Metro Board Report: Red/Purple Line Gate Locking Is Really Coming Soon

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At this week’s Metro Board Executive Management Committee meeting staff will present a report “on accelerated completion of gate locking.”

Here is the key paragraph reflecting what Metro staff believe is feasible regarding fare gate closing:

Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) are in the process of being converted to operate in a TAP only environment. Conversion is scheduled to be complete by August 9. Intermittent gate locking can begin as early as June 27 but will require staff presence to monitor gate arrays. Permanent gate locking can begin as early as August 27 with a completion target date of November 30, 2012.

Wilshire/Normandie Purple Line station will be the testbed for the gate locking:

Following the lab testing of the software and the initial modifications that converted the TVMs at the Wilshire/Normandie station (ended June 20), Wilshire/Normandie can now be locked for revenue service during normal business hours. A schedule for staffing of

just this Wilshire/Normandie station with LASD personnel and temporary ambassadors will be finalized with the Implementation Team by the end of June. LASD staff will assist a small minority of riders at Wilshire/Normandie who may have either a paper EZ.

Transit pass (4% total during the 10 week gate locking demonstration entries), a Metrolink paper pass (9% total during 10 week gate locking demonstration), or a Muni-to-Metro transfer (0% total during 10 week gate locking demonstration). Those riders who have historically paid for one-way or day passes with cash and issued a paper ticket will be assisted by ambassadors at each TVM array – all customers requiring assistance will be personally aided by temporary ambassadors who have been trained to educate and assist customers with the paper-to-TAP transition.

As I mentioned in a previous commentary, Metro’s intention is to lock all the gates by the end of the year in the Red/Purple Line stations although they concede delays in a solution for Metrolink patrons may mean the locking of Union Station will happen after the 1st of the new year:

With the successful locking of the manned Wilshire/Normandie, staff can then proceed with systematic, phased locking of all Red Line subway stations between the end of July through the beginning of September 2012. It is anticipated that during the months of July and August, two Red Line stations per week will be locked. From the end of August to mid-September, the remaining Red Line stations will be locked, three stations per week. Union Station can be locked by the second week in September. Recognizing the potential impacts to Metrolink customers, the Metrolink working group and consultants are currently under discussion of examining possible alternatives while Metrolink is working on their TVM modifications to sell paper smart cards. Alternatives to providing Metrolink riders with temporary smart cards or other TAP fare media are options under consideration. Staff will report back in July for alternative solutions including keeping Union Station unlocked for a duration that extends to February 2013.

The previously mentioned EZ pass sticker solution is also impending: “Sales of TAP-enabled EZ Transit Passes will commence with the September sales period”. And we finally are given more specifics about the long promised TAP alternative for Metrolink patrons:

Paper tickets utilizing smart card technology will be loaded into Metrolink ticket vending machines and serve a dual purpose of vending Metrolink products and allowing entry into Metro gated stations. The smart chip to be used in these tickets has been identified and Metro and Metrolink are working closely with associated vendors to procure these tickets on an accelerated basis. A detailed schedule is currently under development to establish an accurate end date for implementation.

Also the vexing problem presented by patrons of connecting Municipal bus lines that aren’t part of TAP and that still issue paper transfers is seemingly about to be resolved:

A “Subway-Only” limited use paper smart card transfer has been recommended for issuance by Municipal bus lines that connect to the Metro Red and Purple Lines. This will enable Municipal bus operators not currently participating on the TAP system to offer their riders convenient entry to Metro’s gated subway system. Other Municipal operators who are current participants on the regional TAP system can provide automated electronic transfers for their customers who will use their regular plastic, permanent TAP cards. Customers transferring to a non-TAP Municipal bus carrier (Muni-to-Muni transfer) can be issued the existing paper transfer no differently than today.

The report concludes with assessment of staffing and outreach. I am very curious about the assertion all this will end up being revenue neutral and achieved by redeploying existing Sheriff personnel.

There has been some consternation at the notion for even a single trip on the subway purchase of a TAP card will be necessary. At the Westside/Central Service Council meeting last week Jon Hillmer who is the liaison to the Councils mentioned plans for the TVMs at Red/Purple Line stations to sell paper tickets with chips for those paying for a one-way trip. When this will occur is unclear.

