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.

60 replies

  1. Mark,

    Your concerns have and time again, been debunked with the usual “go ask ______ on how they figure that out decades ago.”

  2. Hey, why don’t you guys allow someone to load a day pass onto their TAP card online? I see 30 and 7 day passes.

    • I believe it’s because it’s not an immediate upload. If someone bought a day pass online and tried to use the same day, it likely would not work on buses, which don’t get TAP updates until they’re back in the maintenance facility.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. the problem lies with person with disabiltes who cant tap like what if got
    no mobilty to do so -how can they tap their card

  4. Yeah they are trying to integrate the fare systems of all the 16 transit agency of la county to tap according to the local news.

  5. John M. :

    “As for the passengers at 7th/Metro, it seems odd to me that all those generally well-suited people with briefcases would be holders of “paper day passes,” or “transferring.” One man’s thought…”

    A monthly pass on Metrolink, which can cost up to $426 per month, is on a piece of paper. Those well-suited people with briefcases have paid their fare. I know because I have in the past been the proud holder of a Metrolink monthly pass and a casual observer would think that I was avoiding the fare. I certainly was not.

  6. For what it’s worth, I’m glad that Metro is doing this.

    Transitions are never easy — I should know, my office is currently undergoing a major technology change — but in the long run, it will be for the better.

    I do wish that Metro had gone with gates instead of turnstiles, or even installed gates way back when the Red Line first opened in the 1990s.

    But I do think locking tells Metrolink, Santa Monica, Long Beach, etc. that Metro is serious about TAP and they need to be as well. LADOT will be joining TAP soon.

    There are solutions. RFID paper tickets (yes, they do exist). Station attendants. I’ll even throw in the “Go Ask Tokyo” cliche. Is it wrong to learn from others?

    As for tourists? Put signs up at LAX and Union Station. Travel organizations already include Metro maps in their guides, how hard would it be to include TAP info?

  7. How will this affect those of us who use the EZ Transit Pass instead of just the TAP?

    • Hi Greg;

      This is from the staff report:

      EZ Pass
      EZ Transit Passes will be converted to reloadable TAP cards with monthly validation stickers for non-TAP agencies so that fare inspectorsfor these agencies can conduct a visual inspection for validity.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. There are two TAP machines on the Blue Line/Red Line platform, next to the stair railing but within the gated area, which are designed for transfer passengers. Now stand there for 10 minutes and count the number of people that actually use them. Everyone who is transferring with a TAP card is supposed to use them.

    Fare enforcement has dropped from infrequent to almost zero after gates were installed. Even when the entire subway is gated, anyone who rides into Metro Center through the Blue or Expo Lines have free reign through the system, probably more so since the fare enforcement would be deployed at the gates to solve those problems, rather than checking people leaving the system.

  9. This tapping for changing lines is completely ridiculous. If you want to charge for how far someone has ridden on the line, have them tap in when they enter and then tap out when they leave. Calculate the line changes they’ve made. Simple.

    But more to the point, charging for changing lines is the silliest idea I’ve heard in a long time. The point of a public transportation system is that it gets you where you need to go — it’s a network, not a bunch of small operations that operate in isolation. If you need to charge for distance traveled that makes sense (and can be calculated now that you’re changing to a digital system), but charging for an arbitrary use of a particular line is flawed.

    Even then, if you’re going to charge for it, let the machine do the math, because people are not going to go out of their way to pay more. /end soapbox rant

  10. No more Day Passes? What an incredibly poorly thought out and unnecessary move. Does MTA really think it will be cost effective to give out TAP cards to tourists on short visits, or tens of thousands of other occasional Metro Rail system users? Is the MTA really telling tourists and hundreds of thousands of annual passengers who use the Day Pass to stop using the system?

    Fact: It’s is not an honor system. I’ve been inspected at least a hundrded times over the last few years. The scientifically validated evasion rate is extremely low, and the current fare inspection system makes the metro trains a lot safer to ride.

    Kenny Hahn, who introduced barrier free Light Rail ticketing to LA, which is used around the world successfully, must be rolling over in his grave, at this incredibly poorly thought out move.

