Gates to be latched full-time at Union Station subway entrances beginning today; here is the Source's Q&A about the turnstiles and TAP

Patrons at the Union Station Red/Purple Line station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Patrons at the Union Station Red/Purple Line station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

On Wednesday, the gates will be latched at all times at the two entrances of the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station.

Gates at the 15 other Red/Purple Line subway stations will then be latched over the course of the summer. If Metro is satisfied with operations and results on the subway, gates at some Gold, Green and Blue line stations will be latched as early as this fall.

I know there is considerable interest in gate-latching and TAP among Source readers. My sense is that many readers of The Source believe it’s about time the gates are latched while others remain skeptical the program will benefit riders or the agency’s bottom line.

Click to see larger.

Click to see larger.

One thing that’s hard to argue: Metro Rail ridership has greatly increased in recent years and that hasn’t made the current way of checking fares any easier — especially at peak hours when there are a lot of people aboard trains and exiting and entering stations.

The following Q&A is intended to answer questions that many of you have about the program, as well as help new riders navigate the changes. As always, please feel free to comment and ask questions. We’ll do our best to get answers to the most salient questions.

Why does Metro say ‘latched’ instead of ‘locked?’

Locked implies that customers may be locked out, whereas latched implies customers will be able to pass through the gates. In other words, Metro feels like “latched” is a more accurate way of saying it.

What’s the goal of the gate-latching program?

Metro hopes to create a safer customer experience by reducing fare evasion. The agency also estimates that there will be an annual increase in revenue from the subway alone of $6 million to $9 million because more people riding the system will be paying fares. More on fare evasion below.

Can I ride Metro Rail without a TAP card?

No. You must have a TAP card from Metro or a TAP-enabled paper ticket from another agency.

Do I need to TAP the gates when exiting a station?


That could change in the future if Metro adopts time-based ordistance-based fares.

Where do I get a TAP card? 

They can be purchased for $1 at ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations. TAP cards can be purchased with a day pass when boarding buses for $6 — $5 for the day pass, $1 for the card.

Monthly (30 days), weekly (7 days), day passes and the regional monthly EZ Pass can be stored on TAP cards. You can also put different amounts of cash on the card (stored value) and use that money to purchase single fares or passes. The stored value is a great way for occasional riders to avoid having to deal with ticket machines every day they ride.

TAP cards are also available at 500 stores across Los Angeles County and can be ordered online at

Is Metro doing anything about the website, which can be difficult to use?

Yes, it is being revamped and a newly designed website is expected to debut later this year. Booyah!

What if I am transferring to Metro Rail from a bus run by another agency?

When purchasing your bus fare, please ask the bus operator for a transfer to Metro Rail. Those transfers will be on paper TAP cards that you can use to pass through latched gates.

What if I want to take Metro Rail and then transfer to a bus run by another agency?

Visit a ticket vending machine and load a Metro-to-Muni transfer onto your card. If you are transferring to a bus run by an agency that doesn’t use TAP, get a paper transfer at the ticket vending machines.

How many agencies in L.A. County are using TAP cards?

Besides Metro and Metrolink, there are currently these eight: LADOT, Montebello, Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Gardena, Norwalk and Foothill Transit.

Fifteen more municipal agencies are scheduled to begin using TAP in the next year or so. These include Long Beach Transit and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

How are Metrolink riders going to get through the gates?

Metrolink passengers get free transfers to Metro with the purchase of a Metrolink ticket. In order to get customers through the Metro gates, Metrolink has developed a paper TAP card with a TAP chip inside. The new tickets are available from Metrolink ticket machines.

Please see this recent Source post about the proper way to hold the ticket to get through the gates.

So what’s the big picture here?

Nearly every large transit carrier in Los Angeles County will soon use TAP cards. That means those who use transit across the county can store all their fares on a single reloadable fare card.

Are there other advantages to TAP?

Yes. If you register your card online at it can easily be replaced if lost or stolen.

If all these carriers will soon be on TAP, will there soon be a single regional fare system?

There is nothing imminent and that’s likely a ways off. But TAP cards make it much easier for various agencies to share similar fare structures should they ever choose to do so.