My reason for quoting at such length directly from the staff report is I feel this issue is too important to condense or summarize Metro’s plans. Hopefully this answers many of the questions people have about the gate locking. We will soon see if Metro’s seeming confidence in going forward is justified.

My thanks to activists Ken Ruben and Eugene Salinsky who shared with me Mr. Hillmer’s comments. Also I appreciate Mr. Hillmer confirming them.

  • Okay, so Metrolink just saved a bunch of money by switching away from its complicated 10-trip tickets to 7-day passes on standardized fare media. So now they’ll have to vend *every* ticket on new, expensive paper smart card media, completely negating that savings?

    I hope Metro is footing the bill for that.

    That said, it might accelerate the transition to a regional smart-card system. If every Metrolink ticket is a smart card, there’s a new incentive for connecting operators to accept smart cards. Would also be nice if Metrolink themselves would accept TAP, so they wouldn’t have to pay so much for expensive temporary cards.

  • Ubrayj02

    Metro is making extra sure that their highway engineering department will not want for drivers to satisfy. Locking these gates ensures that only the most desperately poor will use transit, as the inconvenience of this Orwellian/Kafka-esque TAP fiasco is sure to drive away casual users of the system.

    I would rather have the trains filled with fare dodgers than have to deal with this stupid federal homeland security grant grab the MTA’s middle class management been suckling on for several years now.

    We need law enforcement on the trains, not at the gates.

    All this inter-agency transfer crap puzzles me. Is it so hard to sell another agency’s ticket from your machine and transfer the money later? When I was a kid, a little transfer ticket would do the job handily. Oh, the inconvenience of that little ticket.

    Like electronic voting, I think we’re throwing out a system that works for some high tech wizardry that (1) doesn’t live up to its claims and (2) leaves us worse off once it is implemented.

    Anyone else think that Metro staff should have their offices on the platforms of these stations? Taj Mahal thinking is what leads to crap like this.

  • Mike

    All things considered, this whole implementation scheme seems to cover all their bases except for the Metrolink riders. Leaving the gates unlocked at Union Station is fine, which means I can board an outbound Red Line or Purple Line train without any problem. However, what do I do when I want to come back to Union Station? If gates at all the other stations are locked, how do I get back into the subway to return to Union Station?

    Also, what about tourists to L.A.? This whole TAP thing doesn’t work so well for them as it’s currently configured. I guess that can be solved by just making it very, very easy to buy a TAP card anywhere in L.A.. because tourists will need a TAP card even for a one way trip on the subway.
    Lastly, Metro, Metrolink, and all the other local carriers ALL have to be on the same TAP page! Think: User Friendly. Day Pass, all carriers, all day long, no limitations or hassles. one TAP card.

  • Peach and Black

    Most city subways have locked gates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They have to make money in order to stay afloat. This is simple economics.

    However – other cities have their transit turnstiles set up so that a transit user can drop their money, fare token or pass into a slot on the turnstile, then be on their merry way. Not so with Metro.

    I don’t think the TAP card system is necessarily a bad thing. 

    But again, here’s where Metro chases it’s tail, runs in a useless circle and shoots itself in the foot all at once:

    1. TAP cards cannot be purchased (much less have Metro passes added to them) on the buses (last time I checked). 

    How does this help a tourist or the average resident who is trying to use Metro for the first time? It doesn’t. This is the perfect way to reinforce the accurate image of  public transit in L.A. being an inefficient joke.

    2. TAP cards cannot simply be bought at a Metro Rail stop. File this under “W” for “What in bloody hell are they thinking & smoking???” 

    If a system wants to impose using a particular fare system, a paying customer who is merely trying to get from point A to point B in a timely manner, SHOULD be able to purchase a TAP anywhere, anytime with ease. Again, this isn’t so with Metro.

    When I moved back to L.A. in October 2010, a TAP card to be either purchased at Union Station during regular business hours. Or they could be bought online and mailed to you. Who wants to wait for that?? Supposedly, TAP cards were to be available at “select retail outlets” (i.e. supermarkets, check cashing places, etc.) but after a colossal time wasting venture of traveling to no less than 4 of these “select retail outlets” – all of which were currently out of TAP cards at that time – I opted for buying a TAP card online and waited 5 days for it to be mailed.

