Board Wrap: LRTP and AnsaldoBreda Votes and Fare Gate Installation Delayed

7_23_09_tap_bus_bench.jpgTurnstile installation is stalled until 2010 because of TAP and other issues.

Today’s Metro Board meeting lasted over four hours and featured a lot of hot button issues including the Long Range Transportation Plan, the fate of the AnsaldoBreda exclusive contract to build light rail cars and whether or not to pursue federal funds to accelerate the Downtown Rail Connector and Subway to the Sea projects.  Naturally, the Board decided to delay all of those decisions until September.  There is no scheduled Board Meeting in August, although there is a "workshop" on August 13.

Backtracking from the report leaked to the Times earlier this week recommending ending the exclusive contract with AnsaldoBreda, Metro CEO Art Leahy recommended extending the contract for another sixty days so that Metro could finish negotiations with the rail agency.  A lawyer for AnsaldoBreda then rose to promise that the embattled Italian rail car manufacturer would finish its fifty car contract quickly and professionally.  That contract is already two years late and the cars that are delivered are overweight.

However, AnsaldoBreda also promised to provide a $300 million letter of credit, that comes in $50 million segments, that Metro would control.  Leahy said that all the details with AnsaldoBreda weren’t worked out yet, but could be in two months.

However, federal law restricts the length of a contract that an agency can have with a rail car manufacturer if they’re using federal funds to five years.  If Metro amends their contract with AnsaldoBreda for future rail cars, then it would be over five years.  Leahy seems to believe that, given time, Metro can maneuver around that provision, but I can’t help but notice that such a maneuver would trample all over the spirit of that law.

While Board Members have expressed concern with AnsaldoBreda in the past, three took particular exception with the rail car company this time.  Board Member Antonovich aggressively attacked AnsaldoBreda’s track record on delivering cars to the Metro with a series of loaded questions.  For example, one of Antonovich’s questions asked if AnsaldoBreda staff had undergone training to become more professional since their last round of dealings with Metro staff.  His entire line of questions could be summed up by, "why should we believe you now when you’ve performed so terribly in the past?"

A furious Board Member Yaroslavsky aggressively attacked AnsaldoBreda’s public relations campaign against its competitors.  AnsaldoBreda went on the attack this weekend noting ties between Siemens, another rail car company, and the People’s Islamic Republic of Iran.  Yaroslavsky furiously waived news articles and brochures from AnsaldoEnergia noting that AnsaldoBreda’s parent company has offices and does business in Iran to this day.  However, Yaroslavsky, "pulled a Zev" by sounding the alarm and raising a fuss but ultimately not voting to end the contract with the rail firm.

Speaking in favor of the AnsaldoBreda contract was Villaraigosa appointee to the Board Richard Katz.  Katz, who had been part of the negotiations between staff and AnsaldoBreda, went so far as to say, "I won’t let any stone go unturned," when it comes to providing jobs to the region.  Then he quickly followed up that statement by saying he wouldn’t vote based on the jobs issue.  AnsaldoBreda has promised to build a rail car company in L.A. County if their contract is extended.

While a few transit activists spoke against AnsaldoBreda, the bulk of public testimony was by union officials testifying that we need jobs so the AnsaldoBreda contract has to be extended.

Even with three people stating strong opposition, the vote to extend the contract was 8-1-2, with Antonovich voting against and Pam O’Connor joining Yaroslavsky in abstaining.

I’d like to point out again that in March, the Board decided that it would take too long to put out the contract for all the new light rail cars that will be needed for Measure R projects because it would "take six months."  If the Board approves extending the AnsaldoBreda contract in September, which is far from certain, it would be over six months since the punting began.

7_23_09_leahy.jpgArt’s got smarts. Photo: OCTA

The most surprising news of the day came during the CEO’s report.  Leahy reported that he is temporarily halting the installation of turnstiles, leaving us unprotected from terrorists, until 2011.  Leahy has directed staff to research how the turnstiles will effect mobility within the stations and how TAP implementation issues effect turnstile rollout.  The staff report is due in December.  Despite their near unanimous support, in the face of near unanimous opposition from the public for the turnstiles in the Spring of 2008, no Board Member had any questions or objections for Leahy’s delay.

