Video and new staff report on combating fare evasion on the Orange Line

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Above is a brief and concise reminder from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to remember to tap your TAP card at the validator at Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. Even if a valid fare is loaded. If you don’t and you’re caught, you’ll likely receive a citation, usually for $75

Hey, let’s do the math on this!!!

Citation = $75

Fare = $1.50

$75 minus $1.50 = $73.50

Paying $73.50 more than you need to ride the bus…perhaps not the wisest investment you could make ūüôā

UPDATE: A reader wisely suggested we include some information on why Metro requires riders to TAP. The reason: it prevents abuse of TAP cards, namely from people who load cash or passes on their cars but never actually use the cards — meaning they’re riding for free.

Below is the latest Metro staff report on the issue of increasing fare enforcement along the Orange Line, where two audits on two days this past December found fare evasion rates of 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively. A number of options are listed, including installation of gates, creating ‘virtual’ gates with arrays of TAP validators, more signage and even video surveillance.

23 replies

  1. The fare evasion problems on the Orange Line was nothing to be surprised about. I’m amazed at how Metro kept denying it was happening and only then were they shocked at how severe the problem was.

    Talk about ducking your head in the sand!

  2. Let’s consider a blanket policy of providing Metro transportation as a civic benefit to our children and youth. Any rider who has not yet reached the age of 16 will not be charged a fare.

  3. As a new rider on the Orange line, my observation would be that at every station I’ve seen, I’ve only seen one validator at the entrance to loading area. Just put another validator, or even two spread out across the platform to give the visual impression of a barrier (not building actual gates). Add the graphics noted in the report and audio reminders and reminders on the arrival schedule boards in different languages and there should be no excuse. I’ve been riding the line for two weeks now. I did see my first sheriff’s detail yesterday and they were handing out quite a few tickets. The sheriff’s details don’t have to be on every single trip 24 hours a day. They just have to be around enough so that regular non-payers realize the possibility of getting caught is not as distant as it might have been in the past.

  4. And once again I will ask Steve Hymon to release the full numbers and the math from the original reports that were used to determine the “22% fare evasion”. Funny, we’ve never seen these, only bar graphs derived from them, and no one at Metro seems to want to release the full data.

    I wonder why?

  5. “and eliminates any incentive the company (Metro) has of providing you with a discount”

    Just to clarify many misconceptions that many seem to have these days and keeps coming back over and over again but METRO IS NOT A COMPANY. It’s a GOVERNMENT AGENCY. Keep that in mind why it’s called “public transit.” PUBLIC transit. P-U-B-L-I-C transit. Get it? Write it down over and over again until you understand the difference between public and private.

    A company operates for profits in order to please their shareholders. It actually makes money and pays out dividends to their shareholders. Profitable mass transit companies exist, many of them over in Asia. Hong Kong MTR is a fine example of one. It’s a corporation, it lists itself with the ticker symbol 0066.HK on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and is a profit driven enterprise. It actually achieves one of the highest farebox recovery ratios in the world at 186% – practically running on its own without any form of government assistance, and it expands out to other business ventures like property ownership, development, and management.

    Metro, on the other hand does not issue any stocks and it is not a for-profit enterprise. Metro is not listed on the NYSE, there are no shareholders, it’s not driven for profits. It doesn’t sell anything. It’s a government agency that provides government service to taxpayers with taxpayer money. It’s no different than the police or fire fighters – everyone pays into it whether you use it or not for the public good. That’s why it’s called public transit – it’s paid with taxpayer assistance. As a public transit agency, what they should be doing is what is best for taxpayers, not trying to come up with money making schemes (because they already take our money via form of taxes whether people use Metro or not), and definitely not lining up their own pockets with pay raises and pension benefits.

  6. Noam Chomsky,

    London has a autocap system. It works fine.

    Auto-reloads through credit and debit cards are being used in the Bay Area. It works fine.

    And they both use the exact same Cubic system as LA Metro.
    “Cubic has delivered over 400 projects in 40 major markets on five continents. Active projects include London…Los Angeles regio…San Francisco region…”

    All LA Metro needs to do is upgrade their TAP software and it can be done. There’s nothing confusing or severely complicated. It’s like going from Adobe Acrobat X to Acrobat XI. The underlying core technology is the same between London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And London and San Francisco can deliver it, so can Los Angeles because we’re using the exact same system as these two cities that do have an autocap system and an auto-reload system.

  7. Noam Chomsky,

    I disagree. If anything, an autocap will become a huge cost saver because you’re letting the entire system do it automatically instead of the need to hire tremendous amount of labor costly people to do these things manually. And the cost? Just a simple one time software update. You don’t need new machinery, you don’t need new computers, it’s just rewriting the software code. And if you want a computer programmer, there’s tons of them in the LA area that can get the job done.

