Touring Metro’s “Lab” with David Sutton, Director of TAP Operations

Metro's "lab," where engineers test out adjustments and improvements to fare-collection machinery. (photo: sahra)

“Did you TAP your card?” I asked my friend.

“Yeah, I did it over there,” he pointed, annoyed, at the ticket machine where he had just added money to his card.

“But you didn’t TAP it,” I said, indicating the validator confronting us as we stepped up onto the Blue Line platform at the Washington/Grand stop.

He looked at me like I was crazy. As an occasional Metro rider, he figured he knew what he was doing.

“I did,” he protested. “Look…” he waved the receipt indicating he had just put $5 on the card.

“All you did was refill it,” I explained. “You have to TAP it again here so that it deducts the fare.”

Skeptical, he approached the machine.

It was nearly midnight and we were tired. I think he figured that if he humored me, he could prove me wrong and get me to stop acting like the TAP police.

“Oh,” his eyes widened when it deducted $1.50. “Thank you…”

I explained that if he had tapped the card at the machine and a fare had been deducted, it wouldn’t deduct the fare a second time (within a seven-minute period). Then I took a hard left at Dorkylandia and started talking about some of the changes Metro was making to the machines’ signage and software to reflect the shift to the TAP card and make navigation of the TAP system more user-friendly.

His eyes glazed over.

He was an occasional rider and the intricacies of the TAP system were not really his cup of tea.

But it is precisely the occasional rider who seems to have the most difficulty navigating the system. They are the ones most likely to buy and refill their TAP cards at the station just before they board (instead of refilling at a grocery store, for example) and thus most likely be confused about how to navigate the machines or when and where to TAP their card.

Given the number of complaints the changeover to TAP has generated, it would seem natural to expect that Metro would jump on making the system more intuitive as quickly as possible. And they have, David Sutton, Director TAP Operations tells me, but change takes time.

To help me understand how the process works he offered me a tour of the “lab” Metro uses to test out its machines.

I gasped when we walked into the lab. It felt like I had entered the Metro equivalent of NORAD and I imagined Metro employees playing war games. Or maybe tracking Santa as he tapped his way through L.A.

It wasn’t quite that exciting, Sutton reassured me as he pointed out two gentlemen wrangling the guts of a TAP machine.

They were testing out a battery-powered validator, he said. By and large, the placement of TAP machines had heretofore been dictated by cost and where they could be hooked up to existing conduits. After realizing that people were dutifully filling up the cards but not tapping them, Sutton suggested that placing them in more obvious locations on platforms might mitigate some of that problem, or help deal with something like the temporary crush of people at a station after a USC game or at high-volume tourist areas.

Some of what was going on in the lab included things you might not expect, like tests of the friction on cards to make sure that they wouldn’t stick to each other and hamper their dispensing or the viability of temporary paper transfer cards. The bulk of the efforts being made in the lab, however, seemed to revolve around gearing the software to present the rider with a more intuitive experience.

Despite the effort to make frequent updates to the system, riders clearly are still not feeling it. And they aren’t happy about the slow speed at which changes seem to be implemented. Many have complained that it must be because Metro employees don’t ride the system they lord over. But the reality is not so simple.

Any time they make any change that costs money, including changes with the software, Sutton told me, they have to do a change notice to the contract with Cubic. Because of the change notice, the Metro Board needs to see it. So, Sutton has to present the set of changes he’s looking to make to the board before any steps can be taken. That applies to everything from major changes focusing the selection choices for new riders vs. returning riders, to highlighting the senior menu choice in blue (as it had been highlighted in the past), to changing the electronic messages rolling across the tops of the machines, to adding more validators in more intuitively logical places.

The software changes themselves are often driven by feedback from customers and, as such, take some time to develop. As riders get more sophisticated, Sutton said, we have to work to keep up with their needs. In response to complaints about families and groups having to purchase individual cards for each member that rode back and forth to a USC game, for example, Metro is looking to find a way to make it possible for a family to buy a pass product on a single card that would allow multiple family members to board at once.

