Report to Board of Directors on gate locking process

The Metro staff report posted below explains the process that Metro will take in locking the gates at Metro Rail stations. The report is to the Board of Directors on a receive-and-file basis; no action is required. The Board voted in February to begin the gate-locking process this year.

The biggest change which could happen the soonest: the conversion of paper tickets to paper TAP cards this spring. As for the gate locking, the plan is to begin at the Normandie station on the Metro Purple Line subway and then lock the gates at the remaining Red and Purple Line stations over the rest of 2012.

Here’s the report — it’s only two pages.


33 replies

  1. If you are going to put in turnstiles, then they should be staffed. All of the Red Line stations get enough traffic that someone in a booth, watching out for terrorists and giving tourists directions, would be helpful.

  2. It’s about time! I’ve visited Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, London, Delhi, and Bangkok, they all have fare gates. Sooner or later, LA Metro will have to do so too as it moves to become a transit oriented city. It’s stupid to put faith in the honor system in a city with a population of this size.

    Those that say otherwise and say staffing the gates is too costly, well duh, that’s the cost of doing business. Do you expect our grocery stores to work with no people around and relying on the good faith of people to actually pay for the groceries at Ralphs?

    If there’s no additional funding to pay for additional staffing, find other ways to recuperate that cost. Take for example, Bangkok and Taipei; how do they get the funding to staff people at the stations and maintain those faregates while keeping transit costs so low? High taxes? Nope. Service cuts? Nope. High fares? Nope. Renting retail space at the stations and revenue sharing with retailers such as McDonald’s and Watsons pharmacies that are there at the stations? Ding!

  3. “Paulus, in an LA Times story, it was reported that locking gates at stations increased revenue by 20% at those stations”

    Remember, these were tests conducted with a lot of staff around. That’s what reduced fare evasion, the people, not the gates. When the gates are locked for good, they will be unstaffed. There is not enough money to staff them.

    Considering that fares themselves only provide for 30% of what it costs to operate the typical public transportation system, recovering 20% of that 30% isn’t much worth it at what it costs to install and operate these fare gates.

  4. “They’ve had years to get moving to TAP, but some reason they’ve refused to do so.”

    Metrolink is not as big as Metro. It does not have as much service as Metro. It has at minimum two ticket machines at each station that would need to be upgraded. They feel Positive Train Control is a much better investment.

    “At the same time, Metrolink has raised fares and the expensive monthly Metrolink pass that you get is nothing more than printed on cheap thermal print paper that cost less than a penny to issue.”

    That’s sort of why they issue that ticket and a fare increase was avoided last year.

    “For all the money you and Metrolink commuters have been paying and with all the revenue they’ve been earning from printing those $250 monthly passes onto cheap thermal print paper, don’t you think they should’ve had enough capital to move to TAP by now?”

    The fare only pays for half of what it costs to operate the service, and does not provide for any capital. That must come from local, state and federal sources.

    “So why should Metro be held hostage to fare evaders because the mysterious stubbornness of Metrolink clinging onto ancient paper pass technology?”

    Metro is not held hostage to fare evaders. Riders themselves are paranoid about others not paying their fare despite the fact that they don’t have any evidence. Am I paying the fare? I have rarely ever used a Metro ticket machine. I’ve never “tapped” my ticket in my life. Yet I’ve been in compliance all this time. To you, I would just be another scoundrel that isn’t paying.

  5. @George

    You should submit your complaints to Metrolink, not Metro. They’ve had years to get moving to TAP, but some reason they’ve refused to do so. At the same time, Metrolink has raised fares and the expensive monthly Metrolink pass that you get is nothing more than printed on cheap thermal print paper that cost less than a penny to issue.

    For all the money you and Metrolink commuters have been paying and with all the revenue they’ve been earning from printing those $250 monthly passes onto cheap thermal print paper, don’t you think they should’ve had enough capital to move to TAP by now?

    So why should Metro be held hostage to fare evaders because the mysterious stubbornness of Metrolink clinging onto ancient paper pass technology?