What is the rate of fare evasion on Metro?

There is no firm or definitive number to cite. There have been a variety of estimates over the years but the emphasis should be on the word “estimates.”

Gate-latching tests over the past year have provided Metro with some interesting data. Specifically, when gates were latched at three subway stations, the sale of one-way fares, stored value and passes rose significantly from ticket vending machines while free entries through the latched gates declined (free entries are people who didn’t tap). This Source post includes some charts from the testing.

The Gate Help Phone at Union Station's subway station. The phone is located on a concrete column just a few feet before the entrance to the gates. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Gate Help Phone at Union Station’s subway station. The phone is located on a concrete column just a few feet before the entrance to the gates. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

What if I have a TAP card and the gates won’t let me pass through?

Gates can be remotely unlatched by Metro; all gates can be observed via closed-circuit television at Metro’s Rail Operations Center.

If you can’t get through a gate, there are Gate-Help Phones located near the turnstiles. Each phone is hands-free and also has a video camera and TAP pad to assist Metro in identifying the problem.

When you come close to a Gate Help Phone, watch for a red light that notifies Metro employees you are there. When the amber light comes on, the Metro employee can see and speak to you via the phone.

What if there is a fire, earthquake or other emergency?

In the event of loss of power, the gates are programmed to automatically free-spin and let everyone through without having to tap.

How will those with disabilities get through the gates?

There is a wheelchair accessible gate and elevator at every station where gates will be latched. If the gate won’t open or you can’t tap your card, please use the Gate Help Phones.

What about those with bikes or strollers?

Please use the wheelchair accessible gate, which is wider and provides more room to get through.

Why is Metro latching the gates?

The Metro system was designed to be a hybrid system with both barrier-free and latched stations. As the Metro Rail system has grown, along with ridership, there has been an increased interest by the Metro Board in latching gates.

But Metro couldn’t latch gates as long as paper tickets were still in use — the electronic gates only recognize TAP cards.

It took a long time to transition all the types of paper tickets to TAP cards. Now that it has happened, the gates can be latched.

How many stations will eventually be latched?

Forty-one of the existing 81 stations will be latched; here’s the list for the subway stations. Many of the light rail stations that won’t be latched lack sufficient room for turnstiles without taking needed space from pedestrians.

Even though not all the gates will be latched, civilian fare inspectors and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies will patrol stations where there are no gates and randomly check fares.

Why has it taken so long to get to this point?

The TAP system has the most regional partners and most fare products of smart card systems in use in the U.S., according to Metro officials. It’s a very complex system and it took time for other agencies in Los Angeles County to adopt the system. While there were definitely some bumps in the road, testing has gone well. There are also some 21 million transactions on TAP monthly, a sign that many people are using the cards.

It’s not exactly a secret that technology moves quick these days. The next challenge for Metro will be working with all of its transit partners to explore emerging technologies and select the best ones that will ensure seamless travel for all our customers.

How much have the gates cost Metro?

Metro is leasing the gates from Cubic Corporation for about $46 million for 10 years — with six years remaining on the lease. That figure includes the cost of handheld TAP card readers for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, software, computer servers for Metro, gating equipment and installation of the gates, among other items.

Since the inception of the TAP program in 2002, the Metro Board has authorized expenditures of $255.3 million with actual contract costs totaling $222.2 million. The TAP program has overall involved substantial contracts with five contractors and consultants: Cubic, ACS/Xerox, Booz Allen and Hamilton, CH2MHill and Systra.

73 replies

  1. HarryKerryJr.

    Has the thought that because they have fare gates which ensure everyone pays their fair share and the massive data collection that is being done on the back end on how their transit riders uses their system is the reason why have such great connections and frequent service?

    Do you really think that places like London and Tokyo will be able to run their Underground as efficiently and smoothly when they decide to remove the gates?

    Again, when someone asks why these cities use fare gates, you guys in the antiturnstile camp keep dodging the question.