Any new changes also have to be tested first. What makes sense to an engineer might not make sense to a rider. So, Metro holds focus groups with non-riders to get their feedback on their experience navigating the system to buy single fares, senior fares, passes, etc.

In fact, he was going to hold one such focus group session the following week, Sutton said.

“Ooh, can I come??” I begged.

“No,” he shut me down immediately. He wanted to see how people managed the system without any kind of outside influence.

So did I!

I guess I’ll just have to continue getting my kicks watching friends and strangers bumble their way through the system at stations in the wild.

Hopefully the new posters with more specific instructions — especially those for seniors — and new signage on the fare collection machines being rolled out will help mitigate some of the navigation issues as the software continues to be updated. Even since speaking with him last month, I’ve seen some of the changes Sutton mentioned appearing at stations here and there (I don’t know if they are everywhere), so Metro is definitely making an effort to move things forward, even if many riders still feel the updates are far from perfect. And Sutton has been incredibly responsive to complaints, getting on message boards (see his response to posters here) and passing along feedback I’ve gathered from readers to powers that be within Metro.

Despite their best efforts, there may simply be a limit to the kinds of improvements the old machines can handle. Sutton showed me the machine they are looking at for the future. It was much flashier, with a touchscreen, and the ability to present the user with a greater and more obvious set of choices at the outset. It even had the capability to offer the user instructions in several languages.

The machine of the future? A possible substitute for the current fare-collection machines stationed around L.A.

And, of course, it comes with ample space for digital advertising.

That sort of thing is almost unavoidable, it would seem. As Sutton noted, the machines don’t come cheap. You won’t be seeing them around the city any time soon, in other words, but they are on Sutton’s radar as the direction he would like to head in.

The expense of the switch to TAP has made many question the utility of the system and whether we are getting our money’s worth.

Sutton counters that, for the first time, they are able to collect more accurate ridership data. Before TAP, Metro had been unable to track riders with passes because they were only noted in the system when they first purchased the pass; they hadn’t had to swipe their passes when they rode. Now that everyone has to TAP their cards, Metro will be able to have a clearer picture of when and where riders are on the move. That kind of information is important in shaping the planning process.

Still, the data isn’t too specific. They aren’t tracking individual riders (although you can register your card so that your balance is protected), for example. And, because riders do not need to swipe their cards when they leave the system (for those of you who were wondering, by the way. I know you’re out there — I’ve seen you TAP on your way out), Metro can’t track trip distances or patterns in ridership. They have the capability to do so, but don’t seem to be moving in that direction at present.

Also, once the gates are locked at rail stations, riders will (hopefully) be more inclined to pay to ride. There’s no guarantee of that, of course. Sutton mentioned seeing someone jump the turnstile in front of him, even as he stood there talking to Sheriffs. Until the gates are locked next summer, we won’t really know the extent to which people’s habits change.

If nothing else, locking the gates should have the effect of making it more obvious when and where people should TAP their cards.

I just hope that when the gates are locked, they always have one wheelchair-accessible gate near the regular set of turnstiles. As a cyclist fully capable of carrying my bike up and down the stairs (or as anyone with a stroller or cart full of laundry or groceries can attest), getting through a turnstile can be a magnificent exercise in public humiliation.

Your thoughts on TAP? How are new changes working out for you? Let us know below.


  • Davistrain

    I’m a subscriber to the website, which is used by both railfans and professional railroaders to exchange news and comments about just about any aspect of railway transportation.  The TAP card situation (fiasco?) came under discussion and several people commented on how user-hostile the present TAP system is.  If railfans and
     college graduates (one man identified himself as having a Master’s degree from USC) have trouble, it’s probably much worse for the tourists, the poor, the elderly and the foreign-born folks who have to use it.  Another member said that he found the Paris Metro ticket system easier to use, and he doesn’t speak French.  Sacre bleu!  I haven’t tried the new system yet–at least I do have a TAP Senior card (there are advantages to being old enough to remember riding the Pacific Electric and…. having a conductor to deal with fare transactions).

