Transportation headlines, Monday, July 28

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And 30 years ago today…

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So how many people are paying to ride? (L.A. Times) 

This article about fare evasion, turnstiles and ridership estimates is generating a lot of discussion on our Twitter feed. The story looks at the sometimes wide discrepancy between Metro’s ridership estimates and data from the TAP system. The problem is that ridership is more than the TAP numbers, suggesting that the difference consists of people either not paying to ride and those who have paid but aren’t tapping. But pinpointing the number who are evading fares has proven difficult.


Reducing fare jumping as much as possible has become increasingly important to Metro, which is under pressure to boost ticket revenue as its rail network rapidly expands. Income from fares covers just 26% of Metro’s bus and rail system operating expenses, one of the lowest rates of any major world city. That ratio must increase in the next few years or the agency risks losing crucial federal funding needed to continue building and operating the train network.

Metro has responded by raising fares, starting in September, with more hikes proposed for coming years.

In addition to fare hikes, some elected officials are asking the agency to examine other ways to bring in more revenue. And they are taking note of the disparities between Metro’s ridership estimates and the numbers of tickets being counted at rail stations.

“They owe it to you and to anybody else who’s interested to explain the difference,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Metro board member, who says it’s still too easy to get on trains without paying.


Those four graphs frame the issue. It’s a considerably longer article accompanied by some interesting graphics. Please read if you’re interested in the issue.

As the article mentions, there is some evidence that increased fare enforcement and latching the turnstiles present in half of the Metro Rail stations might be having an effect. I also think it’s important to remind everyone that paying fares helps keep the system running and that it’s important for everyone to always tap when boarding a Metro bus or train. That will help riders avoid potentially costly citations and also helps Metro because having better ridership data will also help the agency better plan future service and projects.

Metro picks Skanska venture to build first phase of subway extension (L.A. Times) 

A look at some of the issues in play in the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to award a $1.6-billion construction contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega. Metro did not pick the low-bidder price-wise and instead selected a contractor — in this case, Skanksa, Traylor and Shea — based on a variety of criteria including price, project management and technical approach.

Metro July meeting recap: subway, SRTP, active transpo and more (Streetsblog LA)

A good recap and analysis of the many issues tackled by the Metro Board at their meeting last Thursday. Streetsblog has been keeping an eye on the short-range plan and funding for pedestrian and bike projects. As Joe Linton notes, the short-range plan approved by the Metro Board is being seen by some as a “casting call” for a potential 2016 ballot measure and thus the interest in particular projects.

Gold Line on schedule, on budget for Azusa extension (L.A. Register) 

A progress report on one of the Measure R-funded projects, the 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border with six new stations along the way — and considerable development opportunities near the tracks and stations. Construction continues to progress well and is on schedule to be completed by next September, when the process would begin of handing the line over to Metro and testing. Metro is currently forecasting opening the line in early 2016.

Mayor sets out to transform L.A. streets through ‘urban acupuncture’ (L.A. Times) 

A deeper look at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s initiative to transform sections of 15 streets in the city — one per council district — into more walkable, bike-friendly and transit-friendly streets  to encourage residents to eat, shop and play locally instead of driving to distant points in the L.A. megalopolis.

As the article notes, there will be hurdles to cross and this type of effort has been tried in the past. Most notably, some residents say don’t necessarily want streets that will slow down their journey to the nearest freeway.

My hunch is that zoning regulations spelled out in local community plans will play a big role in this effort in terms of attracting the type of development — commercial and residential — that could help re-establish a Main Street type feel to some streets .

16 replies

  1. I notice that the fare evasion problem is very serious on Line 720. People are jamming the rear doors to get on the bus because the line for the front door is way too long. Can Metro install another tab card validator on the left side of the door? This will have two lines to the validator instead of one. Long Beach Transit is installing the card reader on the left side of the door. They decrease the bus dwell time because now there are tow lines to get on the bus instead of one.

  2. jfruh,

    You have to TAP regardless you have a pass or not. The world is becoming more reliant on the uses of technology where the gates themselves not only are a mechanism to the validity of fares or passes, but also as a massive data bank to collect how commuters take transit. This helps the agency collect the data of how many riders take transit from a certain station on what day at what time so as to help Metro to coordinate train schedules and transfers.

    Many countries have adopted contactless cards for this sole reason. It basically does two jobs in one: make it easier and more cost efficient to let machines handle the job of checking fares and make it more easier to collect data. When you have increasing number of riders and more to come, the task becomes tedious, inefficient, and likely impossible to do with human officers or fare checkers. If you go to places like London or Tokyo where millions take transit everyday, this is the norm. You don’t have humans checking fares or collecting data; it’ll be utter nightmare to do. Instead, they let the gates and turnstiles do that job instead.

  3. Steve,

    “One benefit of having everyone tap before each boarding is that it potentially generates data that Metro can use to assess how the system is used and WHERE PEOPLE ARE GOING.”

    Think logically for a moment Steve. How can Metro know where people are going when there isn’t a data capture going on because of the lack of a tap out?