    If fare gates don’t work, why do world class cities like London and Tokyo use them? Why is it that they have much better transit than we do? Has the thought occurred to you that because they have fare gates, it ensures everyone pays instead of freeloading and that data collections are happening that allows them to run their system as they do? And no, rebuttals like “but Berlin and San Diego doesn’t use them” isn’t good enough. L.A. is a not Berlin, it’s not San Diego. Our city is an alpha-class world city in the ranks of New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore. We are not second rate beta or gamma cities like Bucharest or Kansas City. If that’s what you want, move there. Alpha world class cities answers require alpha world class city solutions.

    “We grown-ups know why.”
    And we know why you’re old and don’t like change. Your generation is up, gramps. Make way for the new, more knowledgeable generation.

  2. Can The Source also just stop posting all these anti-fare gating freeloading comments?

    All these people are a constant complainers who don’t like change. Majority of them probably have never even traveled outside of the US to know how real transit cities all over the world work. And that’s why they are so blind to see the light in everything.

  3. Stephanie,

    I totally agree. Everything that Metro does is like the total opposite of what they should be doing and a total waste of tax dollars. I don’t know why they can’t just do this:

    1. Visit world class transit cities like London and Tokyo
    2. Copy everything they do
    3. Implement everything that they do here

    Problem solved. Sheesh!!


    A true world class city like London, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. uses a mix of technologies like automated gates and automated tickets AND humans to get transit right. There’s no 100% human versus 100% machine. It’s somewhere in the middle. Stop thinking in terms of black-and-white. That’s the problem with everything in America today. You’re either this or that, no middle.

    Automated tickets and automated fare gates aren’t the solve all problem. But they do help reduce labor a lot – and that’s the point. It’s not meant to go from 100% labor intensive to 100% machine. It’s meant to go to 20% labor intensive to 80% machine.

    Instead, you have to look at this like “since we now locked the gates and let the machines handle the fare checking, where we used to need 6 officers per station to do the tasks fare checking and patrol, now we only need 2 officer per station for patrol – a reduction of 4 costly officers.”

    And they find additional ways to pay for those officers. Instead of officers acting as security, they also add businesses in the stations to create more additional “eyes” to the system free of charge. Why do you think cities like London and Tokyo have convenience stores and the like INSIDE the subways? Because it makes sense! Add a convenience store = more revenue to the system in form of rent = more additional set of “eyes” from those who work at the subway convenience store.

    That’s how real cities all over the world work. Stop giving repeated suggestions about “other US cities.” Other US cities are total failures that are always strapped for cash. We need to learn these things on how they do stuff OUTSIDE the US where transit is a success because everything they do make sense!

  4. I don’t think this is a good idea for transfer points such as between the green line and blue line in Willowbrook. Even without the latched gates there is a horrible bottleneck. Same thing at blue line and red/purple lines.

  5. All agencies in the US are doing everything they can to ELIMINATE station agents: labor costs are very expensive. A lot of MNRR and LIRR stations now have ticket vending machines and no agents. It really makes no economical sense to have a person at the stations.
    However, we have the technology for a person to be their, virtually. That would be a far more economical solution.

  6. Erik Griswold: Steve’s write-up stated that the total spent from about 10 years ago to today is over 200 hundred million dollars. That is enough to build a good portion of another LRT line. I agree with your skepticism, as MTA had told us in the past that the honor system was BETTER, and there was very low fare evasion and the high total cost of a fare barrier system just didn’t make economic sense compared to what they claimed was a low fare evasion rate because the human fare checkers also provided security on the lines. Then with time, MTA all of a sudden started saying that there is high fare evasion and etc. MTA seemed eager to go down the over 200 million dollar HOLE. It seems these agencies always find ways to pour money into the pockets of contractors. We grown-ups know why.

    As for Manuel Esperon’s catty response to you, Erik Griswold: the existence of a fare barrier system is, perhaps, the most silly attribute by which to evaluate if a transit system is “world class.” By that criteria, a modern, efficient transit system with great connections and frequent service with safety and comfort that high numbers of people use and love just won’t measure up to being “world class” because it lacks a fare barrier system. PLLLEAAASSSEEE!!!

  7. Me too, where can you find information on the real cost of the TAP system?. In hundreds and thousands of dollars. And it’s not fully completed yet. I suspect it costs a lot more than the estimated fare evasion of 3% for the honor system that we used to love for the past 20 years.