  • sahra

     I saw the discussion–that is the link included the piece above. Someone forwarded the discussion to Sutton and he sent that person a reply, who posted it to the community. He’s been doing his best to be responsive, from what I can tell. When I first talked to him a few months ago, he told me that he liked talking to people who called in with concerns because it gave him a chance to see how they were using the system and what their ridership habits/needs were. Metro staff may ride, but they may not have to transfer from bus to rail or juggle different kinds of passes like other riders, so what is intuitive or sufficient for one may be totally insufficient for someone else. Obviously it is their job to plan for all contingencies, but sometimes they can’t do that without rider feedback. And there are hiccups, as new information replaces old, important pieces of info (like specific fare amounts) sometimes appear to get lost. So, the more specific feedback folks can offer, the better the service (hopefully) will be for it.

  • Erik Griswold

    I wish Metro would focus on getting the RFID cad issue sorted out first without having any turnstile latching date set.  Like Sutton admits, the turnstile isn’t ever going to be a deterrent to the emboldened fare-cheat, but as we see and read, the RFID card, and the current state of the Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) is most definitely a deterrent to transit use, which in a city that already collectively views transit as the domain of the insane, the poor and the criminal (“but why do you take the bus/train, don’t you have a car?”) should be a great concern for everyone at One Gateway Plaza.

    (That is why they have an award-winning graphics department, right?)

    Are there any alternatives to the Cubic-brand TVM?  I found the machines in Seattle very easy to use; could that manufacturer’s machines be brought here?

    (I have seen even better machines abroad, but I am sure that our protectionist procurement policies forbid getting them)

    Remember, it is the whole fetish with getting the turnstiles on the unstaffed Subway (and only the Subway because none of the Light Rail lines, save for the current Green Line, will ever be able to be fully “sealed”) stations that is driving this nonsense. 

    Turnstiles that were installed on the whim of one Supervisor because her constituents needed the “Ticket-required Zone” better defined.  Turnstiles that have yet to be scientifically tested in regular, unattended, service.  Turnstiles that have never been tested either with massive LA Sheriff Department presence or not, at LA Metro’s busiest station, Union Station.

     Any other transit system in the world would stand back, say, “This isn’t a good idea” and continue to issue paper tickets.

  • Erik Griswold

    I wish Metro would focus on getting the RFID cad issue sorted out first without having any turnstile latching date set.  Like Sutton admits, the turnstile isn’t ever going to be a deterrent to the emboldened fare-cheat, but as we see and read, the RFID card, and the current state of the Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) is most definitely a deterrent to transit use, which in a city that already collectively views transit as the domain of the insane, the poor and the criminal (“but why do you take the bus/train, don’t you have a car?”) should be a great concern for everyone at One Gateway Plaza.

    (That is why they have an award-winning graphics department, right?)

    Are there any alternatives to the Cubic-brand TVM?  I found the machines in Seattle very easy to use; could that manufacturer’s machines be brought here?

    (I have seen even better machines abroad, but I am sure that our protectionist procurement policies forbid getting them)

    Remember, it is the whole fetish with getting the turnstiles on the unstaffed Subway (and only the Subway because none of the Light Rail lines, save for the current Green Line, will ever be able to be fully “sealed”) stations that is driving this nonsense. 

    Turnstiles that were installed on the whim of one Supervisor because her constituents needed the “Ticket-required Zone” better defined.  Turnstiles that have yet to be scientifically tested in regular, unattended, service.  Turnstiles that have never been tested either with massive LA Sheriff Department presence or not, at LA Metro’s busiest station, Union Station.

     Any other transit system in the world would stand back, say, “This isn’t a good idea” and continue to issue paper tickets.

  • Erik Griswold

    A separate observation about buses I would like to make is that I am seeing a lot of customers hold their T.A.P. cards to the fare-box’s RFID reader and get a “buzz” (meaning the card is not good).  9 times out of 10, the operator says nothing, does nothing and the rider continues into the bus.  

