Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 30

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.


Beautiful New Jersey! Photo by Kai Schreiber, via Flickr creative commons.

TAP coming to DASH buses (L.A. Streetsblog)

The largest muni bus operator in L.A. County is finally adopting TAP — a big addition for the electronic fare cards as several other prominent bus operators still do not use the cards. If transit operators in the region truly aspire to a regional fare system, having  common fare media is a big step toward that goal.

California High-speed Rail Authority gets new CEO (L.A. Times)

Jeffrey Morales, 52, headed Caltrans under Gov. Gray Davis and has been working on the bullet train project for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager for the rail authority. The Times’ story focuses on the engineering firm’s role in the project while also pointing to the fact that, unlike his predecessor, Morales has political experience that could help in what has become the most political of projects.

Traffic jam on Mt. Everest (New York Times Dot Earth blog)

It’s the summit season and climbers are increasingly standing in long lines waiting to use trails to access the Earth’s tallest peak. Check out the video.



Categories: Transportation News

15 replies

  1. Simply said, government ownership of mass transit doesn’t work because of too much politics involved in the whole decision making process.

    We’re better off privatizing the whole thing.

  2. It’s clearly obvious that it’s the POLITICAL issues and not the technical issues that are keeping muni operators off of TAP.

    People have been singing the high praises of the EZ Pass, but we seem to be forgetting that that also required a lot of political wrangling to get all of the muni operators on board. I agree that politics isn’t easy.

    I think TAP is caught in a Catch-22. The munis presumably won’t get on board until TAP gets better PR and until more people switch to TAP, but clearly some people won’t switch until the munis switch first.

    It’s a shame the government can’t pass a TAP law similar to the various gas emissions laws we have, because that obviously also forced munis to buy new equipment (CNG buses, hybrid buses).

  3. James,

    Correct, it is the same. But I made that point to put to light about the security feature.

    If Metro has chosen the MIFARE standard, which has weaker security, it adds to concern about how easier it is to cheat the system.

    You made a good point about Windows vs Macs. It’s easier to hack into Windows than Macs. Similarly, it’s easier to hack into MIFARE (TAP) than FeliCa (Suica).

    If mass transit needs becomes important in LA, and if fares happen to rise since I don’t see how running a cheap flat rate system in LA can last forever, what’s stopping from an ingenious hacker to manipulate their TAP cards to make it look its loaded with a monthly pass, without actually paying for it? All you really need is some good programming skills and an USB card reader that can read and encode MIFARE cards. And such card readers can be bought from places like Made In for less than $10.

  4. The problem getting municipal agencies to join is complex. My understanding of the main problem is that Metro can’t get everyone to agree how funds should be distributed (Back when I put stored value on my TAP card at a Foothill Transit Store, when it was the only agency doing that, I believe Foothill Transit kept all of that money regardless of where I TAPed the card). For instance, if I were to put $10 stored value on my card at a Metro station, but instead used Metrolink or an LADOT bus, does Metro get to keep that money even though I didn’t use their services? What’s a fair percentage for each agency? Which agency should manage and fund the TAP system? I know it sounds simple but inter-agency politics are never easy, especially in Southern California.

    The other issue is lack of motivation. Why should Metrolink or Big Blue Bus switch to TAP cards? Their current fare systems work well for them. The EZ-Transit Pass is meant to serve as a county-wide system and does the job well. Finally, switching to TAP has a high barrier to entry. It requires a lot of up front expense for a system which is, frankly, still at a beta-testing level. It would require new vending machines, TAP meters on buses and at rail stations, new fare checking equipment, and a lot of money on PR and public education about the new system.

    Just because Metro thinks switching to their particular brand of electronic fare card is ideal doesn’t mean that agencies countywide are going to agree with it. I know you’ll say that a lot of these issues can be resolved, and they can. But the fact that they are still problems right now – that you can’t buy a TAP card at the corner 7-11, that having to pay extra for an electronic fare card discourages casual users, that your TAP card expires, that (apparently) the system isn’t as secure as it could be – that should be enough reason for other agencies to hold off on implementation while Metro screws around with it until it’s ready.