  8. Erik,

    If you don’t like our world class system which is now with the big leagues like New York, London, and Tokyo which SOMEHOW ODDLY, WORK PERFECTLY FINE WITH GATES, you can move to a 2nd class city like Phoenix where they have no gates. Get over it, you freeloaders lost. The jig is up.

  9. Metro is pathetic. I love how they have been making such a big deal out of the locked turnstiles these past few weeks. Really? Gee, you’ve only had these turnstiles installed for like, five years! And now you are going to actually use them? Why oh why is everything done so half-assed? I’ve been to London, Paris, New York, Washington DC and other major world cities. They have metro systems that work and make sense. Has nobody at Metro ever visited another city? London itself has the world’s oldest subway and it also is the one that makes the most sense. It’s really simple, people!! Could someone please tell me why they can’t just do something right the first time in this city? I love the subways and ride them everyday. I also use my (yearly) TAP on the buses. It’s great but the way they run the turnstiles and the ins and outs of the stations are moronic. Plus the fact that we should have had subway-to-the-sea 20 years ago! And double-plus the fact that they still continue to pour money into useless freeway upgrades (see 405) when they could be out there building trains. Please don’t tell me that trains won’t work in a place the size of L.A. London is HUGE!

    • Your comments are likely better directed at the politics/bureaucracy of LA (and surrounding cities) rather than Metro itself. For its part, Metro has actually done a rather excellent job of managing the resources it has been allocated. Now as for the resources it has been allocated, I agree, that is a joke. Let’s just say LA’s political and cultural history is an interesting story. Metro’s progress over the past 5 years, even with bending to political will against subways, has been with somewhat breakneck speed compared to decades past. Metro now has the distinct disadvantage of facing relatively higher costs for everything, especially construction.

  10. Metro has yet to tell us what the cost was to install the turnstiles, what the cost of the fancy squawk boxes are, what the cost to convert the Metrolink TVMs to be able to dispense RFID-chipped tickets was, and how much the new facial-recognition cameras (plus their software) hanging above the turnstiles have cost. I’m guessing that $46 million figure is actually much higher, and it would behoove Metro to be more forthcoming with the information related to adding the turnstiles, and not mix it with the overall cost of moving to an RFID system.

  11. Manit,

    I agree we need a TAP out. It will also help in TAP to automatically deduct from the cash value option, the Metro-to-Muni and Muni-to-Metro fares more correctly and automatically because the card system will “know” that you just got off of Metro/Muni and you’re getting on a Muni/Metro and vice-versa. No need to ask bus drivers anything. It will done automatically.

  12. BTW…I hope that the locked gates get to the blue line soon. I’ve actually been chided by other passengers for tapping my card more than once.

  13. I love how KTLA was acting like the tap cards were a brand new thing this morning. I can’t wait until Long Beach Transit starts using tap cards. I know there’s some frustrations about the cards, but I think they’re great. My only beef with them is the fact that they expire. That seems ridiculous to me.

  14. @The Dude Abides and @Steve Hymon, When you ask a Bus driver to pay for a day pass, Metro to Muni transfer or a zone fare from the Cash Value on the TAP Card, my limited experience has been that a significant amount tell you it can’t be done and the transaction must be done with cash. Beware some will say OK and Let you tap but they have not set up the fare machine correctly to do the transaction and you are left paying only the fare for the single ride. It seems to happen most frequently on the 33/733 line. Since I now use an EZ Pass, I haven’t attempted these type of transactions in about 6 months.

  15. Hmm. A couple of experiences from my own travels:
    1. Chicago’s “L” stations have all had latched faregates from the beginning. Most of the larger ones also have an attendant. This came in handy one time, when I made the mistake of entering the wrong side of a station that had two separate platforms, and no in-gate passageway between them: when I exited, the gate for the correct platform wouldn’t accept my pass, because of a timeout system designed to prevent pass-sharing, but the attendant, once I explained my mistake, explained the timeout system, and overrode it to let me in.

