Fare Gates for Metro Trains Are Coming, But Slowly

7_13_2009_turnstiles.jpgPhoto of PATH Station in Newark, NJ: Ho0n/Flickr

Despite a Board Report available on Metro’s website that states that fare gates will be installed on all Metro rail lines by the end of the year (look on page 16 of this link); Meto staff reports that gates aren’t going to be up and running anytime soon.  Installation of gates has just begun at the Wilshire/Normandie Purple Line Station, but we’re not at the point where we can even see the gates yet, they should start physically being installed by the end of the week or early next week.

Once the Wilshire/Normandie installation is completed, Metro will continue along the Red and Purple Lines, a process that Rick Jager estimates could take up to six months before moving on to the Green Line, then the Blue Line and finally, the Gold Line.  Metro hasn’t yet completed installation for the pilot program at certain Gold Line stations that was, according to the schedule linked to above, supposed to be completed by the end of June.  A start date for the turnstiles to be operational hasn’t been announced, nor whether they will begin operation "piecemeal" or wait until the system is installed at every rail stop.

While I still roll my eyes at the thought that these gates will Keep Us Safe From Terrorists, my real concerns are whether or not the gates will be a burden to those using the rails who are bringing extra baggage, baby strollers, bicycles or whatever onto the trains and whether or not the gates will cause a backup and make people miss their trains.

I’m going to be out of town at the end of this week and start of next, so if any Streetsblogger wants to take some pictures of the turnstiles as they’re installed and describe how easy they are to use, there is a Streetfilms T-shirt in it for you.  Email me at damien@streetsblog.org.

  • M

    These are honestly the icing on the cake for me when it comes to waste, privacy violations, inconvenience and generally making the public transportation system experience worse — I am looking into moving someplace where the train system is not my main form of transportation any longer.

    As it is, the officer ticket checks already have caused me to miss my train.

  • Paul

    Well I have no issue with turnstiles. I wonder what the MTA will do about people jumping onto the platform from the track area on the LRV lines? I can see people getting hurt. Are there going to be station agents when the turnstile malfunctions to remedy the situation?

  • I’m still confused about how it’ll work. Will the turnstiles accept paper passes?

    If not, does that mean that everyone has to buy a TAP pass? If I’m boarding a bus and want to buy a day pass, will the bus driver give me a TAP pass? Will he charge me $5.00 in addition to the day pass fee?

    Also, when will I get the ability to add money to my card so that it acts as a “transit debit card”? Sometimes I just want to ride one bus each way, and I don’t need a day pass and don’t always carry change on me.

    So many questions that TAP customer support just can’t answer, after multiple phone calls.

  • Putting up gates only makes sense if it allows Metro to eliminate the stupid one-train-one-fare rules (and perhaps implement some sort of distance based fare to compensate for lost per-boarding fare due to transfer). The way it is being implemented, you still cannot buy one ticket and ride all the way from North Hollywood to Long Beach or LAX to Pasadena. Kind of misses the point in my opinion. But I guess that is the point… to stop free rides but not actually improve the functionality or convenience.

  • Spokker

    For Metrolink riders who are concerned, monthly passholders and 10-trip ticket holders will receive a TAP card from Metrolink. On your Metrolink monthly pass or 10-trip ticket there will be a coupon code that you will use online to load a Metro monthly pass free of charge. You will then carry two passes, one for Metro and one for Metrolink.

    Those who ride on round-trip or one-way tickets are out of luck. After the Metro fare gates are fully operational, whenever that is, you will need to buy a Metro day pass or one-way ticket to transfer to all bus and rail lines.

    This seems like a good compromise to preserve ridership amongst Metrolink’s bread and butter commuters, but not to grow ridership in mid-day and weekend periods. The fare gates erode regional connectivity unless Metrolink switches to TAP, something they most likely will not do due to cost.

    Of course, if Metrolink switched to TAP and you could load a Metrolink monthly pass that Metro fare gates recognize, that would be great. But I’m living in a fantasy world.

  • What a ridiculous waste of money. This country should be moving towards POP, not fare gates.

    I have no idea how much they cost in LA, but in Boston, it cost $100,000+ PER STATION to stick them in.

  • I’d be much more likely to accept these gates if Metro just admitted that the purpose is institute distance-based fares, and not all of this other mumbo jumbo.

    And I can’t wait to see the renderings for the Green Line station fare gates. A lot of the stations where passengers load from under the freeway are likely to look like cages. Given that many of these stations are in bad areas, I’m sure it’ll help make Metro seem ever more inviting.

