Rumor: Metro Rescinds TAP Corner Notch Policy (updated, 1:16 P.M.)

3_26_10_metro.jpgRemember this? How about we forget it? Image via The Bus Bench

Eleven days ago, Brown Molyneux completely took apart the Metro Policy as it related to "notching" TAP cards when, for whatever reason, they weren’t working. The policy was supposed to work like this, Metro bus drivers would notch a corner of a TAP card when the fare boxes on the bus failed to read the card or the box showed the card didn’t have sufficient funds. Once a card got four notches, it would be seized and destroyed, forcing the holder to get a new card.

Given the many problems with the TAP system over the years, and blogs such as the Bus Bench and Metro Rider have more than chronicled the TAP follies and even though I haven’t ridden a Metro Bus in two years, it wasn’t rare that the fare collection machine was jammed or otherwise inoperable.

This is one of those rare Metro policies, such as the decision to install fare gates to keep us safe from terrorists, that was universally reviled. Regular readers of the comments section were probably shocked to see Dana Gabbard and Browne in complete agreement on an issue, any issue. The main complaint was that Metro’s TAP readers have had what we’re going to charitably call a "less than perfect" record of working. Horror stories about being thrown off trains, ticketed and even threatened with arrest because readers aren’t working were too common a story during implementation and some systems that were supposed to be on the TAP system, such as Foothill Transit, are now opting out. So wouldn’t this new policy basically be punishing people for choosing to TAP over paper tickets?

Good news, the new policy is no more. According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the policy was "quietly reversed after the union representing Metro’s bus operators objected." While I can’t reveal my sources, I will say it’s someone completely trustworthy on Metro issues. The drivers didn’t like the idea of being forced to confront both fare cheats and people who were being wrongly singled out by a broken system.

Metro’s communications office writes that the people in charge of TAP implementation are out today, but we’ll get an official confirmation on Monday.

(Update. Got the following email from Metro, we’ll continue to monitor and get to the bottom of this:

Damien, here’s a response from Matt Raymond, who heads up our TAP program:

The clipping of TAP cards is an interim program to identify inoperable TAP cards. I’m not aware of any union requests to discontinue. We are closely monitoring the program to evaluate next steps. We will let you know of any changes to the program as decisions are made.

  • My jaw dropped when I saw the take ones on the bus announcing this.

    What stuns me is Kymberleigh informs me this was presented last week at the Operations Committee meeting as an information item and the Committee members said zilch. Makes you wonder if any of them know anything about transit. I know, what a silly question.

    This fiasco is partly to be laid at the Board, which has allowed it to fester while they asked no questions and seemed oblivious.

    Also I note no TAP update was prepared for the Board/Committee meetings this month. Appalling!

    Maybe posts like this will keep up the pressure on Metro to fix this mess. And I concede that Brown Molyneux is absolutely on target for every attack aimed at this. Millions spent and over a decade to produce this sorry state of affairs–I have long asked questions of the powers that be about this project and worried that the answers were so unsatisfactory. Hopefully Richard Hunt’s appointement to fix TAP announced at the Governance Council Meet and Confer will soon produce results. The status quo cannot stand!

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2010/03/05/a-review-of-the-metro-sector-governance-councils-meet-and-confer/

  • If that is the case then Metro Operations have not officially suspended Tariff Notice $10-001. It is doubtful that many drivers were actually enforcing the rule anyway, as they don’t particularly want to physically touch the TAP cards of strangers. Telling people to pay their fare is one thing, but getting into confrontations is another. Certainly I would never hand over a TAP card, or any pass media, to anyone – I would always keep one hand on it.

    FYI, from the MTA Intranet, forwarded by my usual source:
    CEO Art Leahy is inviting all Metro employees to attend the All-Hands Meeting on Monday, April 5, 2010 in the Board Room. To accommodate as many employees as possible, there will be a meeting at 10 a.m. and a second meeting at 11 a.m. Both meetings will cover the same topics.

    Art encourages all employees to submit their questions and comments in advance of the All-Hands Meeting. Simply complete the online form below. Art will answer as many questions at the meeting as time permits. All questions submitted also will be posted and answered on the CEO’s Forum.

    Maybe someone enterprising person wants to drop a question in?

  • JW

    I hate Metro’s fare policies (only $1.25 for each ride or a day+ pass) and their crappy tap card.

    Why, oh why, in 2010 do they not have card that I load fare balances on?

    I ride the red line a dozen times a month.

    It never makes sense for me to buy any pass yet with my only alternative to go fool around with their stupid TVM….or just not pay.

  • spokker

    I didn’t really look into the notch thing, but it sounded stupid on the surface.

    By the way, if you want the fare to cover transfers I hope you are okay with a higher fare. Its only fair.

  • Erik G.

    Notching a TAP card, especially a picture-TAP card that the holder may have waited hours for in line, is just asking for trouble.

    Plus, have you written down your TAP card(s) serial number(s)?

    The TAP follies continue indeed, exacerbated by the Turnstile-debacle.

