductions? I thought LA Metro was primarily in the business of moving people, or is it something else?

    There is only one rail transit agency in North America that operates with unstaffed and gated stations: PATCO’s Speedline in Philadelphia/New Jersey which has done so since day one. Read about their fare-collection system here:
    Note that they have had to install “Add-Fare” machines as they migrated to an RFID card; unless LA Metro stays with flat fares (Santa Monica or Long Beach to Montclair for $1.50?) then Add-fare machines will have to be installed at all turnstiled stations.

    (It should also be pointed out that there are a more than a few bus transit agencies in the USA that do not bother collecting fares because the cost of installing, maintaining and emptying fareboxes is not much less than the total fares that would be collected)

  7. Where have I said I do not want distance-based fares? I am well aware that the LA Metro flat-rate fare has to go away soon, especially once LA Metrorail crosses into another county.

    Using and RFID card with Tap-in/Tap-out or Tap-in with a declared zone total can be implemented without any turnstiles or faregates.

    You can also offer SMS tickets (ticketing via text messaging with ticket price deducted from phone account) as shown in this video:

    (The phone becomes the ticket, no NFC needed)

    And as for the “Alpha” city designation, I note with interest that Frankfurt, Munich, Dallas, Vienna and Zurich are on the list, and somehow their systems function with the honor system.

    Amsterdam only just installed gates in conjunction with a move to a national RFID card (OV-Chippenkaart, the one that has been hacked repeatedly), and the gates have proven to be a headache there too and are often left open.

  8. “Fare checkers can do all the helpful things you cite, but without the honor system, they cannot, under our constitutional protections, as easily stop and question problem passengers about fare media, which then can lead to warrant checks etc., as they can under the current proof-of-payment system”

    I am curious to know under what circumstances can a duly-charged officer of the law, such as a Sheriff’s deputy placed into “fare-checking” duty, NOT stop a passenger who is causing a problem.

    Alternatively, is a police officer going to know as much about the Metro Rail system as a station attendant? Are people going to be as confident about approaching a armed officer of the law with a “stupid question” as they would somebody clearly marked as an MTA employee?

    With locked gates, we can separate out the duties of fare collection/ Metro customer service/ ombudsman and the duties of transit police/ security officer.

  9. The more gas prices rise and more middle class starts taking public transit, that also mean a more vocal public opinion regarding the state of public transit.

    The middle class make up the largest demographic here in LA and they are the largest of taxpayers in this country.

    Majority of the middle class are likely to have visited places like London, Tokyo, and other cities across the world where they get public transit right.

    It doesn’t sound at all strange how there are increasing number of middle class people on this board who are making comparisons to all the things wrong with LA Metro to all the things right in places like London and Tokyo. They’ve seen it, ridden it, and experienced it first hand. They are able to rationalize the key differences between public transit in LA and public transit in cities where they “get it” right.

    LA Metro should start heeding to voices and concerns of the largest taxpayer group; the middle class. We’ve certainly had enough of wasteful spending of taxes. They need to start looking at alternative revenue sources than come back crying for more tax payer support. We aren’t made out of money you know!

  10. LA is an alpha class world city up there with Tokyo, London, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.

    Berlin is at best a beta class world cities which are on a different class on its own. Trying to imitate public transit with cities who are classified as a lower world class city is plain stupid.

    LA is too big to run on a open honor system with flat rate fares. We cannot sustain a system whose fare models can be $1.50 for two blocks or the same $1.50 from Ontario all the way to Santa Monica. Without any changes, we’ll eventually have to deal with higher fares or higher taxes which will cause more headaches to fix down the road.

    Locking the turnstiles and moving to a distance fare system for both buses and rail now will end up saving money than trying to implement it once we have a full system in place. We need this now than later.

    You as a transit rider yourself need to start taking responsibility. You need to realize that you cannot keep on wanting something without giving up something. If you’re fine with an eventual fare increase of paying $5.00 per ride for two blocks (but at least it’s still the same price if you want to go from LB to Downtown LA) or dealing with 20% sales tax, that’s fine.