    You need a tap-in and tap-out to get the full picture, just like you need a clock-in and clock-out to get the full picture on how people are working and how much they should be paid hourly. You don’t get a full picture when people just tap-in or clock-in.

    The best Metro can capture is where people are boarding the trains, not where people are heading to.

    If I tap-in at the validators at the Expo Line USC station, I tap-in. There is no directional heading. Metro only knows I got on the train at the USC station. It has no way of knowing whether I headed west towards Culver City or north towards 7th/Metro. You need a tap-out to get the full understanding that I went to Culver City or 7th/Metro.

    This, is why the rest of the world uses a tap-in/tap-out distance based fare structure. Massive data collection. What Metro is doing is a half-baked solution at best, as usual.

  4. Ron,

    Metro will have a cap system in the year 2100 around the same time the TAP website is fixed. Common sense ideas that take less than few months to implement at a fraction of the cost in the corporate world takes forever to do at over-inflated cost courtesy of taxpayers with government agencies.

  5. Can we purchase multiple 30-day passes on the same TAP card during August, so that we can, to an extent, beat the price hike that takes effect in September? Or will the unused 30-day passes on the TAP card automatically be lost 30 days after purchase (I think I heard this somewhere before)?

  6. It’s nice that Garcetti has a vision to upgrade neighborhoods to a more walkable, pedestrian and bike friendly environment, but the core of the problem lies in LA’s outdated zoning laws.

    How’s recodeLA doing these days?

  7. Fare evasion: A few weeks ago I needed to go from Long Beach to USC, Blue to Expo, return Expo to Blue, perfect use for a day pass. But the train came just as I entered the station, I couldn’t figure out quickly enough how to purchase a day pass using my stored value, so I just tapped in. Well, after paying for my first ride I wasn’t going to buy a day pass anymore, and I sure wasn’t willing to overpay by paying for each ride individually. But I’m also not a fare evader… so I walked from Grand station to USC (I had time and could use the exercise), and on the return I took Dash for 50c. Metro lost $2 in fares that it would have collected had I been riding the system.

    This is yet another reason to replace the day pass system with a daily cap: the time and complexity of buying a pass using stored value results in lost revenue.

    • Hey Joe;

      LOL, it was certainly one of the better transportation funding metaphors I’ve seen in quite some time. Keep it up!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. ““The construction is happening in layers, and very soon, it will look almost done,” said Lisa Levy Buch, director of public affairs for the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

    “A lot of what’s left involves the overhead system that electrifies the train, and the communication system between stations,” Buch said.

    The billion-dollar project will be handed over to Metro for testing and opening in September 2015.”

    About 6 more months of work and 6 months of testing the trains and the new line?

  9. Fare evasion needs to be stopped. Those who do it think it’s a harmless crime but in the end, taxpayers have to pay for it and it comes back to bite everyone later with higher fares. Of course, it’s also Metro’s fault too for putting much faith into the honor system. That idea was a complete joke and someone must’ve been smoking pot or something to believe that a completely ungated honor system was ever going to work.

  10. I think I can explain one reason for the discrepancies between the tap data and the actual number of riders. Those of us who has an Access Paratransit ID card can take a Personal Care Attendant to ride the system for free if this privilege is approved by Access Paratransit to the rider.

    I wish that the ID tap card is allowed to the turnstile tap card validator twice so that the rider’s personal care attendant can go through the latched gates without having to use the Intercom to have someone to open the gate remotely.

    Having an ID tab card to tab it twice could accurately record have many disabled riders ride the system with their personal care attendants. Another benefit is that the rider does not need to speak in front of the intercom. It is very difficult to use the intercom when you are at a station that is in the middle of the freeway.

    Metro needs to do a better job to maintain an accurate head count while enabling the disabled rider to access the rail stations without any undue hindrance.

  11. The anti-gatists will be come marching in with their bogus claims that fare evasion is not a problem and how their beloved cities like San Diego and Berlin is able to do it “just fine without gates” without mentioning their high fare evasion rates in 3, 2, 1…

  12. I used to be a fare evader when I was younger. One day, I got caught. It was embarrassing and humiliating. I felt deep regret and to this day I pay to ride. If I don’t pay, I don’t ride. Simple as that.

  13. Can I ask: what is the rationale for requiring that people who already have a daily, weekly, or monthly pass on their TAP cards still validate them at machines at Metro stations that don’t have faregates? It seems to me that this results in a lot of people who have already paid for the right to board ending up technically in violation of the rules, and adds an extra irritating step. Is there a technical limitation — like, are the handheld devices the police use to check if your card is valid unable to detect if a valid pass has been loaded onto it? Or is there some actual policy behind this? And how will this all work after the fare changes go into effect and a one-time fare gets you unlimited transfers for 90 minutes?

    • Hi jfruh;

      Understandable point. One benefit of having everyone tap before each boarding is that it potentially generates data that Metro can use to assess how the system is used and where people are going. That’s the kind of info you want when making decisions about schedules and equipment (i.e. length of trains). In short, data is a good way to measure how the system is performing.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source