TAP collectors in search of the new Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative card

Years ago, Jose Escobar bought a Transit Access Pass (TAP) card and when he received it he realized it was different. “I remember that it was not the basic card… the drawing on it was about the opening of the Expo Line. I liked that there were other designs on the TAP. I bought another one and suddenly, two became 10.”

Today his collection totals 204 TAP cards.

“I think, I went from the excitement to see this hobby as a fun challenge to get them,” says José, 41, who has a car but prefers to use public transportation. He started taking the bus to school when he was 12 and now he uses trains and shuttles to commute from his home in Monrovia to his job at USC three or four times a week.

This was the first commemorative TAP card Jose Escobar found. / Photo: Aurelia Ventura.

The trips help him hunt for new TAP cards —which costs two dollars plus fare. He gets them at TAP vending machines and Metro Customer Centers — and his search to get them has also taken him to sporting events, conferences, festivals, CicLAvias, and even community meetings. What’s more, he has signed up to ‘Run the 110’—a 10 kilometer race in October where TAP cards with a Run the 110 design will be handed out.

In his collection he has TAP cards that were released to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Independence Day and Pride Month, and the ones that were made to celebrate the arrival of the Special Olympics to LA in 2015 – to name just a few. In addition, he has cards that highlight local sports teams such as LAFC and Lakers, California universities such as UCLA and USC, and transportation agencies such as Culver City Bus, LADOT, and Torrance Transit. In addition, Jose has TAP cards that highlight Metro projects – like the ones that went on sale to show the three new stations of the Regional Connector.

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His collection also includes those that commemorate Memorial Day, Juneteenth and Heritage Months. However, there is one that Jose is looking forward to getting: the Hispanic Heritage Month TAP card, which is celebrated every September 15 and will go on sale this Friday at Metro Customer Centers only (find the locations here). The cards will be available while supplies last.

“That gives me a lot of emotion because we celebrate our Latin American cultures. In LA there are many nationalities, and I am proud that they are recognized,” says Jose, who has lived almost his entire life in LA without forgetting his Salvadoran roots.

Metro celebrates with papel picado

The Hispanic Heritage Month card will be available while supplies last.

From September 15 to October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the cultural diversity and contributions of Latinos in the United States. This year, the TAP card to honor this date will have as its design papel picado — traditional and decorative craft made by cutting designs into colorful squares paper.

Samantha Delgadillo, Metro principal transportation planner at TAP, explains that there are two types of cards: commemorative cards that celebrate events and holidays and ‘Heritage’ series which highlight our communities. “The goal of having multiple TAP cards is to get the community excited about taking public transportation and it’s also a way for Metro to recognize the wonderful diversity of riders we have.”

The first TAP design went on sale in 2012 to promote the opening of the G (Orange) Line Extension to Chatsworth. The agency to date has produced a total of 297 commemorative cards. Delgadillo said that among rider favorites are cards for Black History Month, Lunar New Year, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month, and the TAP card that was made to celebrate the renamed Obama Boulevard in 2019.

“TAP cards are nice and we’re glad they’re so popular,” Delgadillo said. “It is a constant reminder to encourage the community to get around Metro, explore LA and even use it to go to the Hispanic Heritage events that will be taking place this month.”

I am the movement

Another person waiting to get his hands on the new TAP card is Daniel Ryan Lucero, who has a collection of almost 175 cards. “I already saw the advertising and I’m excited. Papel picado is coming!,” happily exclaims the second-generation Latino whose parents are Mexican. “I feel like it represents part of me — my Latin heritage.”

He got his first commemorative TAP card when he was on his way to Union Station to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the station in 2014. “I got a TAP card with a black and white image of Union Station, and I thought it was cool that they paired the card with the event… I remember there were three cards from that series, and I got them all.”

Daniel Ryan Lucero shows his TAP card collection during an interview at Union Station. / Photos: Aurelia Ventura.

To find his TAP cards, he checks Source posts to find out when a new one is coming out, visits stations near his house to look for the cards at TAP vending machines and goes to various events where he knows they will give out cards with a specific theme. On one occasion, he bought tickets for his cousin to go to an Angel City FC game and sent him to get the team’s TAP card.

Among his favorite TAP cards are the ones for Pride Month, since he is part of the gay community; Long Beach Transit, as he lives in their service area; the Hispanic Heritage of 2016, which highlights the Mexican lottery, and the ‘I am the Movement’ campaign, which promoted the use of transit.

These are Daniel’s favorite TAP cards.

“I use public transportation a lot because I got tired of driving,” says Daniel “I felt identified with that card because I realized that, if I take my car out and get stuck, I become traffic. Los Angeles needs us to change our way we view transportation because our freeways are packed!”

Daniel and Jose are part of TAP Card Collecting and other transit stuff to collect, a Facebook group created in 2016 whose members enjoy collecting TAP cards. They discuss the launch of new cards, where to buy them and post pictures of their ‘treasures.’ They have created a community that not only exchanges TAP cards but also enjoys and promotes public transportation.

“The cards promote the use of transit and turn a monotonous experience into something fun,” says Daniel, who believes that a TAP is not just a simple plastic card. “It’s something that brings us together.”


1 reply

  1. I have used L.A. transit since back in the 60’s when it was RTD.
    I support public transportation for many reasons, one being the environent, trying to limit my carbon footprint, one less car on the road/streets, lower maint./fuel expense.

    Since 1994 l now live in Ventura and
    when i work down there i take Metrolink and connect with the subway. On occasion i use rapid bus in the S.F. Valley.

    If more people used the system we could make L.A. more of a sustainable city. I just hope they can get control over the crime and other
    abuses on the routes.