  5. Y Fukuzawa makes an interesting comparison between MIFARE and FeliCa, but it doesn’t really address the basic issue being raised.

    Comparing Philips RFID with Sony RFID is like comparing Macintosh and Windows or Linux or comparing Firefox with Chrome or whatever. At the end of the day, it’s all technological semantics. What really matters is: can I download music, can I transfer files, can I use Flash or Shockwave, Twitter or email, can I read the Source; can I do what I need to do.

    In fact, forget Suica for a moment. San Francisco’s Clipper Card is operated by Cubic, same as TAP. I’ve used it. Clipper works on Muni, BART, Caltrain, VTA, AC Transit, etc. and from what I hear, it handles passes.
    In other words, commuter trains, several bus systems, two types of light rail and a subway system. These are all public transit, not private profit, and it even crosses county lines.

    If TAP can do that, then I don’t see a problem with LADOT, Santa Monica or even Metrolink joining.

  6. James,

    Same technology, different format is more accurate.

    TAP, along with most agencies in the US and Europe relies on the MIFARE contactless standard which was made by Philips.

    The Suica and PASMO Cards used in Tokyo, the variants used all over Japan, the Octopus Cards used in Hong Kong, and the EZ Link cards used in Singapore are based upon the FeliCa standard which was made by Sony.

    Both have their pros and cons, especially on the backend. MIFARE is cheaper to issue, but the security is weak so it’s easier to counterfeit and hack. FeliCa is more expensive, but the security is stronger making it almost impossible to counterfeit and hack.

    Obivously, private transit agencies in Asia which need to make a profit will opt to choose the more expensive FeliCa standard which has higher security, whereas cities in the US where taxpayer funded public transit is the norm, to choose the cheaper MIFARE standard to lower implementation cost.

  7. I believe it always looks for a valid pass first and then uses cash as the last resort if no valid pass if found on the card.

    I’ve had both on cards before and haven’t had a problem, though I do typically keep separate cards (one for my monthly pass) and one for cash that I use when friends/family are visiting.

  8. From my own actual riding experience: If your TAP has a valid Metro Pass and some cash value (for example $10) at the same time, when you tap your TAP on a Metro bus farebox or rail station validator, it will detect + validate your Metro Pass, without touching the $10 stored value. If your TAP only has $10 stored value, then tapping your TAP will deduct your stored value balance based on the corresponding carrier’s fare.

    In other words, any valid Metro pass will preempt the stored value, and a 30-day pass will preempt a 7-day pass.

  9. I know this is becoming a cliche, but: Tokyo’s RFID card can handle two separate subway companies, multiple private commuter train lines, JR trains, buses, passes and anything else you throw at it, as long as it has a fare gate or a pylon.

    It’s the exact same technology.

  10. To answer your question Frank, the farebox on the DASH will be able to distinguish between a Metro pass and stored value. When tapping your card, even if there is a Metro pass loaded, the machine will ignore that and deduct from your stored value.

    At one time, I personally had a Metro pass with stored cash-value on my TAP and boarded a Culver City bus, which was able to tell the difference.

  11. Is TAP even capable of distinguishing cash-value versus Metro Pass? Can you even load both cash-value and passes on the same card?

    How do I know that when I ride the Metro Bus, that it’ll look at the Metro Pass portion and not deduct $1.50 from the cash value portion that was intended for DASH or the Culver City Bus?

    • The answer is yes, you can have a Metro pass and stored value on the same card. When boarding a DASH bus, fare will be deducted from the stored value part of your card.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. I think the TAP on DASH will work with the stored value/cash purse option

  13. DASH is 50 cents per ride. How does that work in conjuction with a Metro pass?