Eyes on the “Street”: Spokker Grabs Shots of the Fare Gates

8_3_09_union_station_2.jpgCard reader at Union Station. All Photos: Spokker Jones/Flickr

Over the weekend regular commenter Spokker posted some pictures from his Flickr feed of the fare gate installation at Union Station and Wilshire/Normandie.  Spokker also shot a surprise picture for us.  Apparently Metro is also experimenting with screens that update bus arrival times at some stations.  I have an email to Metro staff and we’ll update that story as soon as I hear news.  In the meantime, you can see many of  Spokker’s fare gate shots in one place after the jump.

8_3_09_Union_Station.jpgStanding alone in Union Station. They look more like obstacles than a gating system at this point.
8_3_09_guy_installing_fare_gates.jpgFare gate installation at Wilshire/Normandie
8_3_09_guy_installing_fare_gates.jpgInstallation looks pretty involved.
8_3_09_bus_departure_screen.jpgAnd here it is….the bus arrival screen!

  • The bus departure screen will be a great service… if it is accurate! Let’s hope it is start of something truly useful (let putting the departure info online so I can check it with my phone).

  • James Fujita

    thank you Spokker, for those wonderful pictures of the beautiful fare gates :)

  • David Galvan

    “if it is accurate” is the relevant phrase. If this is union station we are talking about, the departure screen should be very accurate for buses that depart union station as their starting point. Everything else will be highly inaccurate if they are using scheduled timetables only, and a little better if they actually somehow start using the GPS receivers on the buses or induction loops in the streets. As far as I know, though, those other sources for location info on the buses are not well developed enough to use for the locals. Rapidbus.net works for the rapids, though.

    I love to see the infrastructure going in, that’s encouraging. But I’ll point out that I was waiting for the orange line a couple of weeks ago, and the LED sign said “next bus arriving in 12 minutes”, and 2 minutes later a bus arrived, with the sign still saying “10 minutes”. I don’t ride the orange line very often, but at least that one time it was basically useless.

  • I should have been more acurate. The screen was at Wilshire/Western.

  • Yesterday at Wilshire/Normandie people were trying to TAP the gates. I had to explain they are not working at this time. What is installing these achieving except sowing confusion?

  • I took a trip to LA this weekend from the metrolink to the red line and wasn’t as in as big of a rush as usual (gotta take the last train!) so I took a look at the fare gates. They’re… incredibly confusing. They’re way off to the side where nobody would ever walk (except for nerds like me) and if the TAP targets don’t work that’s even more baffling. Obviously with a metrolink ticket, I had no TAP to tap, and the gates are free-spinning. Hopefully this “test” just proves that the gates are worthless and confusing and that there are better places to spend Metro’s money.

    I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the bus screen at western/wilshire today, kind of weird to think that wasn’t there just on Friday!

  • Oh yeah, I took a picture of the signs they put on the Metrolink TVMs and blogged about them on Friday, as I was unable to make it to the gates:

    http://crazycommuter.com/the-metro-cargo-cult/

  • Metro just sent out it’s turnstiles press release.

    METRO INSTALLING TURNSTILE FARE GATES AT FOUR SUBWAY STATIONS

    Metro has begun installing turnstile fare gates at four Metro Red Line subway stations and will monitor progress to make sure passenger traffic moves smoothly while still achieving the goals of preventing fare evasion and improving transit station security.

    By the end of August, turnstile fare gates will have been installed at Normandie, Union Station, Westlake and Pershing Square subway stations. Staff will assist passengers as they get accustomed to the gates, which will be set to “free spin” until patrons become familiar with entering stations through a physical barrier.

    The barrier system is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During the period of equipment installation, the special ADA gates will remain open to permit disabled persons and patron-operated devices such as wheelchairs, strollers, walkers and bicycles to have clear access to the paid areas of the stations. Separate emergency access gates also are being installed to comply with fire-life safety regulations.

    Metro CEO Art Leahy this fall will report monitoring results of the limited installations to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors. If all goes well, Metro will proceed with installing a total of 379 fare gates in all stations on the subway and Metro Green Line and key light rail stations on the Metro Blue and Gold lines. Installation is intended to be completed in six to eight months in early 2010.