    2. One cold, rainy night, following a Boston Symphony concert, I was stuck outside the faregates of a “T” station, because none of them would recognize my pass (on a magnetically striped “Charlie Ticket,” rather than a “Charlie Card” that works like our TAP cards), until finally, I was able to follow somebody else in (holding up my pass, in full view of the surveillance cameras). I think I even called for help, and that may have been what I was told to do. Based on that experience, I hope the Metro Gate-Help attendants DO have the ability to either remotely override the gates, or remotely repair a corrupted TAP card.

    I do think that, for pass users (I almost always use a day-pass on Metro), we need to either (1) make it as difficult as possible to forget to TAP on in-station transfers (7th/Metro is bad, and Pico is worse), or (2) do away with that requirement for pass users. In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve encountered a single automated farecard system, other than LACMTA’s, that requires a tap-in for in-station transfers that don’t involve passing through a faregate.

  16. James, Manuel,

    I think Manuel has a point. Time-based has a lot of problems.

    What about street traffic conditions? A bus can travel 15 miles in 15 miles in distance based. Distance is fixed no matter what. But under time based system, depending on street traffic conditions, the bus can travel 15 miles in 30-60 minutes. That leaves a lot of variable error.

    And what about the time from TAP-in at the gates until the time the train actually comes? Traveling 15 miles is 15 miles on the train on a distance based model. But under a time based system, the clock starts at the TAP in point. The train isn’t like the bus when the clock starts to tick upon boarding. The clock ticks when you TAP at the gate. The minutes that you wait for the train to come is wasted in addition to the minutes you spend on the train.

  17. And what about the Orange Line? When I ride I often hear riders laughing it up on how they never pay.

  18. Without TAP-out, one of the questions that I have is how Metro know how many and when passengers board and leave stations.
    TAP-in and TAP-out would help Metro record ridership more accurately per line, station, and time zone. With millions of $$$ spent on TAP, there should not be an issue of programming the system to effectively provide benefits for Metro in the long run.

  19. “Fifteen more municipal agencies are scheduled to begin using TAP in the next year or so. These include Long Beach Transit and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.”

    Does this mean the sticker of an EZ Pass is going to be discontinue, which is used to be placed on my tap card?

  20. Steve,

    How is time based a great idea? If I TAP at the gate, the clock starts ticking. But thanks to the poor maintenance on some of our lines like the often delayed Blue Line, the train may never come within X amount of minutes. Now I’m out X dollars?

  21. It seems to me that time-based fares and distance-based fares should give roughly the same result. It takes a certain amount to time to go a certain distance.

    The biggest drawback to a time-based fare is that it would penalize the rider for a system delay.

  22. @steve here is the follow up from Customer Service regarding TAP stored value purchase of Day pass thanks:
    Thank you for contacting Metro Customer Relations. It is indeed possible to use the stored value of a TAP card to purchase a Day Pass on any Metro bus. When boarding, ask the operator for a Day Pass. When the operator prompts you to pay the fare, tap your card. Once your card is tapped, the farebox will deduct the funds and load the pass at the same time. If you encounter any further issues with our operators failing to load the pass, please provide the date, time, location, and vehicle number.

  23. robcolburn,

    Well that’s strictly speaking from today’s viewpoint. You also have to view this from a future standpoint moving forward because as the Metro Rail system expands and more people start using the system, it means the cost of using locked gates far outweigh the intensive labor cost that’ll be needed to rely on human fare checkers. This is why most major transit oriented cities around the world did away with human fare checkers and instead opted to use automated fare gates.


    Well, it’s also a Catch-22. Having automated fare gates also does have the benefit of making us one step moving forward to implementing a distance based fare system should we decide to go that route in the future.

    While the original intent of installing locked gates was maximizing the efficiency of controlling fare evasion, it does have the benefit of one less cost to worry about when fare restructuring is needed.

    There’s a big difference in saying “we’ll move to distance based fares, we’ll need millions in dollars in taxes to install gates at all stations to do this,” versus “we’ll move to distance based fares, but luckily we already have installed the gates in place at all the stations when we decided to install them to fight fare evasion.”

