How to purchase a single senior ride using a TAP card

We received a good question from a reader last week: he was returning home from the Hollywood Bowl and encountered a Metro Rail station in which the ticket machines were no longer issuing paper tickets. This was a problem for the man as the rail station he used to reach the Bowl was still issuing paper tickets and his wife didn’t have a TAP card but now wanted to purchase a senior fare.

Here’s how you do it on the TAP only ticket machines: 
1. Select button A:  “Purchase New TAP card + fare”

2. Then select button F:  “TAP($1 Fee) and Metro Pass”

3. Then select button I:  “1-Ride, Sr/D 1-Ride w/ID, 9a-3p, 7p-5a 25 cents”

The total price for the transaction is $1.25 — $1 for the TAP and 25 cents for the senior non-peak fare. The TAP card is good for three years, so the woman’s next single ride will only cost 25 cents.

It’s important to note that such purchases are not being done on the honor system. If a sheriff’s deputy checks your fare, you may need to have an ID card to prove you qualify for the senior discount.

Of course, seniors who ride Metro frequently should get a senior TAP card, so they’re eligible for the $14 monthly pass — a very good deal. Click here to learn how to apply

19 replies

  1. Gah. I just realized that Metro doesn’t have free transfers between rail lines.

    That is *crazy*. I did not realize this last time I was in LA, because it’s the only metro system in the *world* which doesn’t have free transfers.

  2. The MTA will not listen. It seems to be run by the worst kind of bureaucrats. L.A. deserves better, by which I mean, quite simply, administrators who have done their homework by looking at other systems in the U.S. and abroad, and implementing sensible and fair solutions.

  3. 1. As others have said: I suspect the number of people who can not read any language; or do not understand spoken English or Spanish is a lot more than most of us can imagine.

    2. There are other non-driver license ID–including the California ID card [which looks like a drivers license].
    And lets give the Sheriffs some credit–a lot of old people look old.

    3. And now the problem that bugs me. Why can you not buy Senior day passes at the TAP machine?? To make Senior and Handicapped occasional-riders into never-riders just does not make sense. If using a normal TAP card for a senior fare is possible, not allowing it for use as a Day Pass is one of policy and not technology.

    Please–make it possible to get a senior/handicapped day pass at the machines!

  4. How do I add value to my card’s cash purse on the taptogo site? I can’t find that option anywhere, but I don’t need a pass.

    • Hi Robert;

      From home screen go to “fare products,” then “already have a TAP card,” and then you will see a box at bottom right to add stored value. Click there.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. When will Metro admit they made a mistake and start fixing TAP? Or do we have to endure this for years and years to come? Is there something wrong in admitting mistakes?

    Metro should not be afraid to admit their mistakes. Admit that you botched it up, we’ll understand. But keeping it silent with excuse after excuse only makes problems worse.

    I mean, what is so hard about
    1. Getting rid of the expiration date?
    2. Make any remaining funds fully refundable?
    3. Abandoning the current fare structure?
    4. Doing tap-in and tap-out with the pay-by-the-distance model?

    It clearly works everywhere else in the world. Does LA have to be so different and make things so confusing for everybody, including tourists?

  6. Beleve it or not, many people cannot read in any language. I’ve seen people staring at the vending machine screen for the longest time, trying to figure out how to pay with the TAP card. Also, if one expects to pay the discount off-peak fare, that person can be overcharged if he hasn’t previously validated your TAP card. Yet, the vending machine doesn’t tell you that to validate the TAP, you must find the cylindrical metal thing somewhere on the platform and TAP that! Clearly, the TAP system is not user-friendly. It would be helpful if the vending machines used graphics and/or spoken instructions to guide passengers through the process.

  7. Bob and Daniel,

    You guys are so right about LA being tourist unfriendly!!

    Every other city in the world, it’s so easy because they all run the same: load up cash, tap-in & tap-out, machine calculates fares automatically. It’s that simple.

    I can go from Delhi, India to Bangkok, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Hong Kong and to London, England, it’s so easy because they all work the same way: Load up money, tap-in & tap-out, the machine does the rest. It’s so easy that my 5 year old child could figure this out.

    But come back to LA, the whole thing is a mess.

    You’re better off with an unlimited ride pass for this case, but you need cash value just in case because there are some buses that don’t accept that.

