Focus group says that these redesigned screens on Metro ticket machines are a big step in right direction; what do you think?

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What do you think? Are we on the right track with these new screen designs?

A focus group on Tuesday — the third focus group so far — indicated that ticket vending machine redesigns by Metro’s Creative Services Staff are headed in the right direction.

All of the participants were impressed with the new designs and provided helpful feedback to further refine the screens. They assured Metro that the new screens were a vast improvement over the existing screens and were “very clear and self-explanatory.”  Another participant noted, “I don’t have to concentrate and look for the options. They are very clearly organized.”

One new addition is a more prominent selection screen with 10 different languages, which will make purchases easier for limited-English customers and tourists from abroad. Other improvements include more understandable terminology and less jargon, simpler screens with fewer options and more intuitive selections and more explanations of options — which hopefully will mean less pushing of the ‘help’ button for customers.

The new screens will help all riders purchase and reload TAP cards more quickly and easily, a big help to both rail and bus riders. Bus riders are now using TAP cards more than ever before. Preliminary results from the most recent bus survey conducted by Metro Research show that about seven in 10 bus riders are now using TAP cards to pay for their fares. This is up from about five in 10 in the previous quarter.

What do you think? If you’re leaving a comment, please be as specific as possible about what you like or don’t like or any suggestions that you may have.

43 replies

  1. I agree with the other posters that there are issues around the fare structure that puzzle infrequent riders. To get from the Culver City station to Union Station, I need to pay for two rides. This is not made clear. Even at the 7th Street Metro Station there is no clear visible signage telling people they need to pay again for the next segment. If you are used to the NYC subway this is confusing.
    I do think this interface is better, but it still looks a bit overwhelming.

  2. Irwin is right on. While I would say these are a step in the right direction (aside from the caveats I talked about before), the fare structure is the real problem here.

    I am guessing, though, that Metro is planning to address that AFTER locking the gates and transitioning people to TAP — together they are the only way to accurately calculate how people are making a complete trip. This likely represents a intermediate step to help make things a little better in the meantime. So, sadly, a sensible fare structure is probably 5-10 years out.

  3. Apparently this very simple task is difficult for the common person. Ask a Metro associate for help one time and for the love of god watch what he/she is doing and make an attempt to learn something. If you can read English, this system should be a piece of cake. I see hundreds of people doing it daily and seem to have no issues in doing so.

  4. Metro still didn’t address the biggest problem… the confusing fare structure. People new to the system usually do not know you have to pay by “rides” – we do not have a flat fare (like NYC) or distance based fare (like most cities). How is someone buying ticket at Aviation station supposed to know that reaching the Wilshire/Western station (for example) requires 3 “rides”?

    Metro needs to completely rethink the way tickets are sold. The new user interface is still forcing people to adopt to Metro’s nonsensical fare structure, rather than a logical and coherent way that normal people process information.

    In my example above, the TVM should be able to inform the customer that the ride from Aviation Station to Wilshire/Western Station will cost $4.50 one-way and give an option to purchase this fare, or buy a day pass.

  5. LAX Frequent Flyer,

    Those card readers are awesome.

    I agree, Metro should look into this. It’s far cheaper for Metro riders to just buy a contactless card reader for $30 and let them fund their TAP cards at home than spend $60,000 per TVM and wasteful tax dollars in doing focus group meetings like these.

    Can Metro look into selling these on

  6. Or heck, look at this.

    Sony RC-S380

    It’s already FCC approved, it handles the MIFARE technology which Cubic uses for TAP cards. It doesn’t take too much programming effort to plug this into any generic USB port and run a TAP program on Java script or HTML5 in the comfort of your own home. Does it take too much to make a deal with Sony to sell this along with a TAP card in a pre-packaged deal?

    I mean c’mon, you guys make things so complicated and needlessly expensive when you already have things like this produced in a mass quantity from Sony.

  7. Has Metro considered working together with Cubic and Sony to sell Sony’s USB contactless reader at places like BestBuy or even on so that people don’t even have to go to TVMs to do this and instead, do them via an online program run with Java or HTML5?