The other issue of contention that the Board delayed a vote on had to deal with project delivery of the "Measure R Projects."  As we’ve seen before, the Board again voted to delay the vote on the Long Range Transportation Plan. This time the delay was because there are still questions about the timeline on the highway projects funded by Measure R, until September.  With all of the debate over Westside projects versus Gold Line extensions, versus bus expansion, it’s easy to forget that there are parts of the county that only looked at Measure R as a way to fund some local highway expansion projects.  Eighty municipalities and Council of Governments wrote to the Board or testified that the LRTP shouldn’t be passed until the highway timeline is finalized.

While the rail timelines are pretty much set by the language of Measure R, many of the highway projects have more vague wording because the environmental studies haven’t been completed yet, as they have for the rail projects.

Testifying in favor of the LRTP were supporters of Westside projects, and the I Will Ride Coaltion.  Bicycle and pedestrian activists asked the Board to increase the allocation for non-motorized transportation from $324 million to $368 million to meet the "strategic" numbers outlined in the 2008 draft of the LRTP.  The Bus Rider’s Union also testified for better bus operations and expansion funding and their Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan.

When it was the Board’s turn to debate, they didn’t debate whether or not to delay the plan but how best to delay the plan.  Eventually, they decided to punt until September’s Board Meeting.

The last of the major issues up for debate was whether or not to officially go after federal dollars to accelerate the timelines for the Subway to the Sea and Downtown Regional Connector.  Scores of activists from Little Tokyo testified on the impact the light rail would have on their community and a nearly equal number of westsiders spoke in favor of the plan.  Eventually, the Board decided to, say it with me, punt on the issue until September.

I wonder if the Board realizes that in addition to repeating all of the testimony and fighting from the major issues from this week’s meeting, they also voted to have a public hearing on Silver Line fares at the September meeting.

And in a frustrating piece of news, despite earning the support of the majority of the Board Members present to oppose state legislation that would expand hybrid access to HOV and Express Lanes, a 6-4 vote is only a moral victory, as you need seven total votes to pass anything at the Board.  Instead they unanimously decided to "work with the author" on the legislation, presumably to make sure whatever legislation passes doesn’t mess up their Express Lanes plan.

  • Spokker

    Leahy is the fucking man.

  • David Galvan

    So the new MTA CEO actually wants to think about the right way to implement fare gates before installing them? What a concept. Good for him.

  • DJB

    Breda (or someone) needs a design for rail car seats that isn’t so hard on the back/ass. The LAX Flyaway buses have the comfiest seats I’ve experienced in greater LA transit, (Metrolink is probably good in this department too, but I forget since I’ve only ridden it once).

    Comfort is important: back busting, cramped seats hurt transit ridership. People with a choice aren’t likely to put up with it.

  • The rail cars should have back-to-back seating to make it easier to get in and out of the seat.

  • nobody

    Anyone complaining about Metro rail car seats being too uncomfortable haven’t rode transit very much in other cities. First time I sat in an LA rail seat, I was shocked at how soft it was, compared to a seat in Chicago, Cleveland, or New York. Though, since I’ve never ridden the new Gold Line cars, this company could be making cars with harder seats, idk.

  • DJB

    Nobody,

    I’ve ridden transit in some other cities (NY, Las Vegas, DC, Frisco, San Jose, San Diego, Orange County, Mexico City, etc.) and I agree that the comfort problem isn’t confined to greater LA. However, I don’t think we should defend mediocrity by pointing out that something else is worse.

    Most people in LA compare the comfort of transit to the comfort of driving, and so should we if we’re serious about boosting ridership. There are other factors to ridership of course, but the comfort factor often seems to get ignored.

  • Erik G.

    Can Katz be brought up on Federal charges for admitting that he is taking the imaginary “jobs-created” claim by AnsaldoBreda into consideration when he votes on the car contract??

    And when is the Taptogo.net website ever going to be available in a language apart from the Anglo-Saxon one?

  • Westside Bunney

    Isn’t a “score” like 20? http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scores

  • Joe

    @Damien – big LOL @ “leaving us unprotected from terrorists until 2011”!

    Alex T was right, though, go a little easier on the tweets for my taste, too.