  • Until EZ Passes and ALL interagency transfers are placed on TAP, the gates are supposed to “free spin” (i.e. serve no purpose) until that is done. Outer area Red Line stations will go first simply because they don’t have to deal with Santa Monica and Long Beach being very reluctant to adopt the TAP program. (Santa Monica is the only agency that has not signed the MOU with Cubic or declared what their schedule will be.) The “pilot program” were the gates at the underground Eastside Gold Line stations, as well as at the Atlantic station (which has enough area to accomodate fare gates), but that is on hold since the Eastside Gold Line didn’t open on schedule June 28.

    And Rich, you can’t buy a day pass today without the plastic card. Some drivers will carry a few plastic cards with them and either give them away to riders who don’t have them or sell them for a small fee (payable directly to the driver). Otherwise, you have to go to a pass sales outlet or Metro customer center and pay $2 for the little card, with nothing loaded on it.

  • Wad

    Damien Goodmon wrote:

    I’d be much more likely to accept these gates if Metro just admitted that the purpose is institute distance-based fares, and not all of this other mumbo jumbo.

    It is all mumbo jumbo.

    I liken this to the same way the U.S. invaded Iraq. There is no reason or justification underlying the course of action, because different people had different rationalizations for the war. The only thing they could agree on was the thing before them, in this case, an authorization for war.

    The Metro board just wanted the gates, period. Let’s not waste our time dwelling on the whys. The bed is made. We will have to lie in it.

    Distance-based fares could very well happen. There are some good reasons for returning to them (RTD, when it was multicounty, had them). And if they did happen, there would have to be a public hearing and at least a year of planning before it’s rolled out. So don’t act startled by it.

    Distance-based fares do not require fare gates, though. BART has distance-based fares and gates. New York has flat fares and gates. Most commuter rail systems have distance based fares and proof of payment. San Diego used to have distance-based fares on the Trolley, but decided on a flat fare.

    San Diego is the one area we need to keep our eyes on. Cubic, based there, installed the identical fare collection system as TAP throughout the county. It’s called Compass.

    We need to know whether the Trolley’s switch from distance fares to flat fares was prompted because the TAP/Compass infrastructure forced the change.

  • Spokker

    There’s no reason for gates. It’s far better to have fare inspectors in the stations that are also, gasp, policemen!

  • M

    Wouldn’t it be neat to see a system in place that checks to make sure a car driver has their drivers license, insurance, registration & inspection, that the person has paid their taxes that pay for the streets they are driving on and that the person is not drunk or otherwise intoxicated every single time they get into their car and drive away? Maybe we could even check the person multiple times throughout their trip to make sure they still have those things. I wonder how many lives & time that would save compared to making sure the terrorists can’t sneak into the train stations and kill & injure people.

    Also, there are many people that drive cars that are strictly against a GPS system in their car that constantly tracks where they are so that their mileage is obtained because of privacy issues. However, that is almost the same level of tracking that can and will be done with the trains with the system of cameras and a point of entry where you use a special card that you are encouraged to “register” with your name.

    I know “other cities” have turnstiles, but that in itself is not a justification for me. As a pedestrian, bicyclist and a user of public transportation, I am much more concerned about a random car hitting me and the pollution and trash in our environment as a result of cars than a terrorist sneaking into the train station. If I am also going to be charged based on distance, the current LA system is rather skewed toward those living/working in downtown. In order to get where you need to go, you sometimes need to travel distances and to places you have no intentions on visiting simply because of the permitted transfers. That combined with crazy bikes-on-trains rules and very few marked areas for bicycles make me think that some things have to change before I could even view distance based fares as being reasonable in LA.

  • joe

    So, if you have a bike, do you have to lift it over the gate?
    I realize that “the system was not designed for cyclists” but when will they realize that there are cyclists in LA?

  • Wad is correct. The Metro Board (sans Richard Katz, the one voice of sanity who kept asking questions in the face of disinterest by his peers) ignored the criticism all of us advocates raised and gung ho voted to undertake this misbeggoten idiocy mostly driven by Cubic’s greed and misrepresentations told by its lobbyist to give the Board cover. By all reports the costs are balloning and the timetable for implementation is a joke. The justification has been proved wrong headed.

    At least later they can’t claim nobody warned them it was a bad idea. Small comfort as that is.

    As tyo TAP. it appears LADOT, Long Beach and Big Blue Bus are in a contest as to who will be last to do TAP. The munis aren’t happy with implementation. Aurora Jackson of Montebello at the SO.CA.TA meeting Saturday said her agency is joining TAP mostly to have a seat at the table and try to fix it. She is especially opposed to the $2 charge for the cards.

  • I’m with Joe. How do you get through with a bike?

  • Tom

    “How do you get through with a bike?”

    I have no inside info, but I imagine a bicyclist would get through the same way someone in a wheelchair will be able to. Probably through a wider gate.

  • DJB

    Done well, these gates could reduce fare evasion (ensuring more money for transit) and produce more accurate passenger counts (improving transit planning). Done poorly, they could serve as an obstacle for cyclists and people with disabilities. I can imagine a gate design that would work for bikes and wheelchairs (think saloon doors or automatic sliding doors).