    It’s not like USB contactless card readers are space age technology that only government contracts can buy them. They sell these for about $30 in electronics stores in Asia where contactless cards are the norm to get around:

    Just buy this, hook it up to a laptop or computer, put your TAP card onto it, and run run on Java or HTML5 to load the passes or stored value in the comfort of your own home.

    This would be a far cheaper solution that trying to install $60,000 TVMs at every station and every bus stop.

  8. +1 to Brian Retchless’ comments.
    Overall, big improvement but remove the “Metro” branding in the selections when it doesn’t convey any information.

    “Metro Pass” could be “pay by time” or just “Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Passes”

    “Multiple Rides” is OK. The subline should be “Store Value…” or “Add value…” The user is taking an action to put more value on their TAP card. So “stored value” doesn’t quite make sense.

    “Metro 1-Ride” sounds like some specific, alternate offering. If it means “pay for a single ride”, say “single ride”. If it does have something specific to do with tokens, say something about tokens.

  9. I think the only thing I would adjust is the use of the word Metro. It’s redundant, you’re staring at a Metro screen already. Metro Passes and Metro 1-ride isnt needed.

    Just ‘Passes’ and ‘One Ride’ makes far more immediate sense.

  10. Having just read through the other comments (and having never used “one-ride”) I see that it is apparently not the same thing as a single ride, but instead a way to use tokens to pay for a single ride? That’s *incredibly* silly. I GUARANTEE you people will press this hoping just for a single, one-way ride. Instead of having a specialized-case option, you need to re-work the payment system. Those that want to pay in tokens should still be able to at the end during the payment process, with each token equaling whatever their value is now (I’m guessing one trip?). Boston did this for T tokens, worked just fine for them.

    I also like how Jaymes pointed out that the 2nd screen is not focused on user goals. “Pay Per Day” (subline: 1, 3, 7 Day Passes) vs “Pay Per Ride”(subline: Stored Value TAP Card) makes sense in common English and focuses on what people will want to do and THEN defines it in Metro terminology. This is clearer to an inexperienced user trying to differetiate between “Metro Passes” and “Multiple Rides,” which at first glance would appear to be the same thing, no?

  11. Seems like an improvement, but there’s some strange terminology going on here. My thoughts:

    1) Language selection screen is great. Having traveled to other countries, being able to easily find my language is a huge plus. Will be great for tourists.
    2) Progress bar at top is also very welcomed. It’s great to have a visual reference to where you are in any process.
    3) Even knowing what a TAP card is and does, “Multiple Rides” vs “Metro Passes” is confusing to me. “Metro 1-Ride” seems needlessly branded to the point where I begin to wonder if it’s a brand name for something other than what it sounds like. “Single Ride” would be clearer and more consistent with “Multiple Rides.” There’s no need to switch terminology.

    On the whole it would be clearer to use simpler terminology rather than trying to brand the experience. People are already in a subway/light rail stop — they know what they’re intending to do. This would be like London having all of their machines read “Underground 1-Ride” or “Underground Passes.” It ultimately makes things less clear. (i.e. “Does Metro mean it works on buses too? Or does that mean it doesn’t work on buses?” — whereas the assumption without the word “Metro” is that it will work wherever there is a TAP pad.)

    I would suggest the following:


    4) You might consider changing the copy on “$1 each” to “$1 each + stored value” or something equivalent (“- $1 each (nonrefundable), – Add stored value”) lest people get confused and think it will only be $1. Don’t feel nearly as strong about this as I do the above, especially because the last screen indicates this.
    5) On the add value screen there’s no reason to have a dash between the # and the word “rides.” They are indicating how many rides they would like, so a plain English (“1 Ride,” “2 Rides”) response is appropriate. Otherwise this screen is wonderfully intuitive and goal-based.

    On the whole, definitely headed in the right direction. Layout is clean and the process seems fairly intuitive. If the language used is all that really needs to be changed I’d say you’re in good shape!

  12. Bob, BART is commuter rail, so the correct comparison would be BART and Metrolink. Metrolink does charge by distance. The proper comparison to Metro (LACMTA) would be SF Muni.

  13. I reloaded my TAP card today at the Del Mar Station but still couldn’t find the $1.80 all-day senior fare. This is two times in a row. So what should have cost $3.60 cost me $10.00. I hope it will be clear as to how to load the senior fare on the new screens. Incidentally, where is the $1.80 all-day senior fare on the present screens?