    In fact, this idea was even discussed quite extensively last August with many people agreeing that this is a far easier and cheaper solution with big pluses than downsides.

  8. @Cap System

    While I feel that would make riders’ life easier in the short term (and go a long way in making our fare system easier to comprehend for tourists), it would be terribly inefficient for Metro and in the end those costs would come back to riders in some way.

    You get a better rate on monthly passes because you are paying up front, and buying in bulk. If the money is slowly deducted from your debit/credit card at different rates, it is pay as you go, and eliminates any incentive the company (Metro) has of providing you with a discount. Also, that would create huge problems if your TAP card was stolen or your credit/debit card was frozen.

    I agree that the system you described would be quite user-friendly, but the added costs of implementing such a system, monitoring such a system, dealing with customer questions about how much they have used their TAP card in a given period, dealing with fare disputes, etc. would have to be somewhat passed onto the riders.

    And in a scenario where Metro already lacks money because of fare evasion, adding new layers to a bureaucracy, while not addressing major underlying problems, would be shortsighted.

  9. If pass holders have a problem on understanding why they need to TAP when they already pre-bought one, why don’t we just ditch the entire pre-buy the pass system idea and have everyone pay-as-you-go but have it automatically convert to a pass as you use the system?

    Just have TAP linked to your debit or credit card so that it reloads cash value automatically. As you ride through the system, the system will do the job to automatically convert itself to a daily, 7 day or 30 day pass as you hit each dollar amount threshold.

    So if you use your TAP card the fourth time within a day, it stops deducting at five dollars and it automatically converts itself to a day pass.

    When you use it consecutively and it hits the $20 mark within the first seven days, it automatically converts itself to a 7 day pass.

    When you reach $75 within the first 30 days of use, it auto-coverts itself to a 30 day pass.

    Then it resets itself after 30 days.

    I think the issue is the idea of making people decide whether they should pre-buy a pass as opposed to pay-as-you go per-ride is the cause of all these confusions. That’s why you get the situation why people need to TAP when they already have a pass.

    Wouldn’t it be then, better to just get rid of pre-buy option and make it pay-as-you-go with a threshold cap limit? No one knows how they are going to travel, you might as well make it pay-as-you-go and cap it off at the daily, 7 day or 30 day dollar amount threshold and the result would the same thing.

  10. Are you sure it is only $75? I got on a station I had never been to before and couldn’t find the ticket machine. The train came and I thought the fine was about $70 so I decided to risk it. I got caught, the officer didn’t even know where the machine was (had to ask her boss), and she also thought it was a $70 fine. When I got the actual fine in the mail it was $300. Quite a surprise for a first time offender.

  11. While it is kind of you to share the sketches of the stations and the potential installation of turnstiles, is there perhaps a clearer version so that we can truly see how absurd this notion is?

  12. #6 on the staff report says “pay upon entry will slow down the boarding and alighting process”

    Umm, how is this ANY DIFFERENT from what ALL THE OTHER METRO BUSES makes you do today? People already have to TAP when they board all the other Metro buses as well as the other BRT line, the Silver Line. What’s so different about the Orange Line that it can’t be done there? And it’s not like Metro is the only BRT line in the world that makes you tap on board. The MBTA Silver Line in Boston requires you tap in as you board too.

    Besides, why would it slow down when getting off the bus too? We don’t do a tap-off process because there’s no point in doing so as our fares aren’t distance based so this concern is moot. And even if we decided to move to such a fare model in the future, there’s no disastrous outcome because you already have buses right across the Pacific who does tap-in on entry and tap-out on exit on both buses and rail and they are able to move along millions of people everyday.

    All of these sounds like the same old excuses by Metro to not get anything done. Metro and its employees are not being paid by taxpayers to make up lame excuses, their job is to get their act together and start doing their job!!

  13. Metro should raise the citation to $ 150.
    I have a suggestion. If a rider caught on fare evasion, law enforcement could present two options to the rider to pick either option:
    Option #1 Pay the citation upfront.
    Option #2 Have the rider to purchase a monthly pass immediately The citation will be cancelled after the violator purchase a monthly pass.
    A smart violator will pick option #2 because he or she could eliminate the hassle of paying a fine and they get a bus pass.
    This also benefits Metro because it gets the revenue up front and provide Metro an opportunity to nudge people to buy the tap cards and to pass for the monthly passes.

  14. West LAer, we already are spending millions of dollars each year on law enforcement officers via Metro’s contract with the Sheriff’s Dept. I hope the publicity about this evasion on the Orange Line compels them to do a better job.