  6. It appears that seniors and disabled who do not have a TAP card won’t be able to purchase a discounted ticket for rail. That would be a problem especially for people coming from outside the region.

  7. I’m a daily commuter into both Los Angeles and Pasadena from Santa Clarita on the Metrolink. It irritates me to no end that come June, I will no longer be able to use my Metrolink Monthly Pass for my connection to the Red, Purple, and Gold Lines if they don’t convert the tickets and passes to TAP (which won’t happen in just 10 weeks). I’m very sure that the thousands of people who connect to the Metrolink at Union Station from Metro Rail, and vice versa, using Metrolink tickets and passes will be just as irritated.

    • Hi George;

      A solution is being worked on to make Metrolink tickets TAP-enabled. Stay tuned please.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. @Dana

    Incorrect. Every single city in the world started off with an honor system when transit ridership was low, but at a certain point they moved to a gate locked system when transit ridership became high enough that fare evasion became problematic.

    New York started off with no gates when they first started out just like LA. It may not seem that way because most people don’t remember the time when they used to run with no gates (early 1900s!), but they all moved to them at one point. Back then they didn’t have machines to do it so they hired station staff to collect tickets as they entered the system.

  9. This article mentions only the Red/Purple lines. What is the impact on the Green/Blue line stations? That does not appear to be addressed here.

    • Hi Charlene;

      The possible installation of gates and locking them on the other rail lines will be determined at a later date.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. If you want to get to USC from Pasadena, it’s only $1.50 – take the Gold Line from Union Station and then take the tram in Patsaouras Plaza from Union Station to either UPC or HSC.

    But I understand what you mean, and I do like the idea of a metro ride being valid for 90 minutes across all rail, or at least charging you a transfer fee within that period. This is also similar to Amsterdam’s electronic card system, where if you make a transfer (Overstaap) within a specified time period, you pay only a minimal transfer fee rather than the initial price.

  11. Will they allow for free transfers now? It’s a scandal that Los Angeles transit riders are asked to pay twice for a trip that requires a connection. Hopefully with everything on TAP, they can make the fare valid for 90 minutes, rather than for one ride. Especially while we’re still waiting for the downtown regional connector, it’s ludicrous to ask someone to pay three times to get from Pasadena to USC, when they’re getting a much slower trip than someone going from Union Station to North Hollywood, and not costing Metro any more.

  12. @Frank M
    Those other cities designed their systems to be locked. As some don’t seem to grasp Metro has said it is impossible to lock the majority of the light rail stations. For those who worry about evasion shouldn’t that give you pause whether this half-baked effort will achieve anything except enrich Cubic, the vendor?

  13. “EZ Transit and Metrolink passes will be TAP-enabled or will no longer be valid…” Which will it be? I use the EZ Transit pass (which doesn’t require that I tap and is valid fare payment, for those of you who think we’re evading fares) because I ride on various carriers. Not all of which are TAP-enabled. How do we get past the gates?

    • They’re working on EZ and Metrolink tickets that will work with TAP. That sentence refers to the fact that other agencies need to cooperate for this to happen.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. Thank you!

    Will plans such as the Regional Connector, Crenshaw Corridor, and Expo Phase II have station designs with fare gates in consideration now? They’d better because it’s non-sense if the soon-to-open Expo Lines weren’t built with fare gates in mind.

    And will there be any discussion about converting existing light rail stations to handle fare gates? I agree that this will have to eventually be done system wide, not just the Red and Purple Lines. Some of the platform only stations will need an upgrade to their designs for this as I rarely see anyone tapping at the stations along the Blue and Gold Lines. There’s just too much fare evasion going on and LASD fare checkers can’t be there all day just doing fare checks and writing up citations.