    • Hi Peggy;

      I’m not near a ticket machine at the moment — let me check tomorrow. There is an online description how to load a single ride on senior TAP, but I’m not finding anything that explicitly shows how to load the senior day pass. I’ll try to respond tomorrow morning.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. I think it is a step in the right direction.

    But if it were up to me (Star Wipe):

    I’d have a gold TAP card with nice wings for all of my rides. Heck; I’d never pay a fair with this card. I would be personally greeted by name in my own language that I made up before I pretend to load my TAP card (I pretend to load so no one else feels bad about me having a gold TAP card). Metro should also consider adding espresso machines to the TVMs. This would save a lot of time for many riders. If it even had fresh croissants, that would add brownie points (no pun intended); but that might be asking too much. Maybe.

    When MTA runs its focus groups, it should use babies from other countries. This would probably amount to a lot less bickering about a machine which probably takes fifteen to twenty seconds to learn the first time it is used. Using babies from other countries would also get MTA prepared in the art of diaper changing when the machines are put into public use, and before operating them, people that ride begin to complain as if they have no common sense.

    Other than that, being a fully functioning and rational adult, I appreciate the effort Metro has made to make these machines easier to use.

  15. Who was in your “focus group”?!
    Seems you had persons who have experience riding Metro and using the TAP machines. You have conducted a survey that really wan’t scientific or conducive to the project. This is a public transportation network that serves foreign visitors; survey foreign visitors at varied niches (major tour operators with clientele from Asia and Europe, foreign community service groups, etc.). Of course use translators to give you a real perspective of how the ‘new’ design isn’t an improvement. There are too many options to keep it confusing. Agree with previous posts that much needs to be improved and phrases restructured. There should be more iconic graphics to assist with the VISUAL processes which international visitors are accustomed to navigate through all the confusing toll options.
    Better yet to have only two options; Day Pass or per trip charge. Get rd of “D” button for TAP status; should be the first process to do (depicted with video graphic at the welcome screen).

  16. These might be good ideas, I’m not sure. But I think it would be better if you put the purchasing TAP card page after choosing the fare and call it “Do you have a TAP card?” Some people may be confused about being forced to buy a TAP card before they even chose a fare. (Switch screens 3 and 4)

  17. Looks better, especially saying how many rides you get for a given $ amount. I also like the progress bar along the top. I have three suggestions:
    1. Simplify the second screen. Instead of metro pass, multiple rides and single ride options, just say “There are two ways to pay for Metro” with buttons for “Pay Per Day” (1,3 5 day pass etc) and “Pay Per Ride” (for stored value) And maybe add a tip to help people choose, like “If you use Metro more than 3 times in a day, its cheaper to Pay Per Day.”

    2. Make it clear and easy to buy multiple cards. After picking the value your your card, before the payment screen, there should be a prompt: “Each person needs their own tap card. How many cards do you need?” or something like that, with the option to buy multiple cards of the same value. This would be ideal for families or other groups of people traveling together, who want to buy multiple cards, probably for the same amount if they’re traveling together, without having to go through the whole process multiple times.

    3. For the benefit of first time users, especially visitors from out of town, make it clear that what they’re buying is good on the subway, light-rail and Metro bus. In some other cities this isn’t the case, so people may not realize that the card they’re buying in a subway station is also valid on the bus. On the second screen, how about “Welcome. Please select an option to pay for Metro bus and trains.”

  18. I think “Multiple Rides” should be switched with “Stored Value”
    other than that the interface is much better.

    And I also ask, what is a group pass?

    To Eric B: passes are first, then stored value. I couldn’t agree more with training drivers on how to use the fare box to its full potential.

    If you could talk to LADOT, please tell them what “Passback” means. It’s becomes tedious sometimes, especially when you have $4.25 and a 25 mile ride on the line.

  19. I think the new display looks much better than the current system but there’re still improvements that must be made

  20. Why doesn’t Metro use the distance and zone fare system based upon how far you travel?? The same trip and distance in San Francisco on BART from SFO to downtown SF would cost me $8.25 but only $1.50 on LA METRO… I Love LA!!!

