Metro and LASD target fare evasion on the Orange Line

Sheriff's Deputies are cracking down on fare evasion along the Orange Line. Remember to both load fares on your card and tap the card at the validator before boarding the bus! Photo by Paul Gonzalez/Metro.

Sheriff’s Deputies are cracking down on fare evasion along the Orange Line. Remember to both load fares on your card and tap the card at the validator before boarding the bus! Photo by Paul Gonzalez/Metro.

Here’s the news release from Metro:

To reduce fare evasion on the Orange Line, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Transit Services Bureau (TSB) have joined in a two-pronged effort to improve communication and enforce laws requiring riders to buy fare and use TAP cards when riding the Metro system.

New signs are being designed for all 18 Metro Orange Line stations directing riders to tap their TAP cards at validators to deduct appropriate fare. Also, Sheriff’s patrols have beefed up on the popular bus line that runs 18 miles between the North Hollywood Red Line subway station and Chatsworth and Woodland Hills. The Orange Line is a bus service that operates on an exclusive busway like a light rail line, therefore, there are no fare boxes on board and passengers must tap fare cards when entering each station. The Orange Line has about 30,000 weekday boardings.

“In recent enforcement audits we found that a majority of our passengers tap their cards and pay the fare when they enter stations, but an alarming number riders were not paying and a surprising number of people appear to be unclear about when and where to tap their fare cards,” said LASD Commander Michael Claus of the TSB. “Our new signs will direct passengers where to tap and we’ve added a new instructional video to Transit TV indicating that failure to tap may result in a citation and fine.”

Metro conducted three audits on the Orange Line in December and February. The first audit on December 3, 2013 at the North Hollywood, Sherman Way and Van Nuys stations found that 22 percent of Orange Line riders evaded the fare by not having a valid TAP card or enough cash balance on the TAP card to ride the bus. In addition, 9 percent of riders with activated TAP cards and a valid pass did not tap before entering, which is considered misuse of the TAP card and not fare evasion. A second audit conducted December 17, 2013 at the North Hollywood, Canoga and Reseda stations found 16 percent of riders evaded fares and 6 percent TAP misuse. A third audit on February 11, 2014 at the North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Canoga stations found 7 percent of riders evaded fares and 5 percent misuse of TAP.

“There is no excuse for breaking the law and trying to ride for free. The Metro Board has authorized many reduced fare programs for seniors, students, persons with disabilities and Medicare recipients,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “Metro fares are among the lowest in the United States. Our riders pay only 26 percent of the cost of operating our expanding service leading to a projected budget gap that, if left unaddressed, threatens the quality of service we provide.”

The base fare for Metro buses and Metro Rail is $1.50, but because of the wide availability of reduced fare programs, the average fare paid is 70 cents. Learn more about Metro reduced fares at

TAP is a universal fare system that includes 12 regional and municipal transit carriers in Los Angeles County. By the end of 2014, 26 agencies will be a part of TAP including Long Beach Transit and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, meaning there will be, for the first time, a seamless regional transit system in which riders can tap to enter and not have to count out change to transfer. In addition to accurate fare recovery, TAP also monitors flow of passengers allowing Metro to tailor service to demand.

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20 replies

  1. swagrid

    Would you rather pay $1.50, $5.00(day pass), etc.??? ……Or pay $4.00/gallon on gas a day??…. Exactly

  2. Tax Waste.
    I’m a fare enforcement officer, we have to enforce fares, even if if’s only $1.50. Because if we didn’t enforce fares then no one would pay their fare. It would not be fair to people who are honest and
    pay their fare.

  3. “well on a worldwide level, the fare is quite high…”

    The rest of the world uses a different fare structure where prices vary depending on distance traveled.

    Cannot compare a flat rate $1.50 anywhere you go system to one that starts off as low as $0.60 and can be as much as $3.00 depending on how far you go. And cities that start off low and come with variable pricing structures are much less likely to have constant fare increases over and over again.

  4. “I don’t know why people complain about the fare, it is one of the lowest in the country”

    well on a worldwide level, the fare is quite high…

    anyhow at least on the subway.. its probably cheaper just to station one sheriff at each station 24/7 than to these massive “stings” like they do at the north Hollywood station. metro should do a study in that…

  5. Why is this just being enforced on the Orange Line and not on all the other bus lines? Bus operators get stressed with people that get on everyday and that do not pay the fare on other lines too.

  6. Like the above commentor, I also have had serious problems in reading the TAP validators, caused both by sun glare, and by the very faint LED numbers/text, and the scratched dirty surface. Please MTA, improve the readability and placement of both these validators (and the fare machines, which have similar problems.)