    Doing things now in preparation for what may come in the future is a lot cheaper than doing things later when we have a more stations to worry about. In that aspect, installing fare gates was a great idea that helps control fare evasion today and prepares us for distance based fares for tomorrow (if we should decide to go that route).

    • Hi James;

      One sentence of caution: I don’t think it’s safe to assume distance-based fares are coming. Metro is also going to look at time-based fares — i.e. for X amount of dollars you get to ride X amount of minutes, transfers included. That’s probably a discussion that will ramp up in 2014.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  24. Baltimore and Atlanta are two cities where there are no distance based fares, yet still require tap on exit.

  25. Those last stats were somewhat disheartening. 6-9 mil in revenue vs 4.5 mil in cost. Was really hopeful that the new tech would boost revenues for Metro (I’m all for Metro earning more and providing more device).

    I suppose there’s an intangible benefit though, that it makes the whole system feel more modern, safe and efficient. Plus, as a morning rider, I feel much less grumpy about talking a machine vs showing my card to an armed police officer.

    Thanks for all of your hard work, and to the data crunchers. 🙂

  26. Manit,

    BART does a TAP out process because they are on a distance based fare system. Other cities that also have a TAP out process are also on a zonal or distance based system too (Washington DC, London, Tokyo, etc.) It’s essentially a post-pay system where when a person TAPs on entry, it first records which station they entered; no fare is deducted from their ClipperCard at this point. Upon TAP out at their destination, it records which station they exited and it only then it automatically deducts the fare from their ClipperCard based on distance travelled.

    This is totally different from Metro’s flat rate system where fares are deducted at entry point only because our fare system doesn’t change by distance travelled; it’s $1.50 per ride no matter how far or long we travel. A TAP out process is not needed because TAP is on a pre-pay system instead of post-pay. When we TAP-in, that’s where the $1.50 deduction occurs.

    As you mentioned, having a TAP-out process does allow for efficient and massive data collection on how transit riders are using the system. By knowing where people get off at which time, it can be of tremendous help to coordinate transfers between lines and even different agencies, and even run express services which stop at limited stations at which hours. It’ll also provide more accurate data points on how far or short riders use each individual lines.

    But unless we move to a distance based fare system, the additional TAP out process is unnecessary at this point.

    OTOH, there is no reason that a TAP out can’t be done today considering that not all stations are locked. By having an additional TAP out process, it’ll act as a secondary exit check point that people aren’t fare beating the system by entering the stations without locked gates.

  27. $6 million to $9 million of additional annual income? I’ll believe that when see an audited financial statement that breaks out the ticket purchases specifically related to locked gates as opposed to increased revenue from areas such as rail line and Orange Line expansion. Revenue has little do with how many people TAP, since many of those people have purchased day, 7-day or 30-day passes and multiple TAPS in that regard add nothing to Metro revenue.

    Moreover, to get a true picture, from that increased revenue will need to be deducted expenses directly related to gate locking, such as maintenance and repairs and staff needed at the stations because of the locked gates and the internal staff hired to monitor the gate-locking system.

    At least we’re finally getting some truth in advertising about the real purpose of locked gates and TAP cards: distance-based fares, which probably can’t be implemented without having a gate system that forces people to TAP when they enter and exit (a la BART in San Francisco). Of course, the cart has been placed before the horse, since Metro has been unwilling to vet that policy through adequate public hearings and discussion; instead, they have spent many millions of dollars installing a system that may very well be financially illogical given the “real” increased in revenue vs. the total cost of installing, maintaining and operating the gates.

    • Hi Bob;

      I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the gates are being latched in order to implement distance-based fares. The decision to latch the gates was made in the midst of a fare freeze — thanks to Measure R — and at a time when there was no discussion of any kind of fare restructuring. I think the decision was much more driven by public safety and fare evasion.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  28. Manit: BART makes passengers do that because they have distance-based fares; we have a flat fare. If you read the article it would explain why we don’t have to TAP on exiting.

  29. Who are these “civilian” fare checkers mentioned in the post? I’ve only seen LA County Sheriffs officers check TAP cards.

    After gate-latching is completed, will further measures really be implemented to reduce fare evasion? When I add my pass each month, a part of me feels cheated because I see so many people just ride for free.

