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.
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 taptogo.net.
Is Metro doing anything about the taptogo.net 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 taptogo.net 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.
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.