    Does anyone know if I can somehow filter out those comments by Mr. “Defeatist Jamming Blog” (or Driver Just Bellyaching? Dreary Jaded Buffoon?) Troll on some sort of blog reader?

  • DJB

    Joe,

    I don’t think being frank about the problems of transit is “defeatist”. I think it’s what we have to do if we’re serious about making transit mainstream.

    As far as the term “troll” goes. I’ve never liked it. Isn’t calling somebody a “troll” just a way of criticizing unorthodox ideas? I’d say I’m less of a troll and more of a gadfly, and, with all due respect, I bet I ride transit more than you.

    Don’t you wish transit had more comfortable seats? Should this be an issue in renewing a rail car contract? I think so.

  • Spokker

    Troll = someone who disagrees with you.

    If you want to block everybody who doesn’t think exactly like you and turn these groups into a giant circlejerk, knock yourself out. We’re all for better transit, motorized and non-motorized. It’s perfectly possible to disagree with someone, strongly, and remain acquaintances, or even friends.

    I recently introduced a friend of mine to the world of transit advocacy. After poking around for a while he was amazed at how fragmented everybody is. Then I let him in on all the juicy rivalries and factions. Fun stuff.

  • Spokker

    By the way, BART’s seats are very comfortable but I can’t imagine what kind of shit they absorb. I think the last time I rode to SF on BART I got crabs. Stainless steel is a lot easier to clean diarrhea off of.

    Look, I disagree with DJB. I bet we’re enemies now.

  • Paul

    Maintenance wise cloth and padded seats are a nightmare on the operation of a urban transit system. While we all would enjoy the comfort of a plush seat. Maintaining the padded seat is a cost nightmare since people can’t respect things that don’t belong to them.

  • jax

    The board meeting was such a letdown. Members of the board shouldn’t be allowed to own cars. They should be required to ride the system then maybe they would act more quickly to usher in smart improvements.

    While multi-lingual would be great, the system doesn’t even function yet in English. When is taptogo actually going allow a standing/rechargeable balance?

    And don’t get me started about rude transit riders – LA is really the worst.

  • The Breda cars are too small on the inside for the average American. If you’re over 6ft you and have an average frame you’re not going to fit on those seats comfortably, if you’re bigger in regards to weight you’re going to have an even bigger problem. The cars seem too small inside, but at the same time seem too heavy and they just feel unsafe. Every time I go on the Gold Line from Union Station pass Chinatown there seems to be a slight hill and those cars seem in my opinion to be having a hard time making it up the hill. They stop, they stall and I’m not talking about just that part where the drivers switch off right after Chinatown.

    I don’t feel safe in those cars, something about them are not right.

    I think the initial deal for those cars was some back dealing political bs. I think Art and everyone knows those trains are unsafe. Any person who rides public transit on a regular basis on the red line and the blue line can feel in the ride that there are something wrong with those cars, beyond just being uncomfortable.

    Can’t say I’m shocked about the running out of money part it was pretty obvious that was going to happen.

    Browne

  • I also feel owing to the way those cars are made they have no business being on any at grade track. I’m not an engineer. I can’t explain how or why I think this, but I think those trains are supposed to be for a subway. The Gold Line has too many at-grade crossings for those cars to be safe. I bet in an accident they would be alot more deadly than the cars that they have running on the Blue Line.

    Browne

  • DJB

    I think it’s a fair point about plush seats being trickier to clean. I was also thinking the other day that they are probably more vulnerable to vandalism, which, sadly, is a serious problem on some MTA lines.

    In my view, this is less an argument against plush seats and more an argument for additional transit funding.

    I also think it’s a fair point about the light rail seats not being designed for tall people (except the sideways ones), as I know intimately because of my stature. The subway seats do a better job of providing legroom to the tall and personal space vis a vis the person sitting next to you than LA’s bus and light rail seats do (probably because the cars are wider).

    This is also, in my view, an argument for more transit funding (to build wider cars). The subway has the highest ridership of all the rail lines in LA by far: it’s comfier, faster (grade separations), supported by dense land uses (in places where you generally have to pay to park), and generally awesome. But it wasn’t cheap . . .

  • One stupid thing about the tap card: getting them.