  21. I agree with “Realist” the system and displays should be SIMPLE and EASY TO USE, Have different fare options i.e. display amount to be added to your TAP card $1.50, $3.00, etc and have Metro Passes($5 day pass, weekly pass, and Monthly pass) available to use, Also the machines should also have an option of allowing the customer to enter the value they wish to store on their TAP Card, these simple fixes would help and i think the new languages feature will help tourists buy their Metro ticket. The new display just looks rather strange…

  22. An improvement? Sure. But the interplay between stored value and passes is still broken, so this is a glossy paint job on a rusty chassis.

    You can add multiple day passes to your TAP and stored value, but which will it charge when you tap?

    Technically, you can buy a day pass from your stored value on the bus, but when will the operators be trained how to do it?

    Basic fare system design is still lacking, despite this latest effort to dress it up.

  23. You guys made it more complicated.

    All these passes and transfers just make things more confusing for everyone. Why can’t it be just this simple:

    1. Add whatever amount you want into TAP card
    2. Tap in when entering fare gate
    3. Tap out when exiting fate gate
    4. Automatically deducts money based on distance traveled

    This is the easiest and most simplest way to go. That’s how everybody else in the world does it.

  24. There is an option on the screen for seniors and handicapped, but no detail on what is in that category. MTA is rife with jargon. We need totally jargonless communications from all of MTA.

  25. We need to have these ticket vending machines installed at the Silver Line Stations. I do not know how customers will be able to purchase a one way ticket for the Silver line when the line is not mentioned.

  26. What’s the “Metro 1-ride” option? Is that the same thing as simply adding $1.50 in stored value?

  27. I think for the last option it should also show a picture of a validator instead of just the turnstile.

  28. The reason I buy tokens is that I’ve been burned on day passes before, since there is no publicized way to buy day passes with stored value on a bus. So I buy tokens with my commuter check card and use them to buy day passes on the bus. The fact that TAP customer service only operates Monday to Friday 8 to 5 doesn’t help.

  29. I like it. Simply mirroring the alphabetic buttons on the screen as they are needed is a monumental improvement.

  30. Henry, You CAN buy rail tickets with tokens at a TVM. You just have to buy a “one-ride” pass… not the same as adding $1.50 of stored value.

    I would say the one-ride pass vs. $1.50 stored value is confusing… and if tokens weren’t still floating around out there I’d like to see the one-ride pass ended in favor of simple stored value.

  31. Agreed – this is such a user-UNfriendly service for anyone not a daily rider. I would love to be included in a focus group and share the frustrations I see from folks trying to make heads or tails of the machines, of the TAP cards (an idea not really thought out properly – useful for regular riders, a real blockade for those who ride once or once a week). And no way to ride once sometimes and weekly others. And holy cow, the folks on the phone / intercom have no idea what they’re talking about! I want this to work, I love love love the train, I read directions and am a smart person – why must you make this so hard and so densely incomprehensible!

  32. It’s a start, but there are all these quirks that need to be addressed somehow. Like did you know you could buy more than one day pass at a time, with future days “stored” on your card? The confusing mechanism to purchase rail tickets with tokens (but you can’t purchase them with tokens at a TVM, but you can with a bus)? The wacky “senior one ride” option in order to get around FTA regulations that require 50% off fares with a Medicare card, no photo ID or convoluted application process required? How about the ability to add any denomination requested, through the debit card PIN keypad? I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have random denominations left over due to Silver Line fares, interagency transfers, etc.

    Do people know that they have to tap at a validator following purchasing a ride on a TAP card? Stand by any ungated station TVM and watch how many people fail to do that step after the TAP card is discharged from the vending machine. This could be addressed as simply as prompting the rider after adding a ride, “Are you planning on riding now?” and validating the card immediately after that question, for stations that are ungated.

  33. I like it. The Step-by-Step screens make it easy to get from Point A to Point B. Not like right now where everything is all over the place. If this is too hard for someone to figure out, they must be trying really hard not to follow directions.

  34. Sorry, from an infrequent riders point of view, a complete, complicated dud. It is NOT easy to understand even after someone explained it to me.

    Does one need a PH.D, rather than a B.S. to comprehend?