    Are others seeing this as well?

    I am wondering if the T.A.P. card system is even more messed up than we are being told, and that the “latching” of the turnstiles will be a real disaster since there are possibly a huge number of people who think they have valid T.A.P. cards but do not and get to slide by even at the places where the card is “checked”? 

  • Erik Griswold

    Sahra, thanks for this article.  The people who put their T.A.P. card to the readers on the way out are getting $1.50 taken out of their cash-purse if they have one, so this needs to be warned about.  Unlimited rides pass-holders will also find they are unable to re-enter the station if they do this when the turnstiles are “latched”, if ever.  At present, if fare-control is being done at the turnstiles/stancheons you will not be able to demonstrate that you are paying to the LASD.  Standard “lockout” is 20 minutes” to prevent “passbacks” but this has been made longer in some cities.

    (Fred Camino once found this out the hard way)

    And thanks for the photo above showing what the ADA/Bike/Suitcase faregate (yes, *that* is a faregate) looks like when it is locked.

    Did you and somebody else there at the lab practice going through it together at the same time?  
    How about the exiting-passenger lets the entering passenger in free do-si-do?

  • I watched the exact same scenario as you describe at the beginning of this post play out on a recent ride on the Blue Line. Except it was with an LASD fare checker, and the guy got a citation.

    The fare checker chided him as if she thought the guy was deliberately attempting to evade paying the fare (while at the same time her partner let a couple other people off the hook who had made the same mistake), but later, when we both got off at 7th/Metro, the guy went over to a couple of deputies and started complaining in Spanish about what he thought was an unfair citation — a sign that he was genuinely confused about the debit card-like properties of the TAP system. Hopefully whatever solutions Mr. Sutton is testing help to improve the current situation.

    And yes, the lack of wheelchair-accessible fare gates is a pain in the neck for anyone with a bike light enough to carry up stairs. I’ve walked up the wrong set of stairs or toward the wrong exit portal many a time and had to hoist my bike in the air to get it over the turnstiles. Not a huge deal as I’m usually riding a light road bike with no rack, but obviously for other people it’s a potentially major inconvenience.

  • Yolo Watefah

    Please, just kill this f&*ing travesty of a high-tech clusterf(*&k.

    We gain absolutely NOTHING from TAP that is not outweighed by the obvious costs and disadvantages this stupid magnetic card swipe system has.

    Now that I have seen the TAP lab, I know exactly what this program reminds me of: the ATSAC room at the LADOT.

    LA has the micro-level control of traffic lights in DTLA at an immense cost, far outstripping even the cost-benefit calculations of civil engineers, that basically gets fu$%ed every time someone picks their nose at a light for too long.

    I loved science fiction as a kid, but not so much that I’d intentionally break a working system to spend more to get less. TAP needs to go, yesterday.

  • Johnciacci

    Well the most important Thi g to do first at all major station such as NoHo, Universal City, H&H is to have dedicated turnstiles at peak times 7-9am and 4-7pm meaning, trying boarding the universal city station at peak 530pm right when one or even two trains just unloaded, you can’t even get in you have to wait and wait until the hoard of people pass then you can tap in and enter the station. How cone the lab doesn’t think about that?

  • DanS.

    With the Expo Line making its way to my neighborhood, I look forward to riding it into the city for events. If they can’t get their act together with their fare collection system however, I’ll just skip it and drive. Why they can make it like DC Metro, where you use your card when you get on and then ONLY when you get off is beyond me. I never had to worry about transfers. I just got on at the end of the yellow line, switched trains to red at Farragut I think ( it’s been a few years ), and when I exited the system at 14th and F Street, the amount was deducted then. No having to worry about being hassled for not having to pay a transfer by some cop.

  • MarkB

    What gets me is that Metro has no in-house capability to adjust the code. If something as simple as changing a background from black to blue requires a change order, board approval and payment to Cubic, that’s f***ed up. Not only is it expensive, cumbersome, expensive, bureaucratic and expensive, Metro is mortgaging its future to a defense contractor. And we KNOW how cost-conscious, time efficient and customer-oriented they are!