  30. Why don’t Metro require passengers Tap when leaving the station?
    It would help Metro to track and record how many and where people boarding and leaving the station. Other system such as BART has been doing that successfully for years.

  31. Steve – Next time it happens I’ll email them. It’s happened so many times I didn’t realize it actually incorrect.

  32. Steve,

    Well those two caveats are good points, but then again, wouldn’t that be the case already in cities that are light years ahead of LA where they already have been using phones to ride mass transit for several years now?

    The answers would likely already be there in those cities.

    Phone dies out of battery, what do they do? Add Samsung charging stations, buy portable battery chargers (again, readily available on the internet for less than $10).

    “no fare system in L.A. County can be designed on the presumption that everyone has a smart phone. Many do — but not all.”

    Correct, but there are a lot of smartphone users. That means you can run both systems at the same time, one with TAP and one with a smartphone. It’s not a 100% change. Should we keep sticking to old technology because in consideration that 20% do not use smartphones? Or at that point, should we just run both via TAP and via NFC smartphones, in which the buying rate of blank TAP cards from Cubic would only be 20% of today?

    See, a lot of things that Metro questions back are all questions that have been answered by many transit agencies elsewhere in the world by now. I think it’s time to stop inching forward trying to figure this out on our own when all we need to do is simply “well seems like other cities around the world have already figured out those problems long ago, let’s look at how they solved their quagmire.”

  33. The Dude Abides,

    The problem is that there’s just so many ifs and buts like you mentioned with a myriad of transfer agreements between different agencies and a web maze of passes that it’s just not realistic for the average bus driver to remember all this.

    Do you really expect the average bus driver to figure out and memorize how to do all this while paying attention to the safety of the passengers?

    1. TAP cash value deduction Metro-to-Muni
    2. TAP cash value deduction Muni-to-Metro
    3. TAP cash value deduction single ride only
    4. TAP Day/Weekly/Monthly Passes
    5. TAP senior citizen
    6. TAP student
    7. Interagency EZ-Passes
    8. Metrolink Paper passes
    9. Need paper transfer

    Be realistic. No one is going to remember all this. The bus driver’s main priority is to be driving the bus and driving safely for passengers, not operating and gizmo with memorization of all these what-if cases regarding to fares.

    See, you don’t have these kinds of problems in cities abroad. You TAP-in, you TAP-out and cash value automatically deducts value based on usage. That’s it. The bus driver doesn’t have to do memorize anything because there’s little or no interaction at all whether there are transfers involved.

    A lot of things that go wrong in poor planning and execution of a great idea are things like these that transit agencies fail to consider.

  34. @steve
    Normally my journeys usual start with red line so in most cases I have needed a day pass I did it at a ticket machine. This was the first time I have tried to purchase a day pass with stored value on the bus. Shouldn’t this be pretty cut and dry by now? TAP has been in effect for awhile. I would assume this comes up quite often.

    • I hear you. I’m just trying to get an idea of the scope of the problem. In this case, it would be really helpful if you could take a few minutes and pop an email to and describe what happens. I’m not trying to pawn you off — they are the main clearinghouse for customer complaints and hear from more people than I do. So it helps for them to get everything and they can track and fix these kind of annoyances.

      Thanks Dude,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  35. Steve,

    Here’s my question. Almost everyone has a computer these days. Almost everyone has a smartphone these days.

    Is there any reason why you cannot just let us use our own USB contactless card readers/writers instead of TAP card holders to actually go visit a TAP card center or a vending machine to do all of these things?

    Those USB contactless card readers are readily available on the internet for about $20-$40. Majority of the people over in Asia just by a contactless card reader/writer (or their laptop already comes equipped with such feature from the start), allowing them to load up their transit cards 24/7 in the comfort of their own home.

    Most smartphones these days come equipped with an NFC feature anyway. Why not put it to good use by building an app that let’s you load your TAP card just by making the smartphone act as the portable ticket machine? It does the same thing.

