Free TAP Cards, DASH Rides, for Downtown City Employees

Now here’s a government perk I can get behind.

Late last month, the Mayor’s Office announced that city employees who work in or near the city’s core will be given a TAP card with an unlimited amount of rides on the Downtown DASH bus system run by LADOT. The TAP cards will replace fare tokens that are made available to city staff.

While the cards will not have funds pre-loaded to ride on Metro or other bus services, those purses can be added through the Tap To Go website.

While this is hardly earth-shattering news, there are a couple of reasons that this change is a good sign for both the city and Metro.

First, it seems that every time someone writes about TAP, there is more bad news about the beleaguered transit passes long-term rollout. For a change, this is good news. Literally thousands of new TAP customers will be instantly created and will be able to experience some of the versatility of the card with separate purses for LADOT and Metro.

Second, it’s always a good idea to make it easier for people to choose transit for making local trips. Dana Gabbard, one of the steering committee members for the Southern California Transit Advocates, explains.

“This action seems an excellent way to introduce folks who may not have used transit in the past to see it as a viable option, at least to sample some of the excellent lunch spots in downtown or to get from a rail station to their workplace,” writes Gabbard. “Maybe once they try it they may decide to use transit some weekend when visiting the Getty, LACMA, Natural History Museum etc. all of which are served by transit. Baby steps are one way to widen transit acceptance and use.”

 While the Mayor’s Office ducked questions on whether or not this means a reduction in the city’s vehicle fleet is on the horizon, finding ways to reduce car demand will always lead to good results for the city, for the environment, and for Downtown Los Angeles in general.
In other TAP news, LADOT will announce the winners of their most recent TAP card design contest tomorrow.
  • davistrain

    The trouble with a TAP card is that without checking at a fare vending machine, you don’t know how much is left on it. Also, if the rider forgets to validate before boarding the train, the fare inspector might think the person is trying to pull a fast one. Back in the dark ages, when we just put coins in a farebox, or in the paleotechnic days, when we handed our fares to the conductor, there was no doubt, and we could always count the change in our pockets or purses. There are some places where machines are better than people, but in this case they just add a layer of compication.

  • Alex Brideau III

    The TAP program the City is moving forward on would allow unlimited Downtown-area DASH rides for City employees, so no one will need to check a balance unless they opt in to adding more money to their card.

    As for the benefits of paying by cash or coin, as a daily bus rider, I can attest that paying that way sure takes longer than TAPping. Invariably, someone does not have exact change ready or s-l-o-w-l-y feeds their fare into the farebox. Besides, pay on board is only practical for buses and board-at-the-front streetcars.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I think this is a great idea. At the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA), we have the expectation that our Downtown-area employees should use the DASH to travel to/from City Hall unless they have to transport unwieldy loads or during cases of inclement weather. If all our employees had their own TAP cards, it would be much easier than our current practice of issuing 2-4 DASH paper tickets per ride.

    I’m just concerned about that arbitrary 2-year-expiration policy that Cubic built into these cards. If that’s still the practice, I hope the City will throw its weight around and avoid paying the card replacement fee.

  • ubrayj02

    Good news: city hall employees will reduce their car use and join the ranks of strap hangers and bus bench riders.

    Bad news: this is probably coming out of the dedicated $ the city gets to reduce air pollution or to decrease private car trips in the city.

    While the city is technically reducing car trips – I think the money could be better spent in targeted projects to dramatically increase cycling and walking rates (and safety) in specific areas of LA. I suppose that would come with political hurdles though as people like Koretz, Cedillo, Parks, Wesson, and Price staunchly defend the motoring-only way of life.

  • ubrayj02

    TAP is awesome for solo trips, but it isn’t the end-all for transit. The complications multiply when you want to take a group of non-transit friends or family on the bus or train. It is a real hassle to juggle TAP cards and stored fares with groups.

  • calwatch

    You can include TAP chips with photo IDs. Since photo IDs have to be replaced anyway every few years adding that would be a good option. In addition it also makes terminating the benefit after employment ends easier.

    For downtown work-related trips, though, this makes the lack of bikeshare even more glaring. Some of these trips would be better suited for bikeshare due to longer headways and slow travek times as a result of stopping every block.

  • cenedraa

    LACity workers already get to use DASH for free (it states that in the letter). They get DASH tickets. TAP cards would allow them to use it out of work hours… So they will be saving trees and driving less… but making more plastic to throw away later. And its not reducing car trips during work hours, they already use it for day to day travel between buildings.

  • Alex Brideau III

    From the memo, it appears their goal is to integrate the TAP into City employee ID cards. Here’s to hoping that transition is expedited.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Agreed. Maybe a recyclable paper TAP could be developed to be marketed toward groups, convention visitors, tourists, and other infrequent riders so they don’t have to waste $$$ on a TAP they will only use once or twice. I can dream, can’t I?

    For now, I just hold on to older TAPs that I come across and charge them up with a couple bucks as “loaner TAPs” that I let my friends borrow as needed.

  • Bob P

    The memo specifically indicates that staff can only utilize the “free” pass for work related trips — they would have to load their own monies to use the TAP card outside of working hours. This is basically just a method to streamline staff access to transit for work related duties — it really shouldn’t be referred to as a “benefit”.

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