  • Anonymous

    Sutton’s doing it wrong if he puts the system out there, then waits for feedback. He ought to be a little more proactive by doing usability testing before he puts the system into production.

    What a shame.

  • sahra

     Interesting–I hadn’t heard that. They do have readers they are testing in the lab for buses, but I never heard mention of that problem, either from Sutton or others that ride. I do know that getting a transfer card that worked took a bit of work. Thanks for this and other comments. I’ll pass them on.

    And no, btw, we didn’t dance our way through the ADA fare gate. It would seem there could be a better design that was both functional and compliant, but that is the one you tend to see no matter where you go.

    If I understood you right about the ability to swipe a card twice, the time window on these cards is seven minutes, to the best of my knowledge. And, yes, it looks like we are stuck with Cubic. Their contract was extended by $9 mil this summer (I don’t know how that translates to time). There are more alternatives than I thought out there, but I don’t know how easy it is to switch from one contractor to another, once you have a sunk investment.

    If you’d like to nerd out on fare collection stuff, I stumbled across this set of presentations from a 2010 gathering/conference:

  • sahra

     I obviously can’t speak for Sutton or Metro, but the point of inviting me come through the lab, I believe, was to show that that was not what they were doing–that there was testing that happened well before (years before, hard as that may be to believe) anything was thrust out upon the public. I think if there is one thing that the transition does seem to illustrate quite clearly (to me, at least) is not that Metro officials don’t ride their own system. But, rather, that they don’t know as much as they should about who their riders are and what the range of their travel needs might be. And the kinds of feedback they are getting might skew towards those for whom transit is a choice or who are engaged in transit advocacy. I don’t know that the lower-income riders, who might be experiencing things like issues with transfers or managing passes on their cards, are getting on Metro’s website or calling in with their concerns. And I imagine that tourists are probably not calling in with regularity, despite their seemingly universal confusion with the system. So there is the question of whether the feedback they are getting is representative of the needs of ridership, or skewed towards one set of complaints/needs. The most effective way to really deal with these issues, I would think, would be to be more proactive in soliciting feedback and stationing TAP ambassadors at a variety of the stations for a few weeks to interact with, assist, and survey passengers. It would give them a very quick cross-section of the stumbling blocks and make correcting things in one shot easier. But, I don’t believe they have the budget to do that sort of thing.

  • Erik Griswold

    The dark secret is that due to the turnstile fetish, implementing such a system here will require an extra set of “add-fare” machines in the “secure” area. Even more $ thrown after a problem that doesn’t really exist?

  • Erik Griswold

    Read the article and the Trainorders thread; Because no one who makes decisions about this sort of thing actually rides the system!

  • Erik Griswold

    The fact that apparently

  • calwatch

    You could delegate authority for change orders of up to a certain amount, or grant blanket delegated authority. Boards do this for contracts all of the time. The fact that the MTA Board doesn’t do this is very telling… they don’t trust MTA staff to do a good job, and they need continuous Board oversight. David Sutton has to earn the trust squandered by Jane Matsumoto and not built by Matt Raymond.

  • calwatch

    Ironically if the citee actually went to court, it would be fairly likely that they could get the citation overturned. The rate that citations are overturned in court is fairly high, which is why Metro has been moving toward a “Transit Court” system. I’d still file for the initial review and go to the hearing.

  • calwatch

    Well, let’s be blunt. Most of the time when I have to exit the Metro system at a crowded station I use the emergency exit. The alarms on the fare gates don’t work, and even if they did, what can they do? Yell at you over the intercom? (Remember, stations aren’t staffed.) This is especially the case if you have a bicycle or luggage. Use the emergency exit!