    You can’t TAP on this bus because they’re not on the TAP system. You need a different card just for theirs. But if you want the convenience, you can get a inter-agency pass for an over-inflated price. Or you can pay in coins.

    Sorry, we don’t sell TAP on the bus, you have to go get one at the liquor store. Sorry we don’t know where they’re sold, can’t you just google it?

    No one really checks TAP because there’s no gates at most stations. So why bother getting one in the first place.

    If you get caught, make the extension, post the bail (fine), and go to court. 100% of the time the the officers who wrote the ticket don’t even bother to show up in court so the case is thrown out and dismissed, you get your bail (fine) back.

    You loaded up $20 onto the card and you have $5 remaining, sorry there’s no way to get your funds back. You lose all your money if you don’t use it up in three years. After three years, the only option is to pay another $2 for a new TAP card and call to get funds transferred.

    Seriously, who are the idiots that are running TAP? Why does the US love to be so different, blame everyone else that they’re doing things wrong when they’re the ones that is making all the stupid mistakes that no one else is doing?

  8. What’s amazing about most of the above comments is that many people have predicted from the time TAP was instituted that these sorts of things would happen frequently and nobody at Metro either is listening or cares. For the regular Metro rider, the TAP system is adequate, although there are still some obvious glitches (e.g., no fare capping when tapping off cash). However, in an area with millions of tourists each year and others who don’t use the system frequently, the system is very user-unfriendly. Aside from blowing up the entire TAP process, the only real solution would be to have people on site at every station but, of course, that would negate any possible savings that comes from gates in the first place.

  9. Hey just a heads up everyone:: On a ticket vending machine issued TAP card you are unable to purchase a senior day pass, just the one way fare options. Once you recieve the official senior TAP card the ticket vending machine will allow you to load a senior day pass. It works the same for the disabled day pass as well. You can apply for a senior TAP card at Metro customer service centers; the main one being at Union station in downtown LA. You can save yourself a step in the application process by going to and printing out the senior TAP card application there. Happy travels everyone!

    P.s: Call 323-GO-METRO if you have any other questions. :]

  10. I have a monthly tap card so I don’t need to deal with this personally–but twice in the last week as I get on the train in Pasadena there have been foreign tourists attempting to purchase one way tickets. I have tried to help them through it but have been rather confused myself. This new system is really terrible. I would think you would want to make it easier for riders rather than more difficult. The MTA should realize that many of their riders are tourists or people who are just going in one direction. This new system is very flawed–why must you make it more difficult?

  11. I think the TAP-only ticket machines should be adjusted so that seniors would be able to select something like “TAP ($1 fee) + Senior/Disabled fare” in step 2. A senior/disabled single-ride fare is clearly not a multiple-use pass product; therefore, it makes no sense to place it in the “Metro Pass” fare category.

  12. “The TAP card is good for three years, so the woman’s next single ride will only cost 25 cents.”

    Yeah, let’s make the woman renew her TAP card when she’s 65, 68, 71, 74, 77, 80, etc. and force her to re-apply over and over again as she grows older and frailer. And you wonder why people say Metro lacks people skills.

    “It’s important to note that such purchases are not being done on the honor system. If a sheriff’s deputy checks your fare, you may need to have an ID card to prove you qualify for the senior discount.”

    Wait, so one actually needs a DRIVERS LICENSE to ride MASS TRANSIT when they become senior citizens? What other transit system in the world has cops demanding people to show ID to ride mass transit?

    Pre-requisite to ride Metro: proof of ability to drive a car.

    Umm, hello, lacking a bit of common sense? Anyone in there McFly? BONK BONK.

  13. Steve, most seniors, people with disabilities and riders who speak limited English don’t know where and how to get the applications to get the reduced fare tap cards. After the receive a tab card, they may not know how and where to load these tap cards. The instructions must be on videos in several languages. These videos need to be shown on buses and at the Metro stations. Metro cannot just rely on people to go to by themselves. Metro needs to do more BEFORE it looks the gates and stop selling paper tickets. If Metro does not take these steps, it will get itself into more trouble by inconveniencing more riders and to waste even more money to hire more people to explain the tap system and tie up more police offers to enforce the fare rules. Metro should learn the lessons from BART and other subway systems.

  14. Just a note:

    In my rare recent encounters with LASD on fare patrol, they only ask to see the TAP card. They do not validate the fare on the card and for all anyone knows the TAP card may be empty.