    • Hi Bob;

      The decision on the cost of the day pass has yet to be made. The $5 day pass started last summer as a one-year demo. The Board may decide to keep it or go back to $6.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. Allon, I must admit you have stumped me—though I assume you are some sort of Metrolink passenger. Yet, I do appreciate a good riddle. Which brings me to Erik, Gary and, especially, Katie: If all of us [apparently bright] folks cannot entirely understand this subject, who can?

    As for the passengers at 7th/Metro, it seems odd to me that all those generally well-suited people with briefcases would be holders of “paper day passes,” or “transferring.” One man’s thought…

    As for asking these people’s status, I indeed tried a few times… and was requested to perform deeds with which I disagree. I was not looking for a fight.

    Katie is correct. Metro really needs to clarify and, ultimately, FIX this!

  12. This is Mike Duncan from Buena Park.

    How does this new policy affect users of Metrolink who currently get to use their individual Metrolink ticket as an EZ Transit Pass for a day? Once this policy is in effect I probably won’t be coming to L.A. to spend money from Orange County anymore because it will just be too expensive (it would jump from $14 (B.P. to Union Station (round trip)) to $19 with the addition of a TAP card day pass. That’s a deal breaker)! $20?! How’s that a deal for me?! I may as well drive again.

    I would offer as a possibility, since I already have a TAP card, the following compromise: Could staff at the Metrolink desk at Union Station program my TAP card (free of charge) for the day if I show up at the window with a valid Metrolink ticket? This way the EZ Transit Pass program for Metrolink riders could continue. Otherwise, I’ll have to stop using Metrolink.

    Please remember, Metrolink riders are “stuck at Union Station” without some way to get around L.A. without having to pay again for public transit. They are already making large convenience sacrifices leaving their cars at home and taking Metrolink into L.A. If you make them pay again for public transit, they may as well just drive into L.A. again. Metrolink ridership might drop because of this. I’m just saying…

    Thank you, Mike Duncan

    • Hi Mike;

      Metro has been working to get Metrolink tickets on TAP. Rest assured, Metrolink customers will not be locked out of the Metro system. For now, here’s what Metro staff is saying about the issue:

      Staff is working with Metrolink to pursue a TAP alternative for Metrolink customers utilizing smart card technology and existing ticket machines that enable Metrolink riders to enter through fare gates. Aligning implementation schedules is critical to the success of the transition.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  13. For the first couple weeks of gate locking, Metro should have staff members in the stations handing out free TAP cards like candy. The transition should be made as painless as possible. In Boston (where there’s an actual human working in every station), you just ask the attendant, and you get your Charlie Card for free. It makes things so easy, especially for tourists.

  14. Metrolink just tweeted this:

    Metrolink ‏@Metrolink
    Notice:LA Union Station Ticket machines at the East Portal are not operational at this time-Please use West Portal machines or Ticket Window

    Good thing Metrolink has a staffed ticket booth at Union Station to assist in dealing with this!

  15. Whoa! This whole discussion of what requires a transfer and what doesn’t is very confusing and interesting! I think it deserves it’s own article on The Source, and perhaps an updated piece of language on the Fares page on Metro’s site. As it is, when I transfer from Red to Expo at 7th Street, I have to run around looking for a place to tap and run the risk of missing my train, so I’d be very interested to know when a transfer is and is not required.

    • Hi Katie;

      I agree. I’m trying to get all the correct information for a future post. Not sure if I can get it done today, but soon.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  16. Here’s a riddle for John M. and others with similar claims:

    I enter the Purple Line at Union Station
    I go straight to the gates
    I pass through without validating
    The gate lights flash red
    I go down to the subway
    …and yet I am doing everything legally and am not a scofflaw or a fare-beater

    What am I?
    (Hint #1: thousands of others each day are the same as me.)
    (Hint #2: anagram of “kilometren spangarse”)

  17. John M.: If the person was travelling with the kinds of fare media I described above, they were perfectly legal and were not avoid paying their fare. That does not seem to be understood by all the casual observers of the system who are not regular Metro riders, who then claim that they have seen massive fare-evasion.