    I’ve been interested in getting one just in case for over a month now. I have a monthly Metrolink pass but if I end up on a bus that requires a zone charge or otherwise end up needing to pay a fare for some reason it’d be nice to have one and not worry about keeping change on my person. However, I can’t get one. I live in Orange County, don’t have a car, and don’t want to bum a ride to buy a damn tap card. Even better, I’m in Culver City quite a bit and I see signs on the buses there saying only Culver City-sold cards work on their bus. I tried to order one online but you have to buy a monthly pass which I don’t need. I can’t just go downtown and get one because in order to get home on the last Metrolink I have to make some very slick connections and have no time to go shopping.

    It shouldn’t be this hard to get one of these things (why aren’t there vending machines) and they shouldn’t be so stupidly complicated–what possibe reason in 2009 can’t these things seamlessly interoperare. It’d be a cool system but before they put up fare gates they need it to work first.

  • Even the sideway seats are hard for taller people. If you’re taller even if you’re heavy you have a bigger frame. The sideway seats aren’t even very reasonable for a taller thinner person. Also the doors of the operator’s cabin is blocked by your legs if you’re taller when the operator opens the door it bangs into your legs. I’m 5’7 and my legs were blocking the door and I wasn’t sitting with my legs stretched out. When BusTard is sitting in a sideway seat on the Gold Line it looks ridiculous. Its unreasonable for new seats to be that small, the area of the car is too small, if it were a older line with older cars, I would understand, but why would you have them that small in the US.

    I don’t mind about the no fabric. I don’t care for the cushioned fabric seats. It would attract bugs and I don’t think a public agency could clean them at the level that I would be ok with.

    The cars are too small, with bikes, strollers, people, I think the operator would have a hard time getting out of the cabin in an emergency, though I guess he could go out the window, but you can’t even say don’t block the cabin doors on that train, because the seats and area of that section is so small that it is impossible to not block that door if you have anyone over 5’5 sitting there. It would have been safer to not have those sideway seats by the door.

    Browne

  • Stephen

    I agree that the Breda cars are narrower than the current P2000s. My concern is what the reason was for that? Was it because Breda came up with a terrible design, or did Metro demand narrow specs? And where does the narrowness come from? In my mind, the width of the Bredas need to be the same as the P2000s because they need to line up at the platform, so maybe there is wasted interior space?

    “I live in Orange County, don’t have a car”
    @ crazycommuter: I commend you.

  • Das Ubergeek

    @CrazyCommuter — agree wholeheartedly. But you can do what I did and just board an MTA bus and get a day pass. Most of the larger lines have TAP cards.

    I dream of an Octopus Card-type system in LA *AND* OC.

  • David Galvan

    Crazycommuter, I’m with you about the pain of getting a TAP card. I just want a stored value tap card. Apparently, once its loaded with cash, you can use it on any MTA bus/rail line in the city. But for some reason you can only add value to it by physically going to Culver City. Why? If Culver City can figure out how to enable the stored value portion, why can’t MTA?

  • David Galvan

    @Das Ubergeek: really? I thought the buses no longer carried TAP cards after April of this year? When did you get your Tap card that way?

  • OMG, I just thought of a TAP card solution!

    “I just want a stored value … card.”

    CREDIT CARDS DO THIS TYPE OF THING EVERY DAY.

    Why can’t we have swipe machines on buses and at train terminals? Screw “TAP”. Just let folks swipey swipe away and be done with it. The merchant processor who hooks that deal up will be a billionaire.

  • David Galvan

    You can already swipe your credit card at the train terminals to purchase a paper ticket from the TVM’s. But it would be nice to be able to do that on the bus, as well.

  • And what’s up with having to PAY for TAP CARD ?? I mean, sure, maybe if you lose it – I can understand. I had one that went bad. When I went to get a replacement, I still had to pay the $2 for it. If I am paying the full price for a month ($62) shouldn’t I be entitled to a replacement card for free if it goes bad? I mean, I never had a paper pass go bad. It just got old and ratty. At least they were able to transfer my month to the new card since I had signed up for the protection online.

  • Spokker

    I tried to get a TAP card today but the line was too long and there was only one agent serving customers.