    A Transit Court was created a few years ago expressly to improve enforcement of fines:

  15. Mike,

    If people are riding Metro, the person may not even have a drivers license or a driving record to begin with. Yes, there are many people out there who have never had a drivers license.

    If you do not pay the fine on a traffic ticket, it gets reported to the DMV and your drivers license is suspended. There’s still the issue with red light cameras ( but otherwise, if a cop pulls you over, you sign the ticket to promise to appear in court, and if you fail to appear or pay the fine, it gets reported to the DMV.

    However, failure to pay the fine on Metro doesn’t lead to anything like that. There is state issuing authority of a “public transit license. There’s no suspension of a “ride Metro license,” it doesn’t even exist. If you don’t pay the fine, you still can ride Metro. What are they going to do, revoke your TAP card? You can just buy a new one for $1.

    You’re not even required to show ID (how stupid is the idea of showing a drivers license to ride Metro? You’re not driving anything!) so the officer writing the ticket has no way of proving who you say you are.

    As the state law states today, the first two offenses is an infraction punishable with a fine up to $250 or 48 hours of community service. The third offense is a misdemeanor, $400 fine and 90 days of jail. However, this is all subject to whether or not anyone caught cheating tells the truth who they are and where they live as well as there is no prerequisite to identify oneself as no one is required to have ID to ride public transit.

  16. I did some Google searching on my own.

    CA Penal Code Sec 640, signed by Gov. Brown on Sep. 29, 2012 from AB 2247:

    So in the State of CA, fare evasion is a minor infraction for the first TWO offenses and the maximum fine that can be levied is $250. But on the THIRD offense, it becomes a misdemeanor and lands you in jail for 90 days or $400 in fines.

    I think the 22% fare evasion rate on the Orange Line warrants that the LA needs to step up and make the penalty more serious. Seventy five bucks is nothing these days. They need to jack up the fine to $250. State clearly that if you are caught three times, it becomes a misdemeanor, the fine goes up to $400 and you go directly to jail.

    It’s clearly stated on our State Penal Code, it’s been the law in our books since September 2012, why hasn’t Metro kept up with our state law to post the seriousness of fare evasion?

    Do this and the changes will be immediate. No wants wants to pay a fine of $250, no wants a misdemeanor, no one wants to go to jail all for the sake of a $1.50.

  17. You should explain better why Metro requires even people with a pass to tap. Otherwise, it just sounds like you’re fining low-income folks for no reason. For example, you could say something like this:

    “Metro requires even riders with a pass to tap in order to prevent abuses such as illegal pass sharing and to help deter theft of TAP cards. It also helps Metro gather better ridership data, which helps us target investment where it will do the most good and can help us win competitive federal and state grants to improve our service.”

    Public agencies like Metro need to do a better job of explaining why regulations like this actually benefit their users and the wider public. There’s some great law-and-economics scholarship on how fines and penalties can sometimes be counterproductive because they turn a social/moral expectation into a purchasable commodity where people just weigh the risks of getting caught (think speeding drivers); by explaining why rules exist, Metro can promote better ridership norms more effectively than by threat of punishment alone.

    Ideally, Metro should want a world where people will feel a sense of shame for walking past a validator without tapping, and explaining properly why rules exist will help contribute to that.

    • Hi Fakey;

      Good point. I’ll add some language to yesterday’s post.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  18. What if you got a point on your driving record if you failed to pay the fine?

  19. Metro,

    When will you learn that fare evaders do not think in terms of investment? They think of in terms of chance and risk!

    To them, the math is like this:

    The cost of a fine: $75
    The cost of a bus fare: $1.50
    Number of free trips to outweigh the fine: $75/$1.50 = 50 trips

    Chances of getting caught 50 times in a row when fare enforcement is non-existent: pretty high to take that risk.

    The likelihood of LA taxpayers being for spending millions of dollars each year in law enforcement officers to go around and checking everyone’s ticket 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year across all of Metro’s buses and rail system, the likelihood is zero.

    The odds are way better than the $400 million dollar MegaMillions jackpot to get away with it, therefore, they take the risk.

    Besides, you also get to the point of asking how effective these fines are anyway. When you Google it up, you see that even SF MUNI, per the number of citations issued, only 60% of them is actually paid and there’s no criminal charge that goes along with no paying the fine either.

    So Metro, how much is it costing taxpayers to go after fare evaders and how much fines are actually being recovered when citations are used? Is there any criminal penalty that goes along with it if you do pay the fine? The answer is probably no as well. So there really is no point to paying the fine either even if you’re caught.