    And it is Metro’s own failure to understand this reality that will lead to one of its worst public-relations disasters as the turnstile-locking plan is implemented. The highlight will be the day when the Union Station turnstiles are locked, a station that has never been tested either outside of rush hour like all the other tested stations were and certainly not during rush hour as none of the tested stations were. You would think that even though 98% of Metro staff and 100% of the Metro Board of Directors do not commute on Metro, they might have once or twice sauntered down to see the mass volume of people going through that station’s two portals during the peak.

    Finally Metro is now proposing to break state law by not selling discounted fares to Seniors and the Disabled, which risks having the state revoke $300 million per year.

    All this to save a Phantom “$2 million” per year in alleged, but never proven, fare evasion.

  18. Good news John M! You wouldn’t see any evidence of fare payment if they were traveling on a:
    1) Day pass they’d already purchased
    2) Monthly EZ Transit Pass
    3) Metrolink Ticket
    4) Muni Transfer

    Only if they were purchasing a new Metro ticket would you see them go to the machine, but a good chunk of people entering from Figueroa at that station are transferring to or from Metrolink or another agency. Of course lots of people aren’t “paying” at the station, they already paid elsewhere, often only once a month. If everyone had to pay at a TVM each time they entered a station we’d have a horribly inefficient system.

    If you did in fact see 75% of people not TAPing, which sounds plausible for 7th/Metro, and if you accept that the vast majority of those riders hold valid paper tickets, then that goes completely against the ridiculously low figures Metro has been trying to use to convince us locking the gates won’t have much effect, claiming there aren’t that many people who currently use paper tickets from other agencies.

    I still maintain if they had purchased proper fare gates (ones that accepted paper tickets too, ones that weren’t awkward narrow turnstiles, etc.) most of this mess wouldn’t be happening right now. Such a shame.

  19. To add one last comment… I don’t think it is the tourists that are the problem. They can be forgiven for misunderstanding this dismal system. The problem is the scofflaws that “work the system” day after day after day. And I stand by my 75% estimate. When I personally confronted a law enforcement officer on the subject, she said that she’d “given her share of tickets,” but she was “off duty now, and didn’t care.”

  20. Erik G: Hello Erik. Re the 75%: All the people I observed this one day came down the escalator from Figueroa St., went straight to the gates, passed through (as the gate light flashed red), and went either down to the subway or onward to the light rail. I could observe no evidence of fare payment…

  21. I walk to the end of the platform when I transfer between the Expo and Blue lines, but as someone that has ridden mass transit around the US and the world, I can’t recall ever doing something like that anywhere else. You get off the train and are on the platform that you need and are expected to leave the restricted part of the platform, TAP, and then return. Like I said, I do it, but there are quite a few people that transfer and I’ve never seen anyone else TAP when transferring between blue/expo.

    I know that you’re checking, but if tapping is required for blue/expo, then there is no answer regarding a purple/red transfer that wouldn’t be ridiculous. If we’re supposed to go back to the mezzanine, that’s completely crazy. But if we don’t have to TAP between the red/purple lines then why in the world are we expected to do so on the blue/expo lines? And what about people that accidentally board an Expo train and have to double back to the blue line from Jefferson? Is that supposed to be three trips?!?

  22. Steve,

    They share platforms, but a trip from Wilshire/Western to, for example, North Hollywood via Wilshire/Vermont involves only one shared station.

    Would that mean I could go from Culver City (when it opens) to Long Beach if I change at Pico/Chick Hearn?

  23. John M.:

    Thanks for your observations. Did you stop and ask any of these 75% if they were traveling on paper Day Passes (they still exist), EZ passes, Metrolink tickets/passes or on paper transfers from the Munis who refuse to switch to TAP because Metro still can’t figure out how to allocate the collected money to the rightful recipients?

  24. With all the confusions, again, Metro, being at its current layout, is perfect for implementing “window of riding” method …… Once you “TAP-in”, you have, for example, 3 hours to complete the trip within the entire Metro Rail system no matter which station on which Line your origin or your destination is, and so you only pay the base fare once and eliminate the tapping between lines. A fare inspector who checks your TAP card just needs to verify the moment of inspection is no more than 3 hours from the time you have tapped your TAP.