    Even better, if the smartphone already has NFC capability, just get rid of TAP cards and go straight to using smartphones as the TAP card itself. That in turn, would be significant savings because you wouldn’t need to buy those plastic cards anymore; people already would have that on something they use everyday – their own phone.

    • Hey James;

      My understanding is that at this point, Metro wants to get the system that it has working and then the agency and its partners can look at some of the other things that have come into play the last few years. Obviously the phone idea is intriguing but with two caveats: one, if your phone dies, are you out of luck trying to get where you are going, and; two, no fare system in L.A. County can be designed on the presumption that everyone has a smart phone. Many do — but not all.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  36. So looking forward to these being locked. I hate seeing people go through without tapping/paying and not getting stopped.

    Steve – Has Metro considered making day passes good till the end of the Metro Rail service day? IE If I buy a day pass and then want to take the train after midnight it’s no good. Especially on Friday/Saturdays when the train runs late.

    • Hey Scott;

      Here’s the description from’s fare page:

      Metro Day Pass
      Good for local travel until 3am the following day. May be purchased aboard buses (TAP Card required) or at Metro ticket vending machines. Zone charges may apply on some lines.

      I hate to ask you to do paperwork, but it would be very helpful if you could contact Customer Relations with any/all relevant detail about when this has happened.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  37. @Steve

    Silver line operator attempted by I had already TAP the reader. He told me to come back in 7 min to try again, but I opted to try on other bus to no avail.

    • Thanks–but have other bus operators allowed you to buy a day pass from stored value? I need to know whether this has happened occasionally or all the time when you’ve tried to buy day pass with stored value.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  38. you said: You can also put different amounts of cash on the card (stored value) and use that money to purchase single fares or passes. The stored value is a great way for occasional riders to avoid having to deal with ticket machines every day they ride.”

    This may be true for Metro rail machines, but I have had 2 bus operators not allow me to load a day pass on a card and pay with Stored value. I think this point either needs to be clarified or rectified. One operator said you cannot have stored value and load a pass at the same time. Their solution was to purchase an additional card for the day pass and pay cash. Which also brings up the issue of capping at day pass on stored value instead of purchasing a pass a the beginning of your journey.

  39. I’m really glad to hear the Tap website is being redesigned. I haven’t been able to register the past two Tap cards I’ve purchased from vending machines because the website doesn’t recognize the serial number.

  40. If entering through a turnstile gate you need to TAP, while exiting you don’t because it it doesn’t latch that way. How do you exit a wheelchair access gate which isn’t the same as a turnstile? Do you need to TAP then?

    • No need to tap your card no matter where you exit.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  41. Bike congestion is going to be a severe issue since there is generally only ONE gate for wheelchair users/ADA, bicycles, and passengers with luggage, which are going to be in and out through a six foot wide area. You can tell people that they will be ticketed if they use the emergency exit but short of stationing cops outside every emergency exit to ticket bicyclists who cross through, this will be an exercise in futility. If you are doing gates, you need to have staffed agents at stations like on most other systems with gates. Unfortunately MTA will probably have to learn this lesson down the lines, that “mobile assistants” and someone yelling over the intercom from Rail Operations Center isn’t going to work.

  42. you said: You can also put different amounts of cash on the card (stored value) and use that money to purchase single fares or passes. The stored value is a great way for occasional riders to avoid having to deal with ticket machines every day they ride.”

    This may be true for Metro rail machines, but I have had 2 bus operators not allow me to load a day pass on a card and pay with Stored value. I think this point either needs to be clarified or rectified. One operator said you cannot have stored value and load a pass at the same time. Their solution was to purchase an additional card for the day pass and pay cash. Which also brings up the issue of capping at day pass on stored value instead of purchasing a pass a the beginning of your journey.

    • Hi Dude Abides;

      Have any bus operators allowed you to buy a day pass with stored value?


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  43. Unless I’m mistaken, some stations (NoHo, for example) inexplicably don’t have wheelchair access gates and passengers use the Emergency Exits (which have had their alarms turned-off).

    How will this be addressed?

    • Hi Bill;

      ALL stations have at least one ADA gate at one of the entrances by the elevator. North Hollywood is no exception. The alarms will be turned on.

      Hope that helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source