  • calwatch

    The senior fare and multiple fares on one card thing, though, is just adding more complexity to an already complex system. Originally Metro wanted to lock the gates and not offer SDM (senior/disabled/medicare) fares without a SDM card, but that creates Federal discount issues. Then they were going to issue Temporary Reduced Fare TAP Cards – – and hand them out to any senior or disabled person who wanted one, but apparently that didn’t pass muster, so we’re left with this kludge of loading a senior/disabled single ride ticket – which actually acts on the TAP system as a one ride pass – to meet Federal rules permitting half fares for Medicare card holders. The other way they could do this is the way BART does SDM fares, and that’s sell special SDM cards at vendors outside of the station for a discount – so a card with 20 senior/disabled rides might go for $11. But that would make things more complicated.

    As far as multiple fares on one card, that would cause so much trouble for people that held their card to the sensor too long. One card, one person is the rule on virtually every transit system that uses smart cards in the world. Only New York MTA allows for multiple fares on a Metrocard, and that uses swipe technology which is harder to misread.

    Really, David Sutton needs to stop expanding the scope of the program even further, and get what he has working. Adding multiple rides, fare capping, etc. sounds good in practice but is more complicated than necessary. Metro could do what San Diego is doing, and charge everyone the day pass cost on first TAP, and then run a computer program to re-credit uneeded fare at the end of the week, but then people would scream that they paid $5 for one ride.

  • calwatch

    San Diego – which uses Cubic as well – can transfer balances between cards in person, look up expired cards online, and has better customer service than those dopes at ACS:

  • Erik Griswold

    IF you gave away the RFID card like Boston does/did, the multiple fares one one card issue goes away.

  • Roadblock

    I use a TAP card. Havent had any problems or confusion so far. I like being able to carry a balance on it. Im a casual rail rider though. Mostly ride a bike.

  • Anonymous

    I have always hated the TAP system since it was installed. So they have a lab?  They might also want to look at how other cities in and outside the U.S. handle the fare issues.  Plenty of them seem to have already addressed many of these issues.  Why re-invent the wheel if practical solutions already exist? Even more hate is directed to the turnstiles themselves. At some of the stations the passage way is simply too small for the amount of people moving through. See Universal City. Now add the fact that most people walk through the wheelchair/cycle access point rather than the turnstiles. That is both people going to the trains AND coming from the trains all at the same time. Hollywood & Highland is the same way.  Worst design ever. Try getting through with a bike…. I feel even worse for those in wheelchairs. I’d like to see this addressed. It isn’t working. Add a second on or make it clearer for people to use the turnstiles when entering or exiting. 

  • PC

     I can’t fathom why people aren’t demanding a system more like New York’s, where one fare pays for the subway/rail ride no matter how many transfers need to be made, and there’s still no need to “tap out.”  As a bonus, it would almost make it look as though the turnstiles were serving an actual purpose for human beings other than shareholders of the company that sold them to Metro.

  • PC

     I’ve seen this more times than I can count, and sometimes it’s been my card (which had just worked perfectly well at a rail station, and would subsequently work perfectly well on another bus) that caused the squawk.  Conclusion: either the RFID readers on buses are frequently insensitive/broken, or the RFID emitters on the cards are not strong enough to be consistently read by the readers on buses. 

    (I never see this at rail stations, just on buses.)

  • Yolo Watefah

    This looks like a robot porn set. Do the turnstiles wear protection before every scene?

  • Eric B

    Has Mr. Sutton done anything to test basic TAP functionality on the bus system?  Believe it or not there are non-monthly pass holders that do ride the buses and would like to be able to pay their fares.  I basically gave up on Metro when I was unable to use stored value to buy a day pass (due to operator mis-training, actually).  The lack of attention to bus riders is likely a direct result of this being a board micromanaged process.

    This whole mess is caused by failure to have any sort of fare system design.  A first-year computer science student could have done a better job.  For every special problem they created an even more special solution, so the result is we have a TAP system that is unwieldy and impossible to decipher without a PhD.  There is no technical reason why riders even have to calculate their fares and transfers.  In most systems worldwide, riders load value, then tap their way through their trips until they are out of value.  The fact that TAP users have to reverse engineer the system to ensure that they are charged the correct amount at the correct time is dumbfounding.

