More Local Agencies Dealing with TAP, But Metrolink Remains Elusive and a Surfliner Update

Here are updates on two issues I have been paying close attention to: TAP and the LOSSAN takeover of the Surfliner.

With no fanfare several of the Los Angeles County municipal bus operators (including Foothill and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus) as of November 1st are providing paper TAP cards when patrons purchase transfers to continue their trip via Metro Rail. This resolves one of the outstanding issues that was blocking the locking of the gates at the Red/Purple Line stations.

Steve Hymon at The Source reports at last week’s Metro Board Executive Management Committee meeting the committee members gave a chilly reception to option 2 which would involve discontinuing Metrolink fare media including free transfers to Metro bus and rail service. I imagine the full Board when it meets next month will give a similar thumbs down to that idea. Which leaves the Metrolink ticket machine conversion option the only viable one on the table.

My reading of the minutes of the Oct. 12th Metrolink Board meeting (pp. 13-15 of the Nov. 16th agenda packet) is that they are rather unhappy at the position Metro’s handling of TAP and the gating has put them in. Even the Metro representative sounds a tad defensive and uncomfortable.

At least after I previously lamented the lack of details about how much having selected Metrolink ticket machines converted to issue TAP cards would cost Metrolink the Nov. 16th Metrolink Board agenda (which can be accessed by the link in the preceding paragraph) has two items, #7 & #8, that provide those details.

Forgive me but WOW!!! We are talking MILLIONS, kids. Be still my heart!

And for all that whether they can develop, test and implement a viable TAP enabled limited use ticket that is TAP compatible with the Metro Rail gates and capable of being distributed through the Metrolink ticket vending machine (TVM) system is at best iffy.

Meanwhile you’ll recall theLos Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) is in the midst of having the Boards of its member agencies approve an amended joint power authority agreement and bylaws to facilitate their taking over managing the Pacific Surfliner intercity rail service. And how is that going?

The agenda for yesterday’s meeting of the LOSSAN Board includes on page 14 a status report in the form of a table. About half the parties won’t even be taking up the issue until January 2013, and I expect this process will likely move forward rather slowly given its complexity and the number of entities involved.

Consider the forgoing interesting tidbits to contemplate after the holiday feast when you plop down to give the pumpkin pie a chance to digest. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Matt

    I wish BBB would just go to TAP in general.  They are really integrated with Metro Rail especially with Expo coming West as they will have most of the rail/bus connections.

  • Matt, there is hope. The new fareboxes BBB is acquiring are capable of handling smart cards like TAP.

  • Erik Griswold

    There’s a thread over at Trainorders that I certainly hope everyone invoved in TAP sits down and reads.,2922288

    The comments that using TVMs in other countries in other languages are easier only are quite telling as to the absolute quagmire the turnsile debacle has place LA Metro in. And it didn’t have to be this way, given that the Metrocard/TAP program was started 20 years ago.

    What will be totally sad is when the promised increase in fare collection does not materialize and turnstile jumping at the unstaffed stations becomes more that commonplace.

    Imagine what those million spent on the turnstiles and their now apparent related costs were spent instead on service hours or mid-life upgrades to the fleet?

  • Joe B

     I don’t know that I’d call TAP a “smart” card. A “smart” card would be able to do fare capping. TAP is more of a “performing below grade level” card.

  • Irwinc

    In order for BBB to get paid, it has to rely solely on Metro to
    breakout the fare that was tapped on a BBB reader. And it also precludes
    BBB from selling day pass, weekly pass, monthly pass, and express add on charge. If you are BBB, why would
    you want to adopt this system?

    The fatal flaw in TAP’s implementation was that Metro is the root level fare bucket… so there is no way to create a pan-agency fare bucket (i.e. EZ Pass) that will work for everyone. Metro (and every agency e.g. BBB, Metrolink, Foothill etc) should have its own fare bucket on TAP so fare will be deducted from your cash purse based on which bus you board.

    It’s difficult to explain this but think of it terms of the file system on your computer. The root directory should be a county wide fare bucket (e.g. C:EZ Pass). And each agency (e.g. Metro, LADOT, BBB, Metrolink, Foothill etc) should be a directory (e.g. C:EZ PassMetro; C:EZ PassBBB etc). On a trip from Downtown LA to Santa Monica with a transfer from subway to Rapid 7, your “wallet” should be able to credit agency directly like you are copying a file into each directory base on when you tap. This is how the system works in other cities around the world

    The setup right now is like this: “C:Metro”. So your “wallet” cannot credit to BBB. BBB has to take Metro’s word that x number of people tapped in on Rapid 7 on November 20, 2012.

  • Matt


    Even so, BBB has to weigh the inconvience of not having TAP for its riders who will be transferring to MetroRail once Expo II opens vs. not trusting Metro to pay them back.  Somehow other providers like Culver City have got around this issue.  It is time for BBB to as well.

  • Paul Dyson, RailPAC

    NCTD voted unanimously against the new JPB which has thrown everyone into a tizy.  Most likely outcome is for the other 9 agencies to vote, hopefully in favor, and use moral pressure to change NCTD’s thinking.  Those that read RailPAC publications will know about the “Berlin Wall” at Oceanside.  

  •   I;m on the Metro AAC committe  Metro has come up with a way to
     assit  riders who can not tap ther card
    it called the g-tel program  what  it does   you walk toe gate
      ROC is notifed that someone is at the gate-you are seen on CCTV
     you can   talk to CCTV operator to open the gate 
      if  you cant speak there are light toguide  you
     so my thinkig   you could have muni transfer or metrolink ticket you can
     show to cctv  – they would unlock the gate

  • Erik Griswold

    Great, and how much money will putting all these cameras and intercoms in each station cost now?  How much fare collection will this now result in?  Staffing at the Video Screen Room?

    I can just see it now:

    “Your trip on Metro is important to us…Please wait for the next available CCTV operator…We will be with you in a moment…your wait time is “FORTY-TWO” minutes…(Muzak version of Girl from Ipanema)…Your trip on….”

  • Multiple farebuckets, Irwinc? No way! It shouldn’t be up to the rider to manage all this. You should just have one cash balance on your card and let the agencies figure out who gets what. I can use my Suica to ride more than 30 lines all around the Tokyo area and it just works. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to fill up different buckets for each train company.


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