Metro Board committees tackle TAP issues, Expo safety and phone theft

A few notes from today's committee meetings of the Metro Board of Directors:

A contract that would pay Metro with $110 million in exchange for allowing ads from CBS Outdoor to be placed on Metro properties was moved to the full Board of Directors for their consideration at their Sept. 27 meeting. The item was moved without discussion or a recommendation, as frequently occurs.

•Metro TAP officials told the Board that they are working on allowing day passes to be sold online at the website. Currently, TAP card holders have to wait at ticket machines at rail stations to buy a day pass — readers have complained this negates some of the convenience of having a TAP card.

In addition, Board members and TAP officials discussed some of the other issues that have received a lot of attention, including: the appropriateness of charging tourists and others $1 for a TAP card they may only use once or a few times; confusion at ticket machines when customers initially buy a TAP card and want to buy a round-trip (two single rides), and; the need for more signage and possibly staff at times to help riders use the machines.

The takeaway here: the legitimate issues that many readers and riders have raised with TAP cards have not fallen on deaf ears. Metro staff and the Metro Board is aware of it and they are working to resolve some of the issues.

•The Board received a report on Expo Line safety enhancements that Metro is installing along the Phase 1 route. The improvements come from a committee requested by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to review the Expo Line.

•Sheriff's Department officials told Board members about the increase in cell phone and jewelry thefts on Metro buses and trains; more about that in this recent post. There biggest problem has been on the Blue and Green lines. The LASD has arrested about 50 suspects in connection to cell phone thefts. One of the biggest issues is that it's relatively easy for thieves to “wipe” stolen smartphones of all user data and then re-sell them to unsuspecting buyers.

In addition, the LASD reported there were 14 bike thefts at Expo Line stations between May 1 and Sept. 8. A pair of sting operations helped result in five arrests.

Finally, the LASD introduced a new team of deputies who have been assigned to riding buses and dealing with issues at bus stops. They will be in both uniform and plain clothes and the program is designed to increase the presence of police on the bus system.

•A $1.4-million contract for new destination signs for light rail vehicles used on the Blue and Expo lines was moved to the full Board for their consideration. The old signs — as some of you may have guessed — are increasingly breaking down and there's no longer any support for them from the original manufacturer. The new signs will use LED technology.


21 replies

  1. Also, ‘tap in tap out’ on the trains, with variable, distance-based fees, seems to be very effective. People tend to feel that it’s ‘fair’ to spend more to go further.

  2. The majority of systems (including Boston) charge nothing to get their fare media. The $1 charge is nickel-and-diming and discourages people from even considering using the TAP card.

    As another point of oddity, it’s bizarre that Metro doesn’t offer free transfers between lines — which would simplify the location of turnstiles and TAP validators significantly.

  3. You could raise the fare to $2 and rebate the other way. That would cut down on people looking for change substantially.

  4. The only incentives I can think of having a TAP card are Metro Destinations on the weekend. Riders end up saving you a good amount per year, should you go to many of the events that offer TAP card discounts, not to mention no parking hassles.
    A dollar off one place, $5 off another, a free beverage in another, it adds up!

  5. I believe Boston’s CharlieCard also worked similar to Beijing’s model of encouraging riders to convert to contactless cards by providing incentives like cheaper fares.

    It really makes good sense. You’re only going to have a tough time making the switchover unless there’s something in it for the people. TAP as it is today doesn’t really offer a good alternative to paying cash direct.

    It’s not like using TAP makes transit fares any cheaper.
    Paying cash doesn’t carry expiration dates.
    Paying cash doesn’t have fund transfer issues.
    And paying cash certainly doesn’t make me have to pay $2 extra every three years.

    Where’s the incentive?

  6. OK, make the safety improvements and then on work on making the line faster, please! I was on the Expo Line tonight and for 6 minutes, my train stopped for some reason on the Flower St. segment. I don’t think it was a light, but the driver didn’t make an announcement or apologize for the 6 minute stoppage. Shouldn’t drivers usually say something when it’s that long of a stop? On the other hand, it was about 7PM Friday rush hour and my train was standing room only! Great sight.

  7. My question is that after people pay a dollar to buy a tap card on top of the fare, the tap cards have expiration dates on the back of them which many riders are not aware of. Why do tap cards have to have an expiration date?

    In addition, the reason why there are so many problems on the Blue and Green Lines is because the Sheriff’s Dept is not enforcing MTA’s rules of no soliciting on the trains. Soliciting is almost constant on the Blue Line, many of those people do not even pay for their fare; they ride from station to station and back again selling candy, cigarettes and other items.

    When the MTA had their own security department monitoring the trains more people were arrested or cited for riding trains for free and soliciting on the trains. Then, the LAPD and the LASD took over, then it was all combined to LASD. People have written in saying “oh let them make a few bucks”. Well, it is clearly against the law to be soliciting on trains and in stations and I would like to see the laws enforced once and for all.

  8. In Beijing, there is also a TAP-like card for the public transportation. I don’t know whether you can load something like a monthly pass on it or no, but definitely there is no such thing as a day pass. Nevertheless, I think the public transportation system in Beijing designed a better fare system to encourage people using the card than here in LA. Although there is no day pass, you get a 60% discount on buses if you choose to pay by the card. Yes, 60%. That means you only pay 40% of the regular fare if you use the card, despite the bus line you ride is single fare or distance-based fare. That’s why most public transport riders there use a card. You do not have any discount on the subway lines, however, you have unlimited transfers between subway lines. At those transfer stations, there are tunnels between the platforms of different lines, so you don’t need to leave the station of Line 1 and enter the station of Line 2 with another payment. Maybe LACMTA should consider free transfer between its rail lines so we could drop the Regional Connector Project and use the resource on other projects.