    But don’t expect everyone shares the same sentiment as yours just because of your selfish reasons of wanting cheaper flat rate fares because it’s easier and letting taxpayers pay for it. As shown here, there are increasing number of transit riders these days who don’t share your sentiment and are stating that Metro needs to fix the fare system now. We all have to make sacrifices.

    Cutting back bus services temporarily to fund things like adding fare gates, add value machines, fixing TAP, locking the turnstiles, I’m all for it. It’s only a temporary cutback. But the more we push aside fixing the fare system, it’s going to cost us later down the road. And so long as we stick to this stupid flat rate nonsense, it’s going to cause more major problems.

  11. @All:

    Some good resources on this debate:

    Fare collection around the world:
    (Yes, I know this is slightly wrong about SF Muni)

    Paper arguing against installation of faregates in Vancouver, BC:

    Remember there are two issues here. TAP itself as a RFID card…

    …and then the installation of TAP-card-only turnstiles/faregates with budget for individual station staffing.

  12. @James:

    I am not trying to hold back the tide, I am trying to demonstrate that there are other paths to take, the same paths taken by the cities I cited above, all of whom have wonderful transit (and also bicycle) networks.

    Fare checkers can do all the helpful things you cite, but without the honor system, they cannot, under our constitutional protections, as easily stop and question problem passengers about fare media, which then can lead to warrant checks etc., as they can under the current proof-of-payment system

    Lock the turnstiles and the excuse becomes “but I tapped at the turnstile, and then tossed the ticket, why would I keep the ticket after that?” (Don’t believe me? Look at the ground/wastebasket near the turnstiles the next time you go to an amusement park or sporting/entertainment event. This is the common practice in the USA, no?)

    “Tokyo has fare gates, add-fare machines, station attendants/ station agents…” you say, but at this point, L.A. Metro only has the faregates/turnstiles (which I believe are actually on lease) and does not have the budget to add the add-fare machines or the station employees.

    Again I ask, how many more bus routes are we going to slash to pay for the extra Add-Fare machines (to be installed on the “paid” side of the turnstiles), plus extra staff, so this unnecessary (and possibly ineffective) fare collection system can be implemented for the benefit of Yvonne Burke’s unsupported conclusions from 5 years ago?

  13. @Frank:

    Berlin, Copenhagen, Olso, Helsinki, Vienna, Hamburg, Zurich, Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and more: no gates, no turnstiles.

    L.A. is never going to be a Tokyo or London, but it might be a Berlin or Munich if you are familiar with urban form.

    As for my staffing *per station* I figured three 8-hour shifts per day with some overlap for lunches, or 3 Full Time workers That takes care of 5 days per week, then you need coverage for the two other days of the week plus any vactions or Sick Days is about 1.5 Full Time workers so 4.5 Full Time Equivalents altogether. At stations with two entrances/exits (banks of turnstiles) like Pershing Square, you’ll need staffing at both banks as it is too far from one side to the other in case of any emergencies and because the fare collection mezzanines are not connected.

  14. You also cannot become like Tokyo or London without higher gas taxes, tolls on highways, ,higher development zone laws around transit stations, and less to no free parking.

    Can we just stop with this one-size fits all approach and realize that all these ideas need to incorporate in order for Metro and the city to truly become transit orientated

    This my way or the highway approach is getting really old. No pun intended.

  15. @Erik G

    How do you get the figure of 4.5 people per turnstile? Tokyo doesn’t suffer from such inefficiencies.

    Look, LA Metro wants to become like a transit oriented city like Tokyo and London right? Then if they want to shoot for that goal, why continue to waste taxes trying to be different? What you’re saying is a contradiction. You want LA Metro to become like Tokyo and London? Then there needs to be changes that you all need to suck up as a transit rider yourself.

    Distance fares.

    Increased retailers and merchant activity in the stations.

    TAP that works exactly like Suica/PASMO and Oyster.

    Fare gates.