    Metro is the only subway operator in the country to operate a barrier-free “proof of payment” system where fares are randomly checked by civilian fare inspectors and Sheriff’s officers. The agency estimates it loses about $5 million per year due to fare evasion. Overall, Metro has found a 6 percent fare evasion rate across its rail lines.

    Besides preventing fare evasion, the turnstile gates also are a key component of Metro’s emerging regional Transit Access Pass, or TAP program. TAP is an automated, electronic regional fare collection system that will create a multi-modal, multi-operator fare system that, eventually, will allow for seamless travel for L.A. County transit riders. More…

    1st Add/Metro fare gates installation

    During the gating installation period, current paper fare media will continue transitioning to TAP smart cards. One way paper tickets sold at the ticket vending machines in the stations will be replaced with paper, limited use smart cards to enable cash riders who don’t have regular TAP cards to enter and exit through the fare gates.

    Security at Metro Rail stations will be augmented as part of the program. Additional video surveillance cameras will be installed at all gate entrances in the future. Key stations will include the fixed presence of Metro security who will be on-hand to respond to situations or assist patrons where needed.

    ###

  • DJB

    I’ve seen these gates, and I didn’t notice any place to put in a paper ticket. How would they work with a one-way ticket or a non-TAP day pass? You’d have to have a way for people to get TAP cads in every station, or put in gates that could accept paper tickets as well.

    On the plus side, the ADA gate seems wide enough for bikes. I like the gate concept in principle. It will probably reduce fare evasion. The thing is, it has to be done right. I’m sure MTA’ll get an earful if they botch it.

  • jj

    Wait, wait wait…

    LA is spending millions on turnstiles? In the age when most non-POP systems are trading in their ancient turnstiles for fare gates, LA is actually buying turnstiles?

    Theyre easier to jump, and they provide a greater barrier to children, the elderly, backpacks and luggage.

    I feel like slapping someone.

  • Ryan King

    I support this idea in theory but the whole TAP/fare gate system is just being implemented in the most ridiculously drawn-out and poorly executed way.

    And JJ, I agree! Turnstiles are a thing of the past.

    When will Metro get a brain?

  • DJB – Fare evasion really isn’t nearly big enough of a problem (and the 6% figure seems higher than anything else I’ve seen on the subject) to where the expense and hassle that turnstiles add to everything is worth it.

    Also, besides the disabled, what about that our country is fat as hell? I’ve seen quite a few people on the bus that I’m not convinced would fit through one! I really don’t want to discourage people with weight problems from riding public transit as a transit-oriented lifestyle is a much healthier one.

  • Ryan King

    By the way, I enjoy how the turnstiles are located before the ticket machines. That makes a ton of sense.

  • James Fujita

    I love that press release. I really do. I mean, look at what it says:

    “set to “free spin” until patrons become familiar with entering stations through a physical barrier.”

    I’m imagining Homer Simpson walking into the barrier, stepping back a few steps, walking into the barrier again, figuring out that something is wrong, moving over two steps… and walking into one of the other barriers. (D’oh!!)

    in other words, they’re not testing the turnstiles, they’re testing US. are you smart enough to use a turnstile? :D

    “Separate emergency access gates also are being installed to comply with fire-life safety regulations.”

    in case of stampede, head for the emergency access gates. I’m being sarcastic here but read what that paragraph says. they realize there may be problems. they’re working on it.

    “TAP is an automated, electronic regional fare collection system that will create a multi-modal, multi-operator fare system that, eventually, will allow for seamless travel for L.A. County transit riders”

    eventually being the key word. eventually can’t come soon enough for me, but SUICA is several years old, so I have high hopes for a fully-functional TAP card eventually.

    “current paper fare media will continue transitioning to TAP smart cards. One way paper tickets sold at the ticket vending machines in the stations will be replaced with paper, limited use smart cards”

    answering the “but what about the paper tickets” question. the paper tickets will be smart cards.