  25. disregard my comment about the EZ Pass. I have read the following:

    EZ Transit Passes will be converted to reloadable TAP cards with monthly validation
    stickers for non-TAP agencies so that fare inspectors for these agencies can conduct a
    visual inspection for validity.

  26. Metro needs to do a LOT more about informing customers of the ticketing process. I have seen many tourists at the Hollywood/Highland station try to TAP their paper tickets. How much does Metro estimate it loses from fare evasion?

  27. What is going to happen with the people (like me) who purchase the EZ Pass, are they also going to convert them to TAP?

  28. Agreed with the others. Gates that could read paper tickets would have solved all of these issues.

  29. @IT Guy. Agreed on turnstile size. Not only slower, but chubby folks barely (or don’t) fit. This is why bureaucrats need to talk with real, on the ground folk before making such decisions. Seriously.

  30. Steve:

    You didn’t answer ALL of transit rider’s question:

    See: Same goes for EXPO to Blue at Pico; do I walk to the end of either platform if I make a transfer there. Sounds like a waste. And what about the the stations that dont have turnstyles, like EXPO and Blue?

    • Ken:

      I’d like to check tomorrow before answering. I believe a Blue to Expo transfer or vice versa requires a transfer. Even stations without turnstiles still have TAP readers.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  31. Steve:

    I didn’t know that the Red and Purple Lines are treated as the same line and that no transfer is required. Thank you for clarifying that. But do you know why the same principle doesn’t apply to all rail lines? I don’t know of any other urban rail system in the world where you need to pay again when you switch lines; if nothing else, it is inconvenient. Plus there is the issue of cost. The other day I went from Southwest Museum to Civic Center and I paid $3.00; if I had gone from Union Station to North Hollywood or Wilshire/Western — a longer distance — it would have been only $1.50. I imagine it would be a huge investment to switch to Farecards like in Washington, D.C., or to a multi-zone system like in London, but having to pay extra money just because of your route is not covered by one line feels like an arbitrary punishment and — not to get melodramatic here — a violation of the social contract.


    • Robert and Erik:

      Before I open my piehole further on the Red and Purple Line transfer issue, let me check tomorrow to make sure I’m right. Erik — I couldn’t find anything on about that particular transfer. My hunch is that because they share several stations and station platforms, the transfer is not required. But I’m not 100 percent on that. Thanks for your patience.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  32. Steve, Carter or anyone at The Source:

    Will Culver City Hall which sells METRO EZ Passes now and TAP cards for those who purchase them for CC Bus, sell the TAP cards with the multi-agency identification sticker as mentioned by others posting?

  33. “Transferring between the Red and Purple Line subway does not require a transfer — they’re treated as the same line.”

    Steve, where is that specifically spelled out in the fare policy?

    Why is that not posted on signs all over both lines?

    How come this is the first time many of us have ever heard this stated by an official from LACMTA?

  34. So when i transfer from Purple to Red, do i go all the way upstairs to TAP? Same goes for EXPO to Blue at Pico; do I walk to the end of eithe platform if I make a transfer there. Sounds like a waste. And what about the the stations that dont have turnstyles, like EXPO and Blue?

    • Transit rider:

      Transferring between the Red and Purple Line subway does not require a transfer — they’re treated as the same line.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  35. To Elson Trinidad: Good for you. As a native of both New York and Chicago, I’d suggest thinking ahead. The world, let alone the transit system, cannot be perfect for you. Get over it.

  36. I spent over an hour lingering at the 7th/Metro turnstiles during rush hour today. Being a mathematician by trade, I can estimate that at least 75% (read that again: 75%) of passengers did NOT pay their fares. It is breathtaking to imagine the revenue being lost…

  37. Any plans on locking the gates on the Metro Orange Line? What about the Silver Line, even though it is not equipped with ticket vending machines?

  38. Alot of these questions are answered if you read the staff report. Users of the EZPass will no longer receive a paper EZPass and instead will receive a TAP card with a validating sticker for the other municipal agencies.