    You can’t become like Tokyo and London without all these changes. If you’re really committed to LA becoming a transit oriented city, you need to accept that a 91:9 tax to fare box recovery ratio cannot be done forever. It needs to start moving toward a 50:50 tax to fare box ratio with distance fares, Metro to start looking at other alternatives to increase revenue like charging for parking fees at free park and ride lots, renting empty space to retailers and merchants, and making things more efficient by fixing TAP and automating fare gates.

    All these things are not new. They have been in place for decades in many cities across the world. Why should we continue to waste taxes and put more burden to Angelinos when the answers are already given?

    Such statements like yours who want to maintain the status quo by clinging onto the idea that “keep low flat rate so I benefit but tax everyone else” understandbly could be construed as being a socialist by others.

  16. @Robert:
    If the past is any guideline, one-time cash users will have their money confiscated, and will be told that they can’t ride the train.

    Y’all are right that other cities, like London and SF, have bleepie cards and fare gates. The difference is, THEIR bleepie cards and fare gates actually work.

    Last week, I witnessed a passenger put his $5 into the farebox and ask for a day pass on his TAP card. The TAP was broken, so I got to witness the driver scribble an ad-hoc paper day pass on the back of a Muni transfer *while driving*.

  17. Erik G. must be related to King Canute, trying to hold back the tide.

    Los Angeles’ Metro Rail system is getting larger, and thank goodness for that.

    However, a larger system comes with changes. That means you either hire lots and lots of fare checkers or you install gates and free up former fare checkers to do other jobs.

    Instead of “employing locals to check fare media”, how about employing locals to answer questions, look out for suspicious activity, report problems, etc.? In this economy, is creating new jobs such a bad thing? Is improving customer service a bad thing?

    Tokyo has fare gates, add-fare machines, station attendants/ station agents, distance-based fares, retail in the stations and Suica (more awesome than TAP, but still the same technology); they are not suffering from it.

  18. @James: The numbers are from Matt Raymond.

    @Frank: Wages will also increase as fares go up with inflation.

    I figure at least 4.5 full-time staff members per station ENTRANCE to “man” the turnstiles during opening hours. So, for example, Pershing Square will need 9.0 full-time positions.

    @The Dude: Distance fares can be charged using a check-in/check-out system.

    @Frank: In fact, if you are going to “enforce” these distance-based fares with turnstiles, you will need to also purchase a whole set of “Add-Fare” machines (which CUBIC will happily provide) for each of the “gated” stations.

    The CUBIC pylons are much much cheaper than CUBIC’s turnstiles. No moving parts in the pylons too.

    Why are we sending all this cash to San Diego again when it could be spent here employing locals to check fare media of all types?

  19. “So…$46M for the turnstiles plus $20M per year for staffing all to avoid a *estimated* $6M in fare evasion?”

    And fare evasion with the gates would not be zero. You’d still need to check fares on the light rail stations with no gates.

    It’s a bad, bad program.

  20. I wish I had the free time to research and argue out that $20 million, because I know how easy it is for people to inflate figures to include all sorts of superfluous costs.

    However, none of that matters.

    Plenty of transit systems have station attendants/ station agents whose jobs go far beyond catching crooks.

    I would fully expect to see people helping explain things to newcomers, answering questions, phoning in work orders if anything goes wrong and yes, even being the first line of defense for those suspicious packages left behind, potential troublemakers, etc.

    Nobody questions the funds that the MTA spends on transit police/ sheriffs.

    With turnstiles/ fare gates handling fare payment and station agents keeping an eye on stations, that takes some of the pressure off of transit security.

  21. “So…$46M for the turnstiles plus $20M per year for staffing all to avoid a *estimated* $6M in fare evasion?”

    That is 6M a year. The fare gates are an investment that will eventually pay off. Lets face it most transit systems use them. They will provide better tracking, better security and give the ability to TAP IN/OUT for distance based fares if they choose to do so.

  22. @Erik G.

    The estimated “$6 million in fare evasion” is relative to CURRENT pricing and relative to CURRENT transit ridership numbers.

    Eventually ridership numbers are going to go up and fares have to be raised one way or the other.