  9. According to what I’ve read at Houston METRO’s website, if a Houston METRO Q Card expires with a balance remaining on the card, such card may continue to be used for fare payment on buses and light rail until the remaining balance is exhausted; in other words, only the card’s load/reload capability would stop working upon expiration. Furthermore, Houston METRO doesn’t currently charge riders for replacing expired METRO Q Cards.

    With that said, I wish L.A. Metro’s TAP Card system would follow Houston’s example in regards to dealing with expired or expiring TAP Cards. The TAP Card system would certainly be more convenient to use if riders aren’t forced to perform balance transfers and pay for new cards at a customer service center whenever their cards expire.

  10. By comparison, I recently visited Washington, DC. They have a card they call the SmartCard which you purchase for $10 – $5 for the card and initial load of $5. They also have variable fees for where you get on and where you get off, so you have to use the card to get in and get out. If you are finished, and have money left (i.e., for tourists), there are no refunds – I was told that the cards are good always (should I return). The Washington system also sells paper tickets with a magnetic stripe – but they charge $1 extra for every trip.

  11. It’s great to see that issues don’t fall on deaf ears, but why are there so many issues in the first place? Sometimes it feels like those running our MTA have never used public transit anywhere else, so the wheel is reinvented locally and it comes out oval or square in shape. It’s a good thing that now the stations will be locked and that you will need a card to ride the train, but what about, for instance, the unfairness in fares? To travel by train from Union Station to North Hollywood costs just $1.50, but to travel from Chinatown to Jefferson/USC, a much shorter distance, is a steep $4.50 — plus, besides having to switch lines, you have the added inconvenience of having to tap at each station, something I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. You would imagine that a solution to this unjust situation might be found, like it has been in Washington or London. And have you noticed at the Expo Line at night that when you tap your card, you cannot really read the little word “GO” in the machine because there are these powerful lights facing upward that basically blind you? Who designed those things? And for how much longer will the Expo Line have to keep stopping at every red light along Flower Street as if it were a bus? And will somebody please put some signs along escalators advising riders to stand to the right, like it’s done everywhere, so that those who want to walk can easily do so? And while you are at it, please get us some benches at the 7th Street Station so that we can sit as we wait, sometimes for many minutes, for the Blue or Expo Lines; why punish all riders simply because you want to keep the homeless away? And will somebody please tell the Spanish-speaking voice on the Red Line that Red Line in Spanish is Línea Roja and not Red Line? And could you please, please, get some professional actors with pleasant voices to read those announcements? One gets tired of listening to the English-speaking man who sounds like a sergeant and the Spanish-speaking lady — yes the “Red Line” lady — who sounds like she’s in pain. Yes, I have issues, but these are the only ones that come to mind. Thank you for reading.

  12. I agree, there should be a deposit refund on the cards especially at places like tourist offices, metro centers, cash checking places or refund machines at popular spots like Hollywood Highland/DTUS/Airport. If you give the TAP cards free, people will just throw it away and get a new one every time.

    I own two cards one with money which I use for the DASH bus or other non metro buses and one which I use for a Metro pass (day/week). I did try to see if it did cap it at $5 but sadly no. I used up $6 that day. There should be different (souvineer) designs on the cards, I have to put a red sticker on mine so I know which one is with the pass.

  13. Lets really fix the tap cards by automatically capping the amount paid from a tap card in a 24 hour period at 6 dollars so that it just becomes like a day pass. People don’t always know if they are going to need a day pass. Is this not possible?

  14. I agree. Make them look nicer so they can be used as souvenirs. I also observed the system in Taipei where you can return your card and get your deposit back. They also had an employee manning an information desk at every station. Felt safe.

  15. It makes good sense to change TAP cards to a deposit system than a fee system.

    These cards are durable enough that can be used over and over again. Rather than keep paying the supplier for new ones, it would be better off for tourists to pay a deposit for a TAP card, and get that deposit back upon returning the TAP card. That way TAP can be recycled back into the system and reused again and again for another tourist.

    Those that don’t want to, well they have a souvenir as a trip to LA. Why not make TAP cards more “LA-like” with a beautiful picture of the Hollywood sign or the LA cityscape from Griffith Park so that it is a good souvenir instead of a bland light blue card that says TAP on it? Metro paper bus passes were like that: different designs every month. Now we have this bland light blue TAP card. Can’t Metro at least put some variety into it?

  16. Yo Robb…Thats for a single one-way standard fare ticket. They give you a “tap card” that can not be refilled or anything it just has the standard fare on it, then you put it back in the machine to get your 1sing$ back.

    A reusable Singapore Metro EZ-link is 12 Singapore dollars, it comes with $5 of usable fare.

    $1 for a tap card isn’t that bad

  17. Are there minutes or any more detail available? I’d love to hear/read what was actually said about the $1 TAP fee and other TAP issues, other than just “they were discussed.”

    • Hi Steve;

      No minutes from the meeting. I don’t have this verbatim, but both a member of the Board (Richard Katz) and Metro staff acknowledged that there have been complaints about the $1 fee — mostly from tourists — and that there will be discussions about possibly getting rid of it.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  18. I forget what city I was visiting–I think it was Singapore–that had TAP-like cards for their trains that also cost a dollar or so. However, when you were done with the card (like me, I was only in the city for a day) you could return it to the machine and refund the dollar that you paid. So the dollar was really like a deposit.

    Hopefully the new Blue/Expo LED signs will be in color (like a lot of the newer bus destination signs are, like on the Silver Line) that can display in blue or cyan depending on the line.