    No statistics are needed, it’s just common sense that it’s human nature to get the cheapest finger-fiver discount possible (remember free mp3 downloads from Napster?) and reliance on the honor system is just plain stupid. IMO, the naysayers who dislike this idea and propose more studies and statistics are no better than the people at Beverly Hills who want more studies and statistics to drill under their high school; they know it it’s a problem, but they don’t like it, so they want to delay it as much as possible by asking for more taxpayer funded useless studies and stats. Enough.

    As for those naysayers who say this isn’t worth it due to all the added cost, well gee like that problem isn’t faced by Metro alone? How do you think tons of agencies around the world that runs on a fare gate system takes those costs into consideration? It’s time Metro starts learning how other cities run and fund their systems instead of keeping taxpayers to foot the bill for freeloaders.

  15. Maybe I have a higher opinion of people than many of the other posters do but Metro has not, despite numerous opportunities, ever provided convincing evidence that the fare evasion problem is significant enough to justify the massive expense and inconvenience involved. In addition, Metro has never provided accurate figures for the annual personnel costs involved with gating (station personnel and repairs, to name just two, neither of which were need before gates) and these will be substantial. My belief has always been that if (a) the sheriff’s personnel now riding the trains would simply be more proactive about checking tickets, whatever problem exists would be cut dramatically; and (b) the cost for putting more ticket checkers on trains would be far less than what Metro has and will continue to spend on the gating project.

    Moreover, Metro has not adequately worked out how to handle things such as Metrolink/EZ Pass interface or how non-regular users, especially those who start on buses, can easily obtain TAP cards — permanent or temporary — to be able to use the system.

    As has been the case with the TAP program, the gate program has taken far too long to implement and, since many of the light-rail stations weren’t designed for gates, cannot be implemented system wide. If reports are true that Expo Line stations were not designed for gates, then it’s simply another case of bad management, something that continues to affect virtually every aspect of Metro.

  16. I hope the regular EZ Pass is going to be really on the tap card begin June 1, 2012, otherwise the regular EZ Pass holders is going to be forced to buy the fare media from TVM or to give up the Metro Rail Systems since this day. And I hope Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Operator is going to honor the tap card with a monthly sticker of the regular EZ Pass. And I hope all Municipal Bus Lines with the tap card fareboxes are going to reconize the regular EZ Pass loaded on the tap card, especially Culver CityBus.

  17. Paulus, in an LA Times story, it was reported that locking gates at stations increased revenue by 20% at those stations. So fare evasion by only 1% is likely not accurate.

  18. “I ride the Purple line everyday to work (downtown) and too many people take advantage of current system.”

    How did you come to this conclusion? I ask because when I have experienced the fare checks on the subway, in a car full of 30 people there is usually only one or two that does not have their ticket.

    “Too many people” would be half the riders in a single car getting written up for fare evasion.

  19. What’s the fare evasion rate that’s prompted this? Metrolink’s reported a less than 1% fare evasion rate in the past, I can’t imagine it would be terribly much higher for MetroRail.

  20. @Dana

    Gate locking or station staffing is not an issue faced by Metro and it’s not something new that no other city in the world implements. If funding for staff is an issue, ask other cities how they find extra funds to pay for station staffing. Asking Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei on how they manage to do it is a good start. Hint: rent retail space at the stations to earn additional revenue.

  21. I am quite surprised that it took Metro many years to consider gate locking as I feel that the “honor system” for the subway system is easy for dishonest people to exploit. I hope that the gate locking system will be secure and convenient for patrons to use.

  22. Two questions: one, right now there’s absolutely no order with people who are getting off the Red Line and leaving through the turnstiles and those who are entering through the turnstiles to get onto the Red Line. There’s no “Exit only” turnstiles, so you’ve got passengers coming and going, and it’s very disorganized and time-wasting. How is this going to improve with the locked gates?

    Second question: What accommodations have been made for strollers and wheelchairs? Also, the downtown Red Line stations in particular seem to have many professionals at rush hour, with rolling briefcases and bags. Has anyone who works at Metro actually tried going through the locked turnstiles while carrying the normal kind of items that commuters would have with them?