    Since they’re doing it, let’s hope they do it well.

  • This all makes sense: the MTA wants people to stay off their frickin trains. Don’t you people get it?

    2 bikes per car means less riders. Turnstiles means less riders.

    It is almost like the last thing the MTA wants is high transit use (typically the mark of a successful public transit system).

    God forbid they freeze the dollars to the MTA tow trucks or put fare gates at the entrance to the freeways – then we’d have a crisis on our hands!

  • James Fujita

    I can understand why people are mad about fare gates.

    What I don’t understand is why the munis, Metrolink and even transit advocates are bellyaching about the TAP cards.

    It’s not like these electronic cards are a new idea, nor are they difficult to use. I’ve seen what the Suica can do in Tokyo, and it is a powerful little piece of plastic. One card works for the subway, private rail lines, the Yamanote Line, every possible train and bus you can think of. You can put passes on it. You can put cash on it. The system knows how far you’ve traveled and charges accordingly. Going through fare gates is a breeze. Wave the card, the machine beeps and you’re through.

    Maybe there have been some bugs in implementing TAP, but it’ll be worth it in the end when the munis get on board and when MTA finally implements the debit card function.

  • skd

    Didn’t the terrorists in Barcelona, Spain and London pay the fare and entered the turnstiles legally…only to blow up the trains? Turnstiles will not stop terrorists. Turnstiles are put in and maintained by a private company. Find that company and who they make political contributions to, and you have the reason for the turnstiles.

  • Spokker

    “What I don’t understand is why the munis, Metrolink and even transit advocates are bellyaching about the TAP cards. ”

    I don’t know about everyone else, but the reason I’m bellyaching is that 1) you will have to carry two passes, a Metrolink monthly pass and a TAP card (isn’t the whole point of TAP supposed to be an all-in-one card?) and 2) one-way and round-trip riders are abandoned when it comes to “free” transfers.

    Metrolink is really pimping its weekend trains, but if a family of four now has to shell out $20 on top of their Metrolink tickets to buy day passes to spend a day in LA, well, good luck with that.

    Personally, I take Metrolink mostly on the weekends, which means I buy one-way and round-trip tickets (the 10-trip is good for occasional weekday trips). Now I’ll buy the 10-trip to get the TAP card from Metrolink, but I’ll now be paying a higher fare per ride. But since many people are not in this position, Metrolink has booted them without fear of losing much ridership.

    “It’s not like these electronic cards are a new idea, nor are they difficult to use. I’ve seen what the Suica can do in Tokyo, and it is a powerful little piece of plastic.”

    I’ve used Suica and TAP is no Suica. It has a long way to go.

  • Amanda

    I’m thrilled to hear turnstiles are coming in. After living in NYC and Boston, I was shocked to see no turnstiles here. I hate getting my ticket out to show an officer who is hardly paying attention and, quite frankly, wasting my tax dollars. I feel like other large cities are patting LA on the back and welcoming it to the club.

  • I too hate taking my ticket out to show a Sherriff – especially one that costs less to hire and train than the contractors who’ve installed (and will run, at a profit) the turnstiles. Good point! Turnstiles are more efficient because I don’t have to look at a human being. Everyone knows that overpriced machines that don’t work are much cheaper (except when they’re not, as is the case with these turnstiles).

  • Spokker

    “I hate getting my ticket out to show an officer who is hardly paying attention and, quite frankly, wasting my tax dollars.”

    The officer has a gun, so when some asshole sticks his own gun in my back and demands my wallet, maybe one of these officers can chase after the guy.

    Or maybe the officers presence, and I see them a lot, will prompt the thief to wait until I leave the station to beat the shit out of me.

  • Michael

    I don’t know why everyone is up-in-arms about this. Almost every other transit agency around the world has turnstiles. There is always at least one large, swing gate or equivalent that allows for wheelchairs, bikes, and large baggage. If not, there’s a gate that an attendant opens to allow you through.

    Bikes, strollers, baggage, people will all fit through just fine. And I’m SURE they will read one-use passes. They might institute a different pass, perhaps one with the magnetic strip?

    The “terrorism” prevention is total bullshit. It’s like any other form of security, a minor deterrent. If someone wants to do something, they will, no matter what is in the way.

    What is REALLY at issue here, that I’d like to know, will there be station attendants? Someone to let you through if the machines are broken? Right now we have the loneliest train stations I’d ever seen. Sometimes I’ve been the ONLY person down there, save for the big brother cameras watching me. It’d be nice to have at least one attendant on hand at all times to either answer questions, address issues, or call for support of a bigger issue. This is typical of fare-gated systems.