  • Anonymous

    So the bubble-wrapped brain surgeons at One Gateway Plaza think it will be just peachy if a Metrolink customer, who has paid at least $10.50 on Metrolink’s cheapest weekday roundtrip fare, can go from his/her train at Union Station to the Subway, but then CANNOT make the return journey because he/she can no longer board at Wilshire/Normandie?

    Ah, but it was based on the holy “10 week” locking demonstration, which was done at nearly all the stations outside of peak, and totally missed Union Station!!!

    As they say on The Simpsons, “That’s some fine police work there, Lou!”.

  • Brian

    @667eea55346c0ab4eab4fa8c68739bc7:disqus Your information is outdated. I purchased my first tap card from a machine at a subway stop downtown the other day. No need to mail a card or talk to anyone.

    And I really don’t get why anyone would be upset about locking the gates. Most other major cities do this. The real problem is that it’s not all efficiently coordinated, but as far as I can tell, they’re working on solutions for that. Paper tickets with chips for tourists, TAP cards for regular riders. Makes sense to me.

  • Anonymous

    Mike, I am sure Metrolink would love to “be on the same TAP page”, but unfortunately there are still some serious issues regarding the redistribution of fares that a cash-strapped entity like Metrolink cannot afford to ignore.  Metrolink cannot surrender all of its income to Metro and “hope” that Metro correctly re-distibutes the

  • According to past Streetsblog posts, TAP cards will be available for purchase at Metro Rail TVMs under the gate-locking plan. Also, I was offered the option of buying a new TAP card last month when I asked for a day pass as I was boarding the 212. So at least some TAP cards are currently being distributed to bus drivers.

    Not that I’m endorsing or defending Metro’s handling of this matter — I just want to make sure people have the right info.

  • Anonymous

    Again…

    The other cities which have locked gates have real live humans at each station who can resolve issues that come up.  Metro stations will not have this; there is not money for it in the budget.

    I sure hope you don’t miss the last train for the night!

  • Brian

    @TAPman:disqus I’ve been to plenty of stops in Boston and NYC that have no attendant present but have locked gates. I’m not saying that’s ideal, but it seems to work alright for them. Perhaps locked gates can generate enough revenue that Metro can actually hire people in this capacity? Not likely, but maybe…

  • Anonymous

    @c3d0d9585c15fee16811dc0aec954921:disqus  All stations in New York and Boston are staffed.  Not every entrance in the case of New York, but every station is staffed.

    In Boston there is a former-token-clerk, now a “Customer Service Agent” who roams the station.  He or she may not have been visible to you at the time you passed, but I and the Carmen’s Union assure you that they are there.

    Boston stations tend to have one bank of faregates.  New York stations do often have more than one bank of turnstiles.  And even with all that equipment, they have a failure to pay level of about 2% while Metro may be at bout 4% with no expensive equipment to buy and maintain.

  • Anonymous

    TAPman breaks it down perfectly. 

  • Jim61773

    I’d like to hear from a security expert about security at the gates vs. randomly roving the trains.  If there’s a crime on the subway, and a suspect trying to escape, I’d want somebody to block the exits.

  • Jim61773

    So you’re saying we need a Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Southern California?     Or do you just not trust Metro? 

    Blaming  “it’s being handled by a transit agency” instead of some miraculous independent agency for Metrolink’s TAP trouble doesn’t add up.

  • @5be0f8d6df79ab9287f317481290edab:disqus – Part of the problem is that Metrolink is managed by a 6 county system. Each county does their own “thing” with regard to stations. Metro owns their own stations, but a lot of Metrolink stations are owned by the county agency, such as the OCTA.

  • M

    This is a really good point. I feel like metro keeps TELLING me I will feel safer vs. asking me if the things in place actually make me feel safer and looking at data or scenarios and how they would be handled and giving me, a parton of Metro, clear answers on how some very reasonable and possible situations will be handled. When it comes down to it, locked turnstiles that require a ticket to unlock them really does little for me in terms of making me feel like it keeps me safer.

