Everything You Wanted to Know about the TAP Cards


Did you know that Metro is planning to convert all but single ride passes to TAP Cards by the summer?  How about the plan to have every transit line, bus and train, accept TAP Cards in the next couple of months?

While the rollout of the "new and improved" TAP system has been in the works for a long time, in November of 2007 the new system was used as an excuse to end the free transfer between Metro and DASH buses, most regular Metro riders don’t really know about these changes or how Metro is going to make these changes?

Some, maybe all, of these questions will be answered tomorrow at an open meeting of Metro’s Citizen Advisory Council.  Jane Matsumato, Metro’s point person for the TAP system, will be presenting the changes and answering any questions or concerns people might have.  The meeting starts at 6:30 in the Gateway Center Conference Room at Metro Headquarters.

Photo: Fred Camino

  • Actually the meeting is in the Gateway Plaza conference room on the third floor of the Metro headquarters building. There should be signs directing attendees to the meeting room (past the elevators).


  • Damien, thanks for updating the notice as to the meeting location!

    I am astonished Metro staff apparently won’t provide an update on implementation to the Metro Board this month. Unless it is on the main agenda versus its usual Operation Committee slot.

  • Mark Panitz

    there was *never any free transfers from Metro buses to Dash
    buses however there is free transfers from LADOT buses to Dash buses
    LADOT buses are NOT operated by metro
    now if you mean when LADOT used honor Metro passes that was discontinued not
    by metro but by LADOT because Metro wasn’t reimbursing LADOT for metro passengers

  • James Fujita

    It’s a shame that the MTA hasn’t done a better job of rolling out the TAP card, because in general, Smart Cards are really an incredibly useful idea.

    They don’t really benefit people with transit passes so much, because they already are able to avoid ticket machines and the joys of “exact change only”. But, for a lot of L.A. people, being able to fill up a smart card every couple of weeks would be a huge improvement.

    The TAP card such as it currently exists is extremely underpowered. The MTA desperately needs to get more municipal transit systems (and Metrolink) involved and make the card easier to reload.

  • Marcotico

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Based on my 4 years in London, the two best incremental improvements to the Tube/Bus system were the implementation of the Oyster Card (their TAP card), and the installation of full featured next bus signage (theirs list the next 2-3 busses by route number and projected arrival time).

    Regarding the card it had a number of good characteristics:
    1. It de-monetizes each individual transit trip. The same way many people don’t think about how much each car trip costs you in gas, insurance, and wear and tear, it allows you to jump on the tube or bus without worrying about how much this individual trip is costing you. Plus it was soooooo easy, because you didn’t have to take the card out of your wallet or fiddle with tickets.

    2. It allows you to mix different types of passes and trips. I had a monthly bus pass, which cost half as much as the Tube/Bus combo pass, and I’d keep the card topped up with $50 for taking the tube. the card knew which was which, and it was smart enough to charge for a single tube trip or the day pass rate which was cheaper. This was especially useful for zone based fares, which research shows is the most equitable pricing system (since the poor generally travel shorter distances more often. Brian Taylor!Woop Woop!)

    3. Allows for blending of turnstile entry and honor system entry. On some lines such as suburban rail, and the outer reaches of tube systems, there wouldn’t be turnstiles, but rather posts with contact pads. However to get out on the central London side you would have to tap your card on the turnstile. If you didn’t tap in when you got on, it would charge you the maximum fare when you exited. This would be very useful on all the lines in LA besides the red line, instead of retrofitting all the stations with turnstiles, you would just have to add them to the central locations.

    4. Allows for better travel information gathering, and modelling. If you can get over the big brother implications. I personally think this is the only really valid argument for LA’s idea to switch to turnstiles.

  • Rachel

    Can someone who is attending the meeting update the rest of us on what goes on?

  • I’ve been using TAP for a while, since I’m a UCLA grad student and they’ve been using TAP for the Go Metro program here for a couple years now.

    I only recently realized that I didn’t even need to take the TAP card out of my wallet. Previously I had been getting out of my wallet before hand and just leaving it in my pocket, which led to me losing the card on two different occasions because it would fall out of my pocket when I sat down! Now I just hold my wallet up to the sensor, wait for the beep, and walk in. Very handy.

  • Wad

    Marcotico wrote:

    4. Allows for better travel information gathering, and modelling. If you can get over the big brother implications. I personally think this is the only really valid argument for LA’s idea to switch to turnstiles.

    Using TAP for trip modeling will be more useful for bus route planning, since it is far easier to change a bus route than a rail route.

    Typically, gathering data from a rail station involves tracking boardings and exits. Rail is harder to reconfigure, so trip modeling is less possible. It does give better data for passenger flow, to determine whether more fare gates or station attendants need to be added.

    As for turnstiles in L.A., it was, is and will be a stupid idea. Metro misidentified the problem and is proposing a solution that not only doesn’t affect what it is intended to solve, it create another one.

    There was even an industrywide question as to which was better: turnstiles or proof of payment. The answer turned out to be: Pick one system and stick with it. Both have about the same rates of fare delinquency, and switching between systems costs more than any advantages riders or agencies may see.


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