    “Security at Metro Rail stations will be augmented as part of the program. Additional video surveillance cameras will be installed at all gate entrances in the future.”

    answering, IMHO, the “what about turnstile jumpers” question. they need more of those “Smile, You’re On Camera” signs.

    in a perfect world those metal turnstiles would be automatic fare gates. but, it’ll do for now…

  • Erik G.

    (Posted on the previous Faregate thread-reposting here)

    I do really want to know why Yvonne Burke left us with cheapo turnstiles when they could have had proper faregates like they have in London and on BART and in Boston

    (although Boston is not a Cubic installation, despite Cubic’s suing to try to keep their monopoly in the US market)

    And did anyone see the line at the Metro windows at LAUS today at 1pm?? They stretched all the way back to the “LAX Flyaway” sign on the ramp up to Patsaouras/Gateway Bus Plaza.

    Could it be because it is the first Monday in August (the FIFTH MONTH since the TAP card was expanded to include Passes) and TAPTOGO.NET still is not in any language except English???

  • Erik G.

    Spokker, thanks for the photos.

    Were you tackled by over-zealous security for raising a camera to your eye?

    Did you have a respirator handy so as not to breath the foul (and carcinogenic?) particulates in the air?

    I hope any of our visually-impaired fellow riders did not walk into the poorly marked and poorly barricaded work areas.

    My favorite today was the lady on top of a ladder, back turned to pedestrian flow, installing yet another information monitor at the old LA Union Station entrance to the Red/Purple Lines. Good grief would there have been a cause for action if someone inadvertantly walked into the ladder, which would have been so easy given that THERE WEREN’T ANY WARNING DEVICES.

    It was like a live version of a “Do’s and Don’ts” OSHA film!

    I wouldn’t want anyone to have a nasty accident due to LA Metro’s gross negligence in failing to properly segregate the construction zones from their customers.

  • “Were you tackled by over-zealous security for raising a camera to your eye?”

    There were no security guards around. I placed the camera on a trash can at Union Station to get a clearer shot, otherwise it would be blurry. Wilshire/Normandie is bright enough to take a clear photo without steadying the camera.

  • Davidagalvan

    Shrug. Well it seems like they are doing this in a gradual implementation, and the paper RFID cards will solve many of the problems we were worried about before. If mta really is losing $5M per year it seems this type of tactic is justified.

    Still, since they say they won’t install fare gates at all the light rail stops, do you think that they will keep the same level of sheriff presence, or scale that back since fare evasion will be less convenient?

  • jj:

    Dude the turnstiles might be the best thing to happen to the fight against the installation of fare gates.

  • Spokker

    “If mta really is losing $5M per year it seems this type of tactic is justified.”

    That’s if their methodology can be trusted, and I don’t think too many people around these parts trust anything Metro does.

    We were talking about this on MetroRiderLA, and even taking into account Metro’s own estimated rates of fare evasion, transit riders are pretty damn honest. 92% compliance on weekends is the worst you’ll see. Some lines have 96-97% compliance. People who ride Metro are pretty damn honest.

    I don’t see the need for fare gates when everybody is so honest.

  • James Fujita

    The thing is, this has very little to do with how honest angelenos are.

    This was never solely about catching that 8 percent. Although, catching that 8 percent would be pretty sweet. After all, if the Red Line gets 150,000 boardings a day, that 8 percent equals 12,000 riders a day.

    No, the way I see it, this is about efficiency. I don’t know how precisely many fare checkers the MTA has employed, but if 12,000 people are getting away with not paying (and this is just on the Red Line, this isn’t counting the other rail lines), then it obviously isn’t enough. What’s obviously happening is that too few fare checkers are getting spread out among too many trains. And unless the MTA does something, the situation will only get worse.

    The other day, the Transit Coalition sent me a renewal notice. That notice contained a map which showed the coalition’s goals. If all of these goals get implemented, Los Angeles’ rail system will be huge.

    Somebody told me that we don’t need fare gates because we’re not Tokyo-sized huge. That may be true for the time being. Well, the Transit Coalition’s proposal is Tokyo sized. And the MTA’s own plans for 2030 and beyond are huge.