    -Why can’t people that are looking to bring crime into the station buy tickets too – is not buying a ticket the only thing that people ever do wrong on the train? If they are already up to no good, what stops them from stealing my TAP card from me as I approach the station or once I am in the station? Should I be reading between the lines and come to the conclusion that not having a ticket on the train is THE only safety issue, crime or otherwise “bad” behavior Metro cares about?
    -If there isn’t going to be Metro staff at the turnstiles, why don’t people just jump the turnstiles? What is the workflow if the handicapped exit is broken and I have my bike with me? This is NOT a problem I have ever experienced on the train in 7 years of riding, but will be a potential problem with locked gates. If there is an emergency, because of the period where the TAP card cannot be used again, what if I get trapped someplace?
    -If there is going to be Metro staff at the turnstiles, does that mean there won’t be Metro staff on the station platforms (where people often stand around for a while – sometimes up to 20 minutes at a time) or the trains? Those are where I spend most of my time as a passenger and as a result care more about my safety in those areas – NOT the turnstiles.
    -Will the cameras at the station allow Metro to magically identify all people that are up to no good AND stop them? Cameras are really good for looking at what happened in retrospect – not necessarily STOPPING things in progress from happening, which doesn’t make me as a patron feel safer.
    -If I miss my connecting train, bus or ride because of a malfunction of a turnstile, large group of people moving through, etc., how will I feel safer now that I have to stand around and wait someplace for a longer period of time or possibly even miss my last connection? When I transfer at Union Station, will there now be blockages of people shoving through to catch their connections?
    -If I have to use a TAP card every time, which means constantly taking it out of my purse, backpack or pocket, does that make me safer? I feel like this makes me more vulnerable as I try to not access these things while on public transportation so I do not accidentally show anyone anything valuable that they might try to take from me once I exit the station.
    -Since I can’t even call the police from my cellphone when in the Red Line stations, how can I feel safer now that I am potentially trapped down there?

    These are all NEW problems that come about because of the TAP requirement + turnstiles. There is going to be shady people on the train whether or not there are turnstiles. I have accepted that living in one of the largest U.S. cities and using public transportation. What I don’t accept is the people running my public transportation system wasting money (taxes + fare that I pay!) on things, not planning things out and putting me in more unsafe and harmful situations than I was in before they made declarations of things like locked gates.

    This is all without even taking into account things like numbers that make this project seem like a cost-effective plan, clear answers on the staffing at the individual stations and other very large issues.

  • calwatch

    So you would hand TAP over to SCAG, the only other regional governing body? You may not know this but in the 1990’s they fouled up Commuter Computer (the rideshare matching service) so bad that the local county transportation commissions took over. Under the Mark Pisano era, asinine ideas like Smart Shuttles and SCAGLEV were thrown around. Even today San Bernardino and Riverside Counties have a different 511 system from Orange and Los Angeles counties, as a result of that Downtown-centric mindset.

  • calwatch

    Metrolink pays $1.10 for each transfer, per the adopted Metrolink budget. In other cities, like San Francisco, New York, and Philadelphia, there are no free transfers, except for passholders. I would be fine with lowering the Metrolink base fare by the amount of money saved by not having transfers for that crowd (although with Metrolink, they will likely keep the money). You can do a TAP-like system on commuter rail – Caltrain and Sound Transit do that. It will take longer to do fare inspection since cards have to be scanned, but it prevents fraud from occuring.

  • calwatch

    TAP cards are already sold in all stations. What this does is increase the base fare for the subway for $1.50 to $3.50. If you have a card, it’s $1.50. If you didn’t bring it, it’s $3.50 (or $2.50 if they lower the price of the plastic card.) 

  • calwatch

    FYI, the emergency exit alarms don’t work. At North Hollywood and Union Station, people push them to get out all of the time. All Rail Operations Center can do is yell at you over the intercom. 

  • Jim61773

    It shouldn’t matter if Metro, SCAG, the Bay Area MTC or even the state took over TAP.  All that should matter is whichever bureaucracy has to have competent accountants with the right algorithms, correct?

     Unless agencies are afraid of Metro cooties on Metrolink cash.

    The ultimate goal should be fare unification.  It shouldn’t matter if you’re traveling on Big Blue Bus, Culver City, Metro or Metrolink. Or OCTA for that matter.  Eventually, the price should be distance-based, with express routes paying more and seniors/ students paying less and so forth.

  • Jim61773

    One idea would be to move security/ Sheriff/ police officers from the trains to the gates. If a crime happens on a train, block the gates. Block the escape routes.  The gates are already a physical barrier at the exit.