    This is only for the Red and Purple lines so the comment about the green line is not relevant (for now).

    My comments are:

    1) Why charge a one dollar fee for the TAP card? Metro should charge a one dollar deposit and allow for a refund at the TVM upon return of the tap card. This is how the system in Singapore and Korea operate and accomplishes the goal of a single fare type (plastic) without making single-use riders bear an unfair proportion of the cost.

    2) Without somebody monitoring the gates, this doesn’t change the current system all that much in my opinion. Hopping a locked turnstile or using the emergency gate when there is no one monitoring is just as easy as walking through and unlocked gate without paying. I like this for the sake of eliminating paper tickets which are wasteful and inefficient but I only see it reducing “free rides” marginally. I could be wrong though. Locked gates could have a powerful psychological effect.

    3) Metro needs to get other transit agencies on board with the TAP system; most notably the Big Blue Bus. Once the expo line gets out to SM, not having a common fare system with the Big Blue Bus will kill the buzz pretty hard.

  39. In the report, they mention converting the EZ Pass to a TAP with a monthly validation sticker for non-TAP agencies, so don’t worry about that part.

    But yeah, I’m kind of on the fence. At first, I thought it was a good idea to collect all the money that’s currently lost on people not paying, but I can see how the system might be frustrating, especially for tourists and non-regulars. As a regular user and TAP-holder, I don’t think I’ll have a problem, but the casual user might find it annoying to have to constantly carry a card that they’ll rarely use. Plus, if they forget to bring it with them, they have to buy another card which increases the cost of the trip. I already have a hard enough time convincing people to use the subway. This is just yet another hassle.

    I agree, with Gary B. I wish the turnstiles could read both paper tickets and TAP cards.

  40. Let’s not forget the existing problem of “one tapping per rail line”. By rules, smeone having to transfer between the Red and Blue Lines needs to exit gate and re-enter at essentially the very same set of gates! Many passengers are going to miss a train purely because of that silly requirement. Metro please consider the “Window of riding” method …… Once you “TAP-in”, you have, for example, 3 hours to complete the trip within the entire Metro Rail systems regardless of your destination on any line. In other words, a fare inspector who checks your TAP card just needs to verify the moment of inspection is no more than 3 hours from the time you TAP-in.

  41. @Laura

    This is exactly why many here have said that Metro should’ve used wider speed gates like they have in Asia instead of narrow turnstiles which is what NYC uses.

    Your tax dollars at work.

  42. @W Walker: If you read the document approved you would find this nugget: “EZ Transit Passes will be converted to reloadable TAP cards with monthly validation stickers for non-TAP agencies so that fare inspectors for these agencies can conduct a visual inspection for validity”

  43. If the machines no longer issue paper tickets, will it be clear to everyone — including the occasional user, or tourists — that they need to purchase a TAP card? Could TAP cards be returned, as it is done in London? What will happen at 7th St. Station? Will people using the Blue or Expo Lines need to have a TAP card too to get in, or will the gates be moved to where the Purple and Red Lines are? I hope I’m wrong, but the whole thing is beginning to sound a little bit like the tax code.

  44. I use the Metro EZ Transit Pass which doesn’t come on a tap card, how am I supposed to get pass the gates if they are locked?? Jump over them??

  45. Two problems come to mind. First, at stations like Norwalk Greenline, the mass of people attempting to simultaneously enter and exit a mere 4 gates is already crazy; locking the gates will only make it worse. Did anyone think through the logistics of people-flow?? Second, those of us using the EZPass are still out of luck apparently. Metrolink gets mentioned, but when is the EZPass moving to TAP? I’m not paying $84 to be locked out of the train station.

  46. @GaryB

    Lack of money due to a irrational fare system that has farebox recovery rates as low as 28%.

  47. If they’d purchased fare gates which also accepted paper tickets, they could have locked them ages ago without a problem. Why/how were the existing gates selected?

  48. I hope Metro plans to add additional TVMs to stations. Here’s why: If I’m rushing to catch my train and reload my TAP and there’s passengers in front of me on both machines fumbling their way through their first TAP card purchase, there’s hell to pay. 🙂