Get TAP card in advance to avoid event lines

Metro is adding service for the Immigrants Make America Great march on Saturday and the Not My President’s Day Rally on Monday. Both events are in downtown Los Angeles and both could possibly draw huge crowds — especially the Saturday event. Of course, the rain expected this weekend could be a factor. 

Additional Metro Rail service will be provided on both days and Metro also will add extra security and staff at various stations to assist with crowd control. On Saturday, Red Line trains will be running every six minutes and the Purple, Blue, Expo and Gold Lines will be running every nine minutes. There will also be extra Orange Line and Silver Line bus service.

Point of emphasis: In order to ride Metro Rail, you must have a TAP card loaded with the appropriate fare (rides are not free, no matter what you may hear). Every rider needs their own TAP card.

As many of you know, the lines at the TAP vending machines during the Women’s March last month were not the happiest places on Earth. En route to work, I parked at the Sierra Madre Villa garage that morning and found an extremely long line snaking around the fourth floor with some folks waiting up to an hour just to buy a TAP card to get to the train platforms.

So here’s the deal…take a few minutes today, Thursday or Friday and get a TAP card ahead of time. The cards cost $1. We recommend putting at least $3.50 in stored value on the card, which is enough for a roundtrip ride (a one-way trip is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers).

How to get a TAP card? 

•There are TAP card vending machines in every Metro Rail station, all Orange Line busway stations and El Monte Station. They accept cash, debit cards and credit cards. Fares purchased can be used immediately.

•You can buy one online at or by calling 866-827-8646. Please allow seven to 10 business days for delivery.

•Visit a TAP vendor — there are about 400 around L.A. County. Find a location near you.

•Visit a Metro Customer Service Center. Find a location near you.


21 replies

  1. I do wish y’all advertised autoload more widely. It may not be feasible for everyone, but it makes riding transit a MUCH more straightforward experience.

  2. How sad, the Green Line is never mentioned in any of these “extra trains being added.”

  3. Every time I get a friend to buy a TAP card. they are always careful not to load anymore than one round-trip’s worth onto the card. It’s as if they’re afraid if they have any fare left over they’ll be obligated to stay underground until the fare expires.

  4. Wow… if all of America keeps this up… for weeks and months on end… Trump betta start packing……..& GTFO for good..

  5. A couple weeks ago at the Chinatown Gold Line station Metro had a person selling TAP cards! This was the day of the Chinese New Year Parade. Now, I only went from Lincoln Heights station to Chinatown station, one stop, but I hope Metro had a person selling TAP cards at the outer stations along the Gold Line.

    The TAP machines aren’t user friendly despite the new screen, which is actually an improvement from the older screens-which were a nightmare. But, no question the best thing to do is put stored value on the TAP card. That way you can either just tap and fare will be deducted or you can buy a day pass quicker and easier-assuming you have enough money.

    One thing Metro does NOT tell people about the TAP card is that they are only good for 10 years. AND more importantly- if you go 18 straight months without using the stored value on a TAP card they will deduct $1 a month! This is something that Metro should tell the people they are trying to reach in this story- the infrequent riders who only use Metro for big events.

    In the story there is a link to find a vendor location to buy TAP cards, the story says about 400 vendor locations throughout LA County-which is just not enough!!! I found it interesting that when I put in a Pasadena zip code-the only places to buy a TAP card in Pasadena are the Gold Line stations and a couple check cashing places. The search results included a Ralph’s in Glendale! If the Ralph’s in Glendale sells TAP cards, why doesn’t the Ralphs in Pasadena (there are 3 or 4 Ralph’s in Pasadena) sell TAP cards, especially when the Gold Line runs through Pasadena, but doesn’t run through Glendale?

    I have read in San Francisco they sell their version of the TAP card at all Walgreen’s!! How about doing that down here? Include CVS and Rite Aid too!

    While nobody can predict how many people will show up at any event, Metro’s had a terrible response to the Women’s March. They should have sent 2 trains out once the stations got packed! In the future Metro should not only increase the number of cars per train, but the number of trains per hour when a big event happens!! I think if Metro had even increased their service by 50% per hour, it would have been able to handle the crowds during the women’s march!

  6. Time for Metro to seriously consider selling preloaded TAP cards wherever gift cards are sold.

  7. This is a mea culpa for “we’re not doing our job.” The taxpayers spent billions for a rail system, which DOES NOT work when predictable special events occur. The failure to be able to get large numbers of people onto the trains during special events is a MetroFAIL.

    What a bureaucracy! Screw the TAP cards – during special events HAVE A TICKET AGENT SELL TICKETS!

  8. People who only use transit occasionally might not load any stored value ahead of time. It’s like purchasing a gift card for themselves without knowing when or if they’ll spend it.

    Online or over the phone, there’s still a time delay to reload a fare before it can be used. As for ordering a new one, people might not be able to predict the need for it 10 business days in advance. The vending machines are the only instantaneous option.

    • And of course, I post this without clicking all the links in this post. The TAP Locator page is surprisingly easy to use – just type in a ZIP code, and it brings up a Google map with every vendor location plotted out within a few miles. Can retail vendors reload cards? If not, what’s the stored value when you buy ’em?

  9. I can still buy bags of Metro Tokens at many Supermarkets. Why can’t I buy a pre-loaded TAP card for $10 ($1 for card, $9 worth of rides) too?

  10. I heard during the March, some people waited so long at stations that their 2H of free transfer ran out before they got on their final vehicle. Perhaps you should suggest loading $7 for 4 one-ways, or just springing a full $8 for a day pass? Also freeway express buses cost an additional 75c, including the Silver Line which is branded the same as the Orange Line and rail but has that *surprise* surcharge.

  11. Keeping a TAP card with some cash value balance in the wallet can be very handy. I still have a feeling from my observation every day that many riders (even regular riders) are not aware of the cash value feature, and mistakenly thought TAP only holds monthly or weekly passes. More education and outreach will be a good idea.

  12. If only I could load my TAP as quickly as I could make my credit card payment or load my credit card these lines may never occur. That was the domino that jacked my Metrolink connection.

    I ended up loading a weekly pass in line but it was inactive so I waited and loaded fare. Inexperienced metro users really need assistance. If we had station attendants I think the ease of service for new and existing users is important and respectful of everyones journey/mission for the day. Metros “post it note” alerts are simply not enough and nothing more than a “we tried to warn you”. I love Metro, but theyve really gotta grow up in these areas. First time users may remember these experiences as bad ones also.

    • I’ve seen station agents for Ciclavia and the Long Beach Grand Prix, but an immigration march is not a Metro sponsored event. On the other hand, I agree that the card can be sold at stores off the shelf. A few years ago I saw Utah Transit Authority farecards being sold at local CVS’s, a thousand miles away, so there is no doubt this can be done.

  13. Steve, has Metro considered staffing stations with employees to sell pre-loaded Tap cards when there are huge events in the city?

  14. Dear Steve,

    First if those people we’re waiting in line to buy a TAP card, how were they supposed to buy their card to tap it early? Second, if they bought it the day before, how were they supposed to TAP it early, if the same crowd was waiting to get a train? I thought you had X minutes after tapping your card for the tap to be valid. If waits to get on a train were 2+ hours, how would that have worked?

    • The cards from the TAP vending machines work as soon as you load them with fares.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source