Eyes on the Street: Will Mandatory TAP Strand Disabled Passengers?

Exit to Hope Street...Unless you are in a wheel chair. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikgriswold/7366319168/##Erik Griswold/Flickr##

While just about everyone that doesn’t work for Metro or sit on their Board of Directors has major reservations about mandating TAP card ownership and locking fare gates at Metro rail stations, reader Erik Griswold has found a major issue that Metro has to address…that locking the gates could force handicapped passengers (or anyone needing an elevator) to have to pay multiple times or be re-routed in odd ways to leave the station.

The above picture was taken at 7th Street/Metro Center Station which serves both the Blue and Expo Light Rail Lines and the Red and Purple HRT/Subway lines.  Griswold explains:

ADA faregate, which is soon to be locked, leads to a lobby with no elevator to the surface. Once out of the paid-fare area, the wheelchair-or-other-elevator-dependent customer will have to purchase a new ticket (on the soon-to-be-required RFID (“TAP”) card which will cost an extra dollar to buy) in order to re-enter the station and head over to an exit with an elevator.

This will mean that while a wheelchair user can exit the station, they will then find themselves trapped in the ticket lobby in the background and will need to pay another fare at the Ticket Vending Machines(TVM) to get to another exit from the station that has an elevator to the surface.

  • While just about everyone that doesn’t work for Metro or sit on their Board of Directors has major reservations about mandating TAP card ownership and locking fare gates at Metro rail stations…
    I don’t agree with your statement. Everywhere else in the world people pay for transit. It’s no longer a novelty here.  Why should Metro continue to facilitate fare beating? Lock the gates, accomodate the disabled and build the subway to the sea, Crenshaw and a line from the Valley to the Westside (and down to LAX) already.

  • I agree with Joel… not nearly everyone has major reservations. If fact, few comment boards are as anti-locking as the ones here. Many of them are either more mixed or pro-locking. A locked fare gate is nothing new in the world of public transit… Yes, Metro needs to do a better job of planning for all of the situations that will arise with locked gates (this should have been done from the start), but they should in fact actually lock them.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Joel. I usually agree with the opinions voiced on this blog, but I don’t understand the fussing over this switch at all. For those of us that moved here from other cities with rail systems with locked gates and farecards, locking the gates here seems like a no-brainer. This is fear of change, plain and simple.

  • MarkB

    If the purpose of the gates is to ensure fare payment, I bet it’d be more cost effective to increase the number of fare inspectors, which would also have the positive side effect of putting more supervisory eyes on the system. Anyone who thinks a mere turnstile will prevent determined riders from jumping (ie, not paying) must also think copyright laws prevent people from downloading media content.

    Even Metro must know fare gates can’t be justified on the merits, else why would they have originally been promoted as anti-terrorist explosive-sniffing devices? Absolutely daft.

  • Anonymous

    Everywhere else in the world people pay for transit.”

    Well, yes. But they do not all doing it with locked fare gates. Many places use the proof of payment system that Metro currently uses without massive fare evasion. Gates systems work better for systems where you pay once to enter the system and then rider freely throughout it. Here, you will have to pass through a payment gate on every transfer. 

    More importantly, it’s not really well proven that fare gates reduce fare evasion anyway. Metro’s “tests” have been pretty slim and unrealistic. Their cost/benefit comparisons don’t take into account what would happen if they just added more ticket inspectors riding on the system.

    There’s a lot of good reasons to think the gate system is a mistake beyond just pretending that somehow no one is paying without one.

  • “This is fear of change, plain and simple”.

    With all due respect ChrisLoos, what has been expressed here is informed concern about the flawed premises under which the gating has been pushed plus an ongoing vexation at how TAP (despite smartcards being industry standard for some years now) has been poorly implemented and to this day falls far short of what was originally promised.

    MarkB and MaxUtil touch on some of the same issues I have noted in some of my previous commentaries:

    The fact that unlike other cyber-venues this one has comments decidely critical of the gates should give pause to the proponents, since I would hope it is understood the expertise and knowledge of the folks commenting here is miles beyond what you find elsewhere. Trying to paint us as Cassandras is not an effective way to promote your opinion if you disagree with those of us with concerns. I have been a vocal critic from the get-go and so far nothing has given me reason to change that opinion.