  • Yeah and what’s up with that it sounds like they are for storing day/week/month passes and it can’t, you know, store a value? I assumed it could do this but the more I hear about TAP the more it sounds like it’s not set up to where I buy a $10 tap card, get $10 in value on it (even buying it for $12 lol) and then buy whatever I want with it–zone charges on top of my metrolink ticket, boarding fees, day passes, whatever and have it just deal with it. Instead it sounds like an obnoxious way to carry around a day pass, as you still have to carry cash if you don’t buy a monthly ticket and ugh who wants this crap.

    I was in Japan in the 90s and they had magnetic stripe cards that you’d put money on and they just worked. This isn’t terribly difficult technology, and yes it really needs to be cross-agency before anyone can start taking it seriously.

  • Wad

    Brayj wrote:

    Why can’t we have swipe machines on buses and at train terminals?

    A couple of good reasons.

    For one, the merchant fees are expensive. As you’ve said, the processor stands to gain, but would you want to be the one to hike everyone’s fare or cut service because the processing fee is too high to Metro?

    Otherwise, you’d introduce a spread of $2 credit fare for $1.25 cash fare.

    Second, it slows down boarding. The transaction would take at least 3 to 4 times longer than cash payments on buses.

    Third, it encourages theft. Credit card thieves would use snatched cards at a gas pump to make sure the cards weren’t canceled. Now that most gas stations now require a PIN or a live attendant to process transactions, thieves would now use transit fareboxes for the same purpose.

  • Yeah credit cards at the farebox are a bad idea (and keep in mind that a “credit price” is against every card merchant agreement ever!) but you SHOULD be able to go to a TVM and top up or buy a TAP card that has a stored balance on your credit card. There you can enforce a $5-10 minimum at least so merchant fees don’t eat Metro alive.

    Also I just remembered–I lived in Korea in 2002-2003 and I was out in the boonies in the southwest. The buses there used almost the exact same smart cards that TAP uses, and it worked entirely with stored values. It was extremely simple and convenient. I’m pretty sure that if rural South Korea can do it, LA can.

  • David Galvan

    Just to clarify: the stored value option on the TAP cards WORKS CURRENTLY. It’s just that the capability to add value online or via the TVM machines is currently not available. You have to go to Culver City to add value to the card.

    I am sure that this capability will be available at some point within the next year. TAP is still being gradually rolled out. I’m annoyed that it is not available right now, but, hey, things are improving. The TAP stored value option didn’t exist at all a year ago.

  • Will it work on all bus lines? And if I used it for a zone charge would that even work, and if so, would the bus driver even know what button to press?

  • Wad

    DJB wrote:

    The LAX Flyaway buses have the comfiest seats I’ve experienced in greater LA transit,

    Los Angeles World Airports contracts with Coach America, which owns and operates the buses.

    It’s a run-of-the-mill motorcoach, and amenities are typical for those kinds of vehicles. You’ll find the same thing riding Greyhound.

    Santa Clarita and AVTA also use them for their commuter services.

    Don’t expect to get these amenities on local transit buses, though. Motorcoaches spend most of the day idle, giving attendants plenty of time to clean them. These buses couldn’t withstand the punishment of urban traffic.

    In L.A., seats on urban buses used to be vinyl and cushioned up until the mid-1980s. Then the hard plastic with the thin felt covers came along and became the standard used today.

  • Erik G.

    Foothill Transit is a good source of TAP cards!

    http://www.foothilltransit.org/HowTo.aspx

    (Send them a SASE and they will mail you one!)

  • MarkB

    I don’t understand all this “Breda seats are so small, unlike the expansive Blue Line (or Siemens) seats” stuff. Last time I rode each, I measured the width of a seat and it’s the same measurement everywhere. The Blue Line is, in my opinion, the least comfortable because it has big stainless steel boxes growing from the floor where your legs are supposed to go.

    Following up on Stephen’s comment, the cars are all the same width because they use the same platforms; no car is wider and no car is narrower. The interiors are all basically the same width: only a window pane separates the interior wall from the exterior wall.

  • I am not computing the “credit cards are expensive” line. I have a merchant account, and those jerks take 1.7% to 3% depending on the cards and add on a $0.20 transaction fee. I pay that because I am a little shmuck with a small business.

    If you are the MTA, and you can guarantee millions of dollars in business, what credit card company wouldn’t want to process your trasactions?