    I hope everyone takes a look at this:
    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2010/02_February/20100218EMACItem19.pdf

    Notice the costs, notice also the reference to “MTA” so many years after the change to the name “LA Metro” that is constantly requested by LA Metro in Press Releases. Notice, that apparently TAP does not know there is a Purple Line now.

    P.S. I had the recent pleasure of purchasing a COMPASS card from a NCTD TVM in Oceanside. That’s right, a TVM dispensed the card!

  • Erik G.

    Say, while we are on the subject, does anyone know the actual cost of a blank, empty or “virgin” TAP card? What is CUBIC getting from LA Metro for each piece of RFID plastic?

  • At the heart of this matter is Metro Deputy Executive Officer of UFS/TAP Jane Matsumoto, the spouse of Metro CFO Terry Matsumoto. TAP is Deputy Executive Matsumoto’s nearly nine-year-old baby.

    Of late, Metro has dropped the responsibility of explaining TAP’s apparently inexplicable “policies” and behavior on the backs of Metro PR pansies. The various and seemingly unconnected agencies (Jane Matsumoto, TapToGo.net, TAP, Cubic, etc.) with vested interests in TAP tend to be unavailable for comment except through Metro’s PR personnel.

  • On a related albeit sill note, there is the grammatical gaffe in the first graf on page two:

    “TAP questions were included in a Customer Preference Study
    (Attachment A) to gage customer perspectives.”

    gage:
    1   /geɪdʒ/ Show Spelled [geyj] Show IPA noun, verb,gaged, gag·ing.
    –noun
    1. something, as a glove, thrown down by a medieval knight in token of challenge to combat.
    2. Archaic. a challenge.

    The game is afoot.

  • Randall, Jane Matsumoto dislikes me so much for asking pointed questions about TAP the last time she attended a Metro Citizens Advisory Council meeting she adressed me as “Mr. Gabbard”. I guess I should take that as a badge of honor.

    Trying to save face when a fisaco happens is the essence of p.r. But all the efforts of the flacks don’t change that TAP is a disaster.

  • Ken Ruben

    Hi Everyone:

    I was at the CAC Meeting that Dana refers to.

    Except for Dana and possibly Erik for those posting here, you are not familiar with my original picture TAP card eventually completely fading after my friend Jerry Brown from Culver City (I also live in Culver City) and I via my efforts through Jack Gabig, former General Manager of the former San Gabriel Valley Sector, got replacement cards through the tech people involved with the TAP card system. Jerry and I both applied at the same time and had extra photos through the same professional photo place we both used.

    I only used my card once on the 632 Gold Line emulator (when it was running before the opening of the Eastside Gold Line Extension)on a trip with Dana and others. The tech people were nice enough to give me a little money on the card even though I already have and still use the Senior EZ Pass.

    Jerry uses his card at times to purchase a day pass but he doesn’t ride as often or as extensively as I do.

    By the way, I found out later that the contact person I originally dealt with in regards the replacement cards, had left the TAP program.

    At the all-sectors meeting back several months ago (not the one that Dana wrote about here recently although I was present partially for that one also), I was the only “public” member present although many attendees knew me from Sector and other METRO meetings.

    I asked a question about using the paper Senior EZ Pass once the gates were eventually “locked” on the Red/Purple Lines.

    Paul Taylor, deputy CEO, answered that there would be one entrance with an attendant to handle those with “paper” passes and also for those who for whatever reason, couldn’t physically “tap,” etc.

    FYI.

  • Cassie

    I rode a Gardena bus last week (I don’t normally) and I noticed signs that said “no TAP”. I thought there were only a few holdouts (Long Beach and Torrance, and then I think Foothill did accept them but then now don’t?). I just checked the Tap website and Gardena is listed as one of the “upcoming” transit operators. That’s odd…

    Metro needs to stop coming up with stupid plans that do nothing but make riding public transportation difficult. The paper passes (or stickers, for those with discounted photo passes) worked fine. You didn’t have to worry about an RFID reader not working.

    I hope they do officially rescind this policy. I buy my pass through my employer (it has my photo on it) so I think they mail a new pass periodically (maybe every few years). But if I have to buy a Tap card, why should it be my responsibility to go get a new card if my card “fails” four times? and by fail, I mean when the reader fails…

    @Ken Reuben – I wonder what the cost of hiring employees for each train station to check passes/transfers compared to the cost of installing card readers and turnstiles is?

  • Ken Ruben

    Cassie:

    My last name is spelled Ruben, not Reuben which in many eating places, refers to a well-known sandwich.

    In regards your question: “I wonder what the cost of hiring employees for each train station to check passes/transfers compared to the cost of installing card readers and turnstiles is?”, I don’t know but Dana may have better information on this than yours truly.

    Remember besides paper EZ Passes which a card reader won’t be able to read and with some passengers not physically able to “tap” and you will also need the same such entrance for luggage and strollers, etc., METRO (at least from my understanding of the reply I received from Mr. Taylor), will have no choice but to have the “manual” type of entrance with an attendant.

    I will stand corrected if there is other information that is not in my possession at this time.

  • How can the gates pencil out if attendants will have to be placed at every station that has them? That would probably cancel out the savings of not having fare inspectors. Just further proof many claims made when the Board went along with the gating have proved to be false.

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