    One comment/observation: I believe many of those individuals other riders think are evading the fare are holders of non-TAP bus passes. My own bus pass was not “tappable” until this month, when the government agency that issues it to me replaced the old card with a new one. There are countless government agencies authorized to give out free bus passes to people in a variety of circumstances, including parents whose children have been placed into foster care. So you really don’t know the circumstances of all those people you think must be evading the fare… However, requiring everyone to “tap” will end the perception of abuse, and will stop those who do openly and brazenly avoid paying their transit fare.

  23. Everyday at the Hollywood/Highland Station I watch confused tourists try to swipe or tap their Paper cards. And I always help and explain to them when I can in passing how the metro fails to lock gates. And every now and then they tell me, how real cities lock their gates, and thats what people are used to.

    There really is no argument to locking a gate vs not locking it. I don’t care if they all get locked, as long as the process of locking them begins. I hate the people that take advantage of this open system and ruin it for me and the rest of the honest people who pay. I want good transit options, and I want them contained, and more importantly I want everyone to pay the required amount.

    Thankfully, they will be locked soon. And solutions for transition are being worked on. Rock on!

  24. I think Metro is going in the right direction in attacking the Red/Purple lines first (which I believe are the most frequently used metro rail lines). Every station will have its special needs. It’s clear Metro has a thought-out plan anticipating change and using the learning process to full effect. I think a lot of this concern about how hard it is to gate certain stations is a little harsh. Many platforms have a limited number of entry points.

    I still don’t understand why people are saying gate-locking is a bad idea. At least you might have the peace of mind that the guy sleeping across the handicap seat bench paid $1.50, just like you did. If station staffing costs is what has you worried, maybe it is only necessary to staff locked stations during the transition period? Theoretically most stations are “staffed” remotely by camera. I don’t see a great need for station staffers if all you intend to do is use Metro Rail – TAP and go is pretty simple.

    The major complaints seem to be coming from paper ticket holders. I’m sure LACMTA will eventually be able to have TVMs that can dispense thick paper RFID-enabled cards for temporary travel (like Amsterdam’s ov-Chipkaart).

  25. Why don’t the new Expo Line stations have turn styles, and why has the blue line not been upgraded entirely. Some people bypass the old TAP readers since they are not very prominent.

  26. Y Fukuzawa, many of the light rail stations would be difficult or impossible to gate due to their design. I openly question the recent gating test as too selective to be of any value for broader conclusions and creating an impression of large revenue evasion when we have heard some folks even with valid TAP cards went to buy tickets when confront by the phalanx of LASD, staff and private contractor staff surrounding the turnstiles during the tests.

    This is a bad idea and will never pencil out. Note the vague comments on station staffing, which Matt Raymond at a Board meeting last year said could cost $20 million a year just by itself. That shoots a huge hole in the promises that this will eventually pay for itself.

  27. Locking the gates just for the Red and Purple Lines is not enough. This has to be implemented system wide across all Metro Rail stations. So many times I’ve heard people boasting that “it’s free to ride the train” on the Blue and Green Line because of the low risk of getting caught.

    To highlight the point that I observed at the LAX/Aviation Station 2 weeks ago, there was a confused tourist was having trouble buying ticket at the TVM. A supposedly “Good Samaritan” came out to help only to say, “Don’t waste your time buying a ticket. You can board for free because they don’t check it.”

    I was shocked at this dishonesty and showed the confused tourist how to buy the ticket. Then the supposedly Good Samaritan had the audacity to finish off with “you’re just wasting your money.”

    This is why the honor system doesn’t work. Lock all of the gates across the entire system. It’s a waste of taxes to keep subsidizing this for the sake of freeloaders. Twenty-two years of fare evasion and lost revenue, imagine where that money could’ve been spent today?

  28. Do they have an actual solution for their Metrolink/EZ Pass customers, or are they going to just huff out an ultimatum?

  29. Excellent. I ride the Purple line everyday to work (downtown) and too many people take advantage of current system. I would like to see the increase in ticket/fare transactions after the turnstiles are locked.