  • Joe B

    Could Mr. Sutton please explain why they can’t just copy the highly successful, well-tested set-ups in other cities?

    The “it takes time” excuse is wearing very, very thin. TAP has been around for almost five years now. If the system is so broken that fixing it takes over five years, and basic alterations like changing the color of the screen require board approval, then it’s time to scrap TAP and just import a working system from another city.

    The Bay Area’s Clipper card works quite well, from a user perspective.

  • Some of us did try to warn Metro years ago about the problems but staff at the time were more about ruling a fiefdom and defending themselves by saying it wasn’t rocket science because other cities had implemented smart cards only to find out that was only a talking point and they had gone instead with custom designed and never bothered to talk with peers. I get no pleasure at my fears being realized.  Hopefully Sutton will help make TAP what it should have been from the beginning…

  • Erik Griswold

    Actually, T.A.P. is around ten years old and the Metrocard project, on which the T.A.P. program is based, is 20 years old this month.

  • calwatch

    Well according to Sutton at a Gateway Sector meeting, because of the hamhanded location of the Blue/Red and Expo/Blue validators, there is now a de facto “free” transfer between the two lines at Metro Center since there are just the three TAP machines by the railing, which only a few people actually use.

  • sahra

    Thanks…I hadn’t seen that, but it is indeed true. People have been complaining about the red/purple transfer issue. I haven’t heard so much about Blue/Expo transfers, but it makes sense. So they aren’t catching those folks, but they are catching folks I know who thought they swiped their card or thought putting money on the card was enough. It’s weird–once you know what you’re doing, it isn’t that hard of a system to follow. But getting people to follow it in the first place seems hard. I’m not sure why metro has been so averse to just plastering their validators with posters and information. That would have saved a lot of grief. The stand-alone machines with no signage are confusing to people. Just putting them in people’s way isn’t enough to make people figure out why they are there.

  • Erik Griswold

    Well, this is interesting:,0,5246325.story

    According to this story LA Metro really only expects to go from 5% fare evasion to 2% fare evasion.


    October 2012 Ridership on the Subway (Red/Purple Lines) was 4,353,213

    Multiply by 12 gives us an estimated annual ridership of 52,238,556

    Five percent of that ridership is 2,611,927
    Two percent of that ridership is 1,044,770

    So, with the turnstiles, 1,567,157 more fares will be collected each year.
    (Because of course, none of the current fare-dodgers will  try to sneak onto a bus or just stop riding instead…)

    Since we know that everyone who travels on LA Metro is required to pay the full fare… 

    The Grand TOTAL that will be collected each year after “latching” the turnstiles for (1,567,157 passengers at $1.50 each) is:


    Now, that is a lot of money, except if you take notice of how much this turnstile fetish has cost to implement.

    Wasn’t it $46 million for the turnstiles alone?  More?  How long does it take for this to pay itself off? 25 years?  That’s about when these turnstiles will be ending their service life.  How much is it going to cost to upgrade them to NFC (which is already being installed in many cities right now)?  Plus the cameras, plus the speaker-boxes, and the new TVMs for Metrolink, and on, and on, and on.  And for what?  

    Can’t be security because pretty much anyone, nefarious or not, has 12-bits in their wallet.

    Wait they don’t even need that:

    There will still be over 1 million fare-dodgers on the Subway as admitted above.


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Six months ago he had been hit by a car on Rodeo Road, the young man told me. He was laid up for seventeen days. Now he had a metal rod in his back. It wasn’t a story that made the news. And it wasn’t a hit-and-run – the driver actually stopped to help the […]

Last Month’s Headlines

Councilman Alarcon with the Family of Judy Ramos, killed on July 28 while crossing the street. While I was on paternity leave there were a lot of stories that I would have covered if I had been writing.   I didn’t want to let them pass without any commentary or coverage beyond a sentence in […]