    Just because it doesn’t make any sense now doesn’t mean it can be put on the shelf and collect dust so that it can come back later at more tax waste down the road. That’s the underlying problem with Metro; they keep pushing stuff off and making it the future Angelino’s problem without consideration of the future.

    What will fare evasion be like once we have a full system in place and more people are taking public transit? When fares have to raised to $3.00 per ride? If not an increase in flat rate, how will we then enforce distance fares?

    Besides, $20M per year can be funded easily if Metro could stop wasting people’s taxes and move to a more revenue earning system like charging money for those free park-and-ride lots, removing bureaucratic red tape to let retailers into the stations, or moving towards a more logical distance fare system.

  23. For those of you advocating fulltime staffing of the stations with turnstiles:

    “Chief Communications Officer Matt Raymond, around whose neck the albatross of TAP and fare gates currently hangs, says it would cost $20 million a year to have station agents during all hours of Metro Rail operation, at all gated locations.”

    So…$46M for the turnstiles plus $20M per year for staffing all to avoid a *estimated* $6M in fare evasion?

  24. @Redebbm

    From the LA Daily News:

    The authors of a 2009 KPMG audit of the TAP system wrote the bus operators are concerned about the “accuracy of the fare revenue distribution.”

    Currently, six of the county’s 16 municipal bus operators require customers to use TAP cards and another four are in the process of converting to the TAP system. Two bus operators, Long Beach Transit and Torrance, have decided not to use TAP.

    “When multiple fare structures are combined, the regional system becomes daunting and somewhat unmanageable,” Raymond wrote in a Feb. 18 report.

    As a result, he said, some bus operators are taking a “wait and see approach.”

    The system has also seen what Raymond described as “TAP discontent” – a wave of complaints, including card malfunctions and customers who purportedly lost money on their cards.

  25. Metro is in the process of acquiring paper media that works with the tap system.

    One would have preferred that they had acquired and installed said media when the turnstiles where being installed in the first place.

    The implementation of the paper tap tickets has been constantly pushed back most likely due metro-muni transfer issue. Metro would like to give the Muni’s paper tap cards with loaded transfers to work as the new transfers media but the muni operators would prefer to not issue any extra media so as not to confuse customers.

    EZ pass and Metrolink are the lesser problems. EZ pass is possibly being placed on regular TAP with a sticker for use on operators that have not installed the system yet. Metrolink riders on the other hand may get some and TAP product that comes with Metrolink Monthly and Weekly passes.

  26. How will one time only cash passengers be handled—out of towners, a guest accompanying a tap card holder?

  27. How many passengers passed through Wilshire/Normandie during the test?

    Can we see a picture of what the ADA gates look like when they are closed?

  28. OR

    Metro, back in 2009, could have bought turnstiles that actually accept both TAP and paper tickets, instead of buying useless ones that free spin, confuse people, and subject us to pointless tests. All Metro needed to do was get the locking, paper accepting passes, and just put up signs, in both english and spanish, stating “In order to access the station, please insert your one way pass, EZ pass into the machine, or tap your tap card.

  29. Copy BART/MUNI, they have they same kind of set-up (including the TAP only gates in the stations) except Caltrain has moved their tickets to Clipper Card. Just “Tapify” the Ez-transit pass and have them be dispensed at the machines.

    For Metrolink: if they still won’t upgrade, just have metro link pass codes correspond to the correct Tap pass, then have people put these codes online/or in station in order to activate the cards.

    I really can’t think of anything better, hopefully Metro/Metrolink has something better in mind for the seamless transfers to continue.

  30. An uneventful turnstile test is always a good sign.

    Of course, Metro still needs to magnetize/ digitize those pesky paper tickets. And Metrolink needs to get onboard TAP.

    The EZ Pass ought to be TAP-ified as well.

    And I do think station attendants are needed, to help answer questions and generally help with customer service.

  31. I emailed taptogo customer service since I want to know what happens to those of us who use EZ passes which cannot be tapped. I asked the same question when the turnstiles were installed and have yet to get an answer as to your intentions. Are you phasing out the EZ passes? What is the solution for those of us who use it?