  • Erik Griswold

    Sure many other systems around the world have turnstiles/faregates.  BUT, those systems with turnstiles/faregates ALL* have staffed stations (people, often in booths, who can over-ride the fare-control systems, or who sit by a turnstile they control).  And this is the issue everyone who comments here for the gating and at Metro seems to be ignoring. 

    Can Metro have turnstiles/faregates someday?  Sure, but the cart is still in front of the horse on this one.  And it hasn’t been thought through, especially as it impacts the least fortunate among us, as my photo demonstrates. 

    Let me assure you I can come up with many more examples of situations like this one.  

    Here is just one: At Wilshire/Vermont, there is a separate mini-bank of turnstiles/faregates to control access to the elevators that goes to the surface.

    Link to the Google Aerial View:  http://goo.gl/maps/pPMl 

    So you pay your fare and go to the elevators, but find they are both out of service (this happens with some frequency and has happened to a commenter to one of the many blogs that has discussed this issue).  So, if you are able-bodied and can walk around to the other entrance, the one with escalators and stairs, you can re-enter the fare-paid zone…if you pay another fare.  Using a pass?  You will have to wait as the system will have locked you out of entering again for a period of time to prevent what the transit industry calls a “pass-back”

    And if you are in a wheelchair?  Well the turnstiles/faregates are admittedly not the issue here, but you too will have to pay another fare (or wait) to board a bus to the next station in the direction you are travelling, unless you find a sympathetic bus driver who is willing to break policy and risk her/his job.  

    A staffed station could have issued you some sort of proof that you had paid but were inconvenienced by the elevator breakdown.

    A system designed for turnstiles/faregates from the start would not have placed the elevators at Wilshire/Vermont where they are now.

    Locking the turnstiles/faregates, at this time, is a short-sighted move by the Metro Board of Directors.
    *Except for the New Jersey to Philadelphia PATCO rail line, which behaves more like a commuter train than an urban rail transit line and was designed from its inception with un-staffed but gated stations:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PATCO_Speedline 

  • I agree with Joel. In addition to the Metro studies that have shown earlier revenue loss estimates were inaccurate, there is a widespread public perception that the lack of locking gates invites fare-jumping and crime. Now it’s important not to be ruled by public opinion, but it’s also important not to dismiss it. The lack of locking fare gates is inevitably brought up in any conversation I have with choice riders. You’ll still hear some people refer to the Red Line as free. Now, perhaps it’s more difficult to lock the gates than the Board of Directors assumes, but transit advocates in the region have been nothing if not people of great vision and ingenuity. If the contractor botched it– fix it. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Additionally, the region-wide adoption of advanced fare media is long overdue. Non-users don’t understand why the fares are different and fractured, and frankly, they’re right. Implementation failures shouldn’t be disguised as policy failures. Easy to use fares, and coordinated transit service is good policy.

  • Erik Griswold

    Steven, This comment board has, from my experience, a much more experienced readership than other ‘blogs, especially in using transit around the country and around the world, but also in an understanding of the challenges faced by various segments of society.  LA.Streetsblog existed before the Metro-controlled The Source and was covering non-auto-biased transportation issues before the other local ‘blogs and news-pages picked up on them.

    This is why you find the opinions here that you may not elsewhere.

  • Erik Griswold

    What MaxUtil said.

    ChrisLoos:  You moved here from D.C. if I recall correctly?  

    Here is a picture of a typical WMATA Metro station:http://www.flickr.com/photos/retroleum/2401853739/

    Have you seen any LACMTA Metrorail stations that resemble this one?

  • Can’t the wheelchair people just get their chauffers to drop them off at the right place? That’s how Metro board members get around, no?

  • Erik Griswold

    Limited Stop:

    In addition to the Metro studies that have shown earlier revenue loss estimates were inaccurate, there is a widespread public perception that the lack of locking gates invites fare-jumping and crime. ”

    Metro studies?  The test locking pictured here?