    The bigger a system is, the harder it gets to check. Not only does ridership go up, but instead of patrolling 74 miles of track, you’re patrolling 100+ miles.

    The MTA could keep hiring Sheriff’s deputies to play train conductor, but another factor in all of this is, frankly, the TAP card. Somehow, those TAP card pylons just aren’t cutting it for me. There just aren’t enough of them and it’s too easy not to notice them. A TAP-powered turnstile, on the other hand, is impossible to ignore.

    So, the fare gates help the MTA bring the TAP card to life, and they free up MTA’s security to go after the real criminals, and not get stuck asking for tickets.

  • DJB

    Crazy Commuter –
    I’m a little skeptical about the 6% fare evasion rate. How do you measure fare evasion? Is it that the ticket cops catch 6% of people without a fare? But wait, seasoned riders know that the cops visit some stations much more than others. If you avoid certain routes you can avoid them easily. The fare evaders evade the cops and aren’t counted in proportion to their presence.

    Or maybe it’s a random sample survey by third-party researchers (i.e. “excuse me sir/mam, did you pay your fare today?”, “Sure I did . . .”)?

    Anyway, I think your point about overweight Americans is good. We might have to super-size our turnstiles/gates for some folks. There’s always the ADA gate . . .

    Well, lets try the gates and see what the effects on revenue and ridership are (the tricky part, as always in public policy, is controlling for other factors that might affect the situation).

  • Spokker

    “After all, if the Red Line gets 150,000 boardings a day, that 8 percent equals 12,000 riders a day.”

    The 8% is for Blue Line weekends. So you’re talking 8% out of whatever the weekend ridership is.

  • M

    This link was posted in the “Spacial Mismatch” story from yesterday. The story is about trust in a culture and I think it really hits on why these turnstiles and camera installations are bothering me so much. The train public transportation system was built on trust from the patrons perspective and now it is being taken away through turnstiles and stragically placed cameras – that’s certainly a hit in trust. For the most part car drivers are trusted to have their valid drivers license, paid their registration, maintain their car and have insurance, unless something happens that results in a need to validate these items. I would not be surprised to hear that 8% of LA car drivers are missing 1 or more of these things or breaking the law in some other way almost daily.

    My apartment building has cameras all around it, nearly every major store has video cameras, the sidewalks & intersections have cameras, the public transportation system already has cameras, but will soon have more used for more intense identification and my work has cameras. At the same time so many people tell me they love LA because it’s so anonymous. This high rate of video cameras essentially capturing your entire life outside of your own home walls is rather alarming. People don’t seem to know each other here to say hi on the streets, and many say they like it because they hate that small town feel where everyone knows your business, but it’s not as if someone isn’t watching and recording your every move. You just don’t know who that person is and how they will ultimately use this information against you. I’ve never done anything wrong while riding the train. I’ve never gone on it without paying, but something that still does not give me any additional feelings of safety or convince is being added to deter that tiny % of people from getting on the train that can’t be trusted. Awesome.

  • Bruce

    Note to MTA: Here’s the USUAL procedure:
    1. Explanation
    2. Installation
    3. Implementation

    Seems we’ve got an installation that was ahead of the explanation. And we’ll likely have lots more explaining after final implementation. Are there signs up in the stations AT the turnstiles explaining what’s going? (I didn’t think so.)

    Ryan King…Look again at the Union Station shot. The turnstiles are AFTER the ticketing machines. The shot was taken from within the “fare zone” looking towards the station escalator exits. If they’d gotten THAT wrong there’d be a whole bunch more slapping going on.

  • Bob Johnsen

    I love the concept of posting accurate departure times based upon GPS data. I just moved here from San Francisco and NextMuni works great – as does NextBus on AC Transit – I think it’s managed by the same company. In fact I read recently that Washington implemented something called Next Bus (again, might be the same company). Accurate GPS-based systems that predict the next departure time based upon time of day/day of week etc. And on all of the systems – at least I know on SF MUNI – you can access all of this info on your cell phone by web or by texting – even by dialing a tel. # Go LA Metro!!!