    Frankly, I would appreciate ticket kiosks for the rapid buses, so I wouldn’t have to waster everyone’s time bothering the driver with crap like that. Paying with cash or a card (Debit!) at kiosks eliminates the need for this idiotic pseudo-credit card the MTA is calling TAP.

  • David Galvan

    A significant difference between the gold and blue line trains is that the blue line has space to stand and put your bike at the bulkheads near the driver’s door. On the gold line, that space is taken up with two extra seats, which means bikes can only fit in the articulating section. I think that’s probably why the breda cars “feel” a little more cramped.

  • Spokker

    “I am not computing the “credit cards are expensive” line. I have a merchant account, and those jerks take 1.7% to 3% depending on the cards and add on a $0.20 transaction fee. I pay that because I am a little shmuck with a small business.”

    Studies show that when businesses accept credit cards, sales go up. I bet it’s especially useful if you sell expensive bikes.

    Of course, you could always not take credit cards if they are so bad. I’d be curious to hear how that would affect your sales. Maybe those studies are bullshit.

    In any case, if you are one of those small businesses who likes to violate the contracts they sign with major credit card companies and impose minimum purchase requirements and require customers to show ID when paying with a credit card, I certainly wouldn’t patronize your business.

    If the credit card company is a dick to you (not you specifically), be a man and stop doing business with them. Small businesses love to get away with stuff like that. I hope you are not one of them.

  • I love doing the following:

    (1) Misinterpreting someone’s post;
    (2) Presenting a poor counter argument to that misinterpretation.

    The main thrust of what I wrote is that the “high costs” of credit card fees don’t look that high to me (compared to the cut that others take from my till), and I’m a small retailer with no leverage on my merchant account processor. The MTA could guarantee tons of transactions, and could do some serious shopping around with a guaranteed amount of card swipes.

    Having the ability to buy a bus ticket prior to boarding with a either cash or a card is a no-brainer – it makes buying said ticket super easy. This TAP fasco, with the MTA re-inventing magnetic swipe cards, is a prime example of what libertarians find so stupid about government. Is the MTA going to recreate the internet in order to distribute their crappy .pdf maps? Only this time, you’ll have to log-in at a kiosk at Union Station between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday after submitting your passport and spit sample.

  • I don’t know what kind of business Ubrayj is running either…I’ve been trying to buy a bike from him for months now. Maybe he knows I’m planning on using a credit card?

  • All I need from you now is that spit sample.

    Heh.

    The FP bakfiets is ready to ride (Box’s camera crew used it for their shoot this past weekend). Stop by when you’ve got a chance and take the thang fer a spin.

  • Spokker

    You expressed discontent with the phrase “Because I am a little shmuck with a small business.” You called them jerks to boot. It’s not out of this world that someone would believe you were complaining about merchant fees because you are a small business and were jealous at large corporations’ ability to negotiate lower fees.

  • Wad

    Brayj wrote:

    Having the ability to buy a bus ticket prior to boarding with a either cash or a card is a no-brainer – it makes buying said ticket super easy. This TAP fasco, with the MTA re-inventing magnetic swipe cards, is a prime example of what libertarians find so stupid about government. Is the MTA going to recreate the internet in order to distribute their crappy .pdf maps?

    That wouldn’t be the right analogy in the case of TAP.

    The fundamental problem is that when Metro bought into TAP, it bought a solution looking for a problem to solve.

    TAP doesn’t do anything you can’t do right now with cash or fare media it has already been offering.

    Stored-value cars are inferior to cash. After all, why would you want to take your money — good anywhere — and turn it in to a currency good only for public transit and nothing else? Systems that use stored-value cards do so because they have barriers that won’t allow you to pay directly in cash (gates in New York, San Francisco, etc.).

    Stored-value cards must be an improvement over what is available now. In New York City, Metrocards are a great improvement over bus fareboxes. Why? For all the greatness of public transit in Gotham, NYMTA never installed fareboxes that accepted dollars, even though the fare has long been above a dollar. (The why: New York vaults its fareboxes with a vacuum that would shred paper money, and switching fare collection systems would have cost more than the Metrocard installation).

    In L.A., TAP doesn’t do anything you can’t already do with money, tokens or paper passes.