  • Anonymous

    Jim61773, maybe you could explain something to me. I don’t understand why I would feel safer if I am now trapped on a train or station without any law enforcement present on the platforms or on the trains. Are there going to be 5 law enforcement people working the gates? If not, won’t they need to go into the station/trains and help deal with the problem vs. standing at the turnstiles and making sure they are locked, blocking all of the innocent bystanders in the station and explaining why they can’t get in/out of the station? If I am standing on the platform with someone who is committing a crime and I can’t even get out of the station if I tried, how am I safer? Or are you assuming the metro staff at the turnstiles will just stand around and wait for the person committing the crime to finish their crime-commiting and then just run out of the station where they will fall into the arms of Metro staff that will slam handcuffs on them and all will be kittens, puppies and rainbows?

  • Anonymous

     Set up an indepentdent clearing house like ORCA in Seattle. 

    P.S. They had a “PugetPass” unified monthly pass system in place before they went to RFID.  And yes, distance based fares should be the ultimate goal.

  • Anonymous

    All of the exits?  Including the ones at each end of the platform plus the ones that you can get to if you run into the tunnel?

  • Ubrayj02

    Everything about the TAP program reeks of the stench of the rotten core of Metro’s “Customer Service” paradigm. This paradigm can be best summed up as follows: “F*&^ you if you can’t drive a car.” or “Just deal with it.”

    Case in point: Metro’s 1-800-COMMUTE “hotline” only works during business hours on regular business days. Their signage at bus stops and rail stations rarely even hint at when the next bus or train might arrive, and there are few indications where that bus or train might be heading.

    Metro’s customer relations amount to leaving it up to the end user to “just deal with it”.

    If you drive a car, Metro spends millions each year on tow trucks and drivers that will personally assist you in moving your multi-ton vehicle off the highway and get you to safety.

    Bus users get 1-800-COMMUTE.

    TAP sucks because it is housed in despicably managed Communications Strategic Business Unit (WTF is this SBU bullshit anyway?).

    TAP sucks because it is NOT being developed and rolled out by security professionals. It is NOT being rolled out by operations geeks and accounting specialists.

    TAP sucks because the hair ball of wax marketing hacks at Metro are in charge of it. Have you ever seen a private company run by the marketing division? They promise the sky, get their commission, and screw their customers.

    Make that an acronym, TAP SBU.

  • Jim61773

    I’m no security expert, but no I wouldn’t have police/ security standing motionless like palace guards at the gates. 

    But having them at all of the gates (which sounds a lot like what TAPman has been demanding) means that you would have security available at ALL of the stations. 

    You would have officers who would be able to respond quicker, who could set up a parameter or call for back up or whatever they think is the most appropriate course of action.

  • Anonymous

    My fave is the 323 number we are supposed to use to reach LASD…in the Subway!

  • Anonymous

     I’m not saying that security should remain motionless, however
    -If their first obligation is the gates, and the gates are locked and abandoned by the metro staff to go deal with issues on the platform or train, do you really think all the patrons in the station behind the locked gates will just stand around at the gates, especially if no one is there to tell them why they can’t leave? I envision ppl freaking out, trying to go through the turnstiles, falling down, trampling each other, jumping the gates, using the emergency exits (unless those get locked too, which kinda defeats the purpose of am emergency exit) and otherwise causing chaos while following human instance to get away from the danger vs. waiting for the gates to unlock again.
    -This requires at minimum, 2 security staff members, if not more, per a station exit during all open hours. I hope there are hidden bathrooms in the stations that are for staff, because otherwise I don’t see how they could work in the station for normal length shifts. As TAPman also mentioned, there are multiple exits to the stations besides the ones normally used by patrons (ever notice the “EXIT KEEP CLEAR DOORS MAY OPEN AT ANY TIME”  emergency exit doors on the sidewalks near the stations? There’s also the tunnels themselves that lead to the other stations.)
    -If these people are going to be at the stations at all times with multiple people at each station, will they really be LASD or would they be some less-prepared staff that maybe isn’t as prepared to deal with actual emergencies, but cheaper and within Metro’s budget?

  • Gokhan

    Big deal if a tourist is going to ride the system for only a day or a week or even a single trip. The TAP card only costs a $1 and LA Metro’s fares are lowest in US and much, much lower than in Europe. Giving an option for paper cards with NFC chips only creates paper and electronic waste. Plastic cards also encourage more use of the system, while free paper cards make the system look like a last-resort, ride-it-only-once-and-avoid-if-you-can means.

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