  7. Teresa La Farge,

    Here are my rebuttals:

    1. Fares might be considered low, but travel distance also plays a factor. The current fare is $1.50, but the plan is for the fare hike to go up to $2.25 by 2020.

    $2.25 is still cheap if you’re riding the Orange Line from end-to-end from Warner Center to North Hollywood, but very few people are going to pay the same $2.25 to go one station from De Soto to Pierce College.

    At a certain point people will say that they will not cope with paying the same $2.25 price for a short ride and no they are not going to pay an overly inflated monthly pass for that either.

    Eventually, a distance based fare plan will be needed so as to “even out the fares” to those that ride the system depending on travel distance and that is what Metro should be thinking about instead of a flat rate fare hike.

    2. Metrolink issues paper tickets that are TAPable so it there’s no reason why it can’t be done

    3. What if people do want to go to court? There’s a fifty-fifty chance that the cop who gave you your ticket never appears in court. Just use your sick or vacation day, get paid for the leave of absence, spend your day at court, if cop shows up pay the fine, if not, you get away without paying the fine. Overall, there’s a 50-50 chance that cops won’t show up and that means 50-50 chance per citation issued that Metro loses out because they just spent millions on LASD officers for fare encorcement with only 50% of the fines ever being paid.

  8. This is stupid. The amount of tax dollars being spent for fare enforcement must be in the millions just to go after a few dollars.

  9. The problem with fare evasion is because no wants to fork over $1.50. And far more people are not going to pay $2.25when the fare hike happens either.

    You want more people to take transit? Make the fares cheaper or figure out a better way to make money. I keep hearing that transit in Asia can make profit, why can’t you?

  10. First off, I don’t know why people are complaining about the fare. They are the lowest in the US. And by the way, fare’s are going to be increased next year, but is still cheaper than other cities. Second, Metro got rid of paper tickets because Tap cards are needed to enter through the turnstiles. You can not tap paper tickets. Third, you do not have to go to court if you are issued a citation unless you want to contest it, but making it a misdemeanor is a good idea.

  11. Does this mean anyone of valid Metro Passes loaded onto the tap card, including the EZ Pass loaded onto TAP Card will be no longer accepted on Orange Line pretty soon?

    • Hi Mike,

      As long as you have valid fare/passes on your TAP card and tap at the validators before boarding the Orange Line, you will be fine.


      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  12. While we’re at it, what is the status of that pedestrian tunnel under Lankershim Boulevard to take commuters between the Orange Line and Red Line stations?
    Any progress being made?

    • Hey Morris — Lemme dig update up. I thought I just saw that mentioned in a staff report. I’ll dig around when I’m in office later.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Hi Morris;

      The current forecast has the project being completed in summer 2016.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  13. Back in November I was boarding the Orange Line at Van Nuys in late afternoon and the sun glare on the TAP validators was so great I couldn’t tell whether I had successfully tapped or not.

    While sun glare will vary by time of day and time of year, this is most likely a problem at one time or another at many ungated locations around the system. Please consider doing an audit of locations and determine whether some sort of screening or shading can be installed at locations subject to glare.

  14. Metro should team up with EPA and some other agencies and make the fare affordable to Angelenos. Think about our freeways that never produced profits,they are part of our infrastructure,Metro should be the same, lets start to take away the monopoly of the transit fare from TAP and have paper day passes for people like tourists, also let’s have a 25 cent day pass for students or 18 and younger. Los Angeles unfortunately is at the top of the most polluted cities in US. besides using the Metro I used to go out with my family on Weekends now cost me $30.00 to go on the Metro with my family, just the fare. Beside when you enforce the fare evasion you are targeting the most needy sector of the population.

  15. Are there any facts or figures to see how effective Metro’s fines and citations are?

    A fine is nothing more than admitting guilt and forfeiting bail. That’s what a fine is under the constructs of law: for a non-criminal offense, it’s bail that’s not returned to you because you admitted guilt before trial.

    One can easily beat the fine by saying they want a court date and have court date pushed out way far out due to our overcrowded court system, and take the big likelihood chance that the officer who wrote the ticket won’t even bother to show up on the trial date, in which the judge ends up throwing out the ticket altogether.

    The problem is that fare evasion is treated like a non-criminal offense. Make it a criminal offense by slapping on a misdemeanor charge for fare evasion (consider it to be stealing from taxpayers!) and you’ll see the fare evasion go down immediately.