    Metro can eventually eliminate tokens, paper passes and even taking cash if it wanted to. The problem is that TAP performs the same function but doesn’t improve upon them.

  • Spokker

    Metrolink “tweeted” and said they are installing fare gates at Union Station today.

    http://twitter.com/Metrolink

  • James Fujita

    I don’t get the “stored value is worse than cash” argument.

    If I’m a regular Metro user, I buy a pass. That’s a no brainer. If the pass is a plastic TAP card instead of a paper pass, so what?

    But what about all of the part-time transit users? What about the users who take the train sometimes but who need a car for other purposes? For them, stored-value would be much better than cash.

    I’d much rather load $20, $30 or $40 onto a TAP card IN ADVANCE than shove dollar bills into a ticket machine at the LAST MOMENT. Or fumble around for “exact change only” on the bus. Right now I can’t load a $20 onto TAP, but the point is, the system is designed to be able to do that and Metro just hasn’t done what is necessary to be able to do that.

    I can’t use TAP to ride Metrolink or Torrance Transit or Gardena Transit at the moment, but the system is designed to be able to do that in the future.

    Stored value, monthly passes, weekly passes, Metro, Muni lines, Metrolink on ONE CARD. That’s way easier than cash.

  • Stored value is far superior to cash, and the biggest benefit is that it would speed up passenger loading.

    I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t much rather just load up a card with $20 instead of $1.25 sixteen times, or $5 four times. And providing the capability to add money online to the card online is the cherry on top of the sundae.

    Stored value could also allow Metro to increase service for near nothing. Fewer people feeding the farebox = faster loading = faster trip times.

    Stored value would also save some transit riders money. Many times I have chosen to NOT buy a weekly pass because I didn’t think I would spend $17 on transit for the week, but something ends up happening and I end up spending more than $17.

    If I have $20 on my card and tapped 14 times ($1.25 * 14 = $17.50) the card could have the capability of converting me from a one-way fare deduction to a $17 weekly pass deduction.

    It also, provides the capability to return transfers and distance-based fares with the least amount of confusion. In fact, I’m trying to figure out how any distance-based fare system would possibly work without stored-value cards.

    Go even further than just putting MTA, the Munis and Metrolink under the TAP umbrella and add the LADOT parking meters.

    And why stop there? It would not be very difficult to have these cards operate with all the above AND perform like a credit card. Such a card/system, could require a PIN, when buying something at 7-11 and simply require a swipe when paying a transit fare or parking meter. Or maybe a PIN wouldn’t even be required as long as the cards have people’s photo on it.

    All it just takes bureaucratic coordination and competence. In fact, I don’t believe any of what I or others suggested is revolutionary. I’m pretty sure either the South Koreans or Japanese perfect universal purchase cards systems back when Clinton was in office? Now such systems are tied to their phones. People pay for a Sierra Mist at 7-11, their transit fare and talk all on the same device. Read an article about back in W’s first term.

  • Wad

    Damien, you should have headed up Metro’s TAP program. This is what should have been, and possibly be done, with the fare cards.

    Using it as a debit card would solve the problem of stored cash. As I have said, if an agency wants you to convert cash into a transit-only fare instrument, it should either offer value or improve upon a service.

    TAP doesn’t allow for faster boarding, because it serves the same functions as tokens or paper passes. Both of them also allow for faster boarding.

    Also, Metro has studied a way to speed up local lines 10% to 15% — but will not do it, even with TAP. How? Allowing all-doors boardings like on trains.

    The problem is not massive fare-beating, interestingly enough. If riders with passes get in the habit of boarding through the back door(s), the driver can check passes after the cash payers boarded.

    The problem is physical. Mainly, all but the BRT-ready buses (artics and 45-footers) have the narrow rear door to prevent boardings. All doors have to be wide. Otherwise, there’s no time advantage.

    Damien Goodmon also wrote:
    It also, provides the capability to return transfers and distance-based fares with the least amount of confusion. In fact, I’m trying to figure out how any distance-based fare system would possibly work without stored-value cards.

    The way express bus drivers do it now: Hand out paper tickets and check them at the zone boundary. The fareboxes, when they aren’t out of order, still have the capability to spit out tickets that show the zone fare.

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