    I also second the motion that transfers would be VERY nice. I don’t think distance-based fares are necessary, but a transfer would be nice. So would stored value cards that were NOT smart cards… the kind with the magnetic strip I mentioned. Also, they need to roll out the value-storage on the TAP cards….. what a novel idea that would be.

  • Michael – you answered your own question

    We are up in arms because the gate implementation is not tied to introduction of free transfers or distance based fare. In my opinion, the main reason for gates is to create a “quarantine zone” so that once you are in, you can transfer as many times as you need to get to where you want to go. As is, the installation of gates doesn’t bring us any benefits (i.e. free transfers) so what gives?

    The other tangent here is TAP cards… Again, the concept is great. One payment system for the county. But in other cities that has this kind of payment system, it is typically tied to a distance based fare and it allows free transfers not only between line but also between systems (i.e. train to bus to ferry to commuter rail etc). None of that is in the works for LA and not even planned. Why go through the trouble of implementing a brand new payment system if we are not going to change the system for better convenience and functionality?

  • Wad

    Michael wrote:

    What is REALLY at issue here, that I’d like to know, will there be station attendants? Someone to let you through if the machines are broken? Right now we have the loneliest train stations I’d ever seen. Sometimes I’ve been the ONLY person down there, save for the big brother cameras watching me. It’d be nice to have at least one attendant on hand at all times to either answer questions, address issues, or call for support of a bigger issue. This is typical of fare-gated systems.

    Let me tell you of my experience with station attendants in San Francisco.

    Imagine a job where you are paid $40 to $50 an hour, plus an 85% pension and full health benefits, just to sit in a glass box all day. Brushing off customers is part of the job requirement it seems.

    In just a span of five minutes, one clerk had told a pair of riders who wanted to know how to get to AT&T Park for a Giants game: “I am not customer information. Look at the maps on the wall or call 511 [the Bay Area’s transit information hot line].”

    One rider did not have change to put $1.50, in quarters only, into the turnstile. This time the attendant did not even say anything; just pointed to a piece of paper in the window that said station attendants do not handle cash. Riders must break bills in a change machine or a BART TVM.

    This is just an anecdote, but one that is corroborated by countless San Francisco riders who have to endure the attendants.

    So they are paid handsomely for not really adding anything of value to the ridership experience, other than telling people to go to a giant sticker or a machine that do not earn a salary yet provide riders with the necessary information. Now Muni is in a financial crisis, yet it would cost more in severance to rid the workers from the payroll than it would to keep paying them. Plus, since they neither provide a useful function to the organization nor gained any appreciable skills on the job, they would likely have little else they could do to be employable in something else and in all likelihood bring the same work ethic to the new job.

    I am quite sure I can hear of similar anecdotes from frustrated riders in New York City or Boston.

    We are talking about a government agency here. If Metro creates a station attendant position, it has essentially created a redundant position that it cannot get rid of.

    We’ll hear complaints of sheriff’s deputies that do nothing more than stand around in stations. So will the station attendant. The difference is, the station attendant is obligated to stay out of harm’s way.

  • Station attendants are not mandatory in a gated system. PATCO between New Jersey and Philadelphia has no full time station attendants, even in sketchy towns like Camden. They have someone in a central control that can pick up the phone when someone makes a courtesy call, and yell at people over the intercom when they jump the fare gate. Now, mind you, there will be an open question as to what language ROC yells at when someone hops the gate. But with video cameras and facial recognition technology, you can catch habitual fare evaders.

  • Distance based fares are on the horizon and is Metro board member John Fasan’as big fetish. In fact, he’s looking for Foothill Transit to possibly be the trial balloon for such a system. The problem is that it is prone to issues, as can be seen with Golden Gate Transit, which has the same tap in-tap out system. People who forget to tap out, have their bus break down, etc. end up getting charged maximum fare of $6.50 for a ride that should cost $2.

  • As for the bikes going through the turnstiles, I talked to Rick Jaegar at Metro, and he supplied the answer:

    Bicyles, strollers, carts, etc. can get through the gates via the ADA gate. There will also be a emergency swing gate to allow them through there as well.

  • John Coanda

    What a waste of money! I just returned from a trip to Berlin, where they do not have gates or turnstiles. I am sure this is making someone rich, but it will not do much to stope fare evaders.

    Maybe we can still stop this boondoggle.

  • Jordan

    It’s not expensive to transfer trains just get a “MUNI TRANSFER” for an extra 35 Cents and you can go on any train or bus in the 2 hour time limit. Better then buying the 5 dollar day pass. The turnstiles seem like a good idea to keep all the punk kids off that never seem to pay.

  • Metro to Muni transfers work ONLY on non-MTA services. If you use a transfer on rail, unless you can pawn off being a visitor from outside the area, you can and will get cited.

  • Ed

    How much are these gates costing? How much fare loss is this supposed to prevent?


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