    Where I count four LACMTA empolyees manning the four turnstiles and the one ADA faregate at what I believe is Vermont/Beverley station?  How much is that costing in labor?  

    But wait! There’s more!  Look in the background.  I see four, possibly five White-shirted Sheriff’s Assistants and one Beige-shirted Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy.  And usually the Beige-shirted LASDs travel in pairs, so there is likely at least one out of the camera view.

    Four staff, and up to seven sworn law enforcement officers to “study” the effect of locking?  Keep in mind that the White-shirts are armed with Pepper Spray and Handcuffs, while the Beige-shirts have all that plus TASERs and guns.


    Locked gates keeps out “fare-jumpers” and crime?  Ah, that explains why there is no crime and never has been any fare-cheating on, for example, the New York City Subway:


  • James

    I’m in Boston right now and the underground stations use either paper tickets or a plastic card that you insert and the gate automatically opens (not a turnstile). Was there a reason Metro didn’t adopt this type of system that allows paper tickets as well? The all-TAP card requirement seems to be one of the reasons holding up this issue… Just lock the gates already!

  • Erik Griswold

    James, the stations in Boston have customer service personnel; they are the former token sellers and they still have booths to sit in.  Most of the stations in Boston were built with plumbing, etc.  The MBTA also gives away their RFID cards for free.  

    Boston’s Faregate and TVM supplier, Scheidt & Bachmann had to fight a large lawsuit against Cubic to get the contract in the first place:http://www.fta.dot.gov/legislation_law/12921_641.html 


    But later when Cubic got the contract to produce the still-paper MBTA commuter rail monthly passes, they had a bit of Quality COntrol problems:


    I do not know why LACMTA purchased the turnstiles it did.  Does anyone know?

    Just lock the gates already! ”

    Shoot first and ask questions later?

  • Local activist (and SO.CA.TA Director) Ken Ruben informs me at the Westside/central Service Council meeting yesterday agency staff stated paper tickets with chips to be sold in ticket vending machines are being considered to deal with the controversy over allowing no access to the Red/Purple Lines unless you buy a TAP card. Remember this was supposed to be part of the mix of fare medium until negative feedback from bus operators caused Metro to decide not to do it.


  • Ken Ruben

    As Dana mentioned earlier my learning last night at the METRO Westside Governance Council Meeting about the paper card with a chip in it for a single ride to be offered from the TVMs  once the gates station by station start  to be locked, and in regards this,  I brought this up today to the guy who sells me my EZ Pass at Culver City Hall and he already knows about the sticker and I mentioned I already have a TAP card with my photo on it (still good for a year) but he was not sure about putting money on my card in addition to getting the sticker.
    I told him about my extensive conversation with Art Ida, Director of Transportation for Culver CityBus (way it is spelled), and he thanked me but would wait for further instructions

    I told him that was fine but was keeping him informed.

    I am friends with both Dana and Erik and agree with many of their concerns.


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  • fuzdis

    Having recently been locked out of a station because I tapped to take the elevator, a small sign informed me it was out of service, then I was locked out of the station because I had already tapped I would say it wasn’t a “fear of change, plain and simple” but real concerns.

    So yeah, you were wrong then and still wrong now. The gates cause real tangible harm. Unless you’re offering to pay my fare, new tap card fee and time lost because I missed the train?

  • M

    I’ve also see/had my own problems. My boyfriend accidentally tapped his card with his left hand for the turnstile NEXT to him. By the time he figured out what he did (I had already gone through without him), he was locked out. I’ve also accidentally tapped my card in the wrong place when transferring at 7th and metro and by the time I got to where I was supposed to TAP my card, I couldn’t. Also, on more than one occasion, I’ve been with people that were at a fare gate without a handicapped entrance, people tried to pick up whatever large item they had OVER the turnstile before realizing it wasn’t going to work and they just walked through the emergency exit.

    Metro might not see all these problems though because people are coming up with work around on their own.


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