TAP final solution in sight!

We are on the last lap approaching the end of my long exertions as self-appointed chief TAP (Transit Access Pass) watchdog for our region, my friends. This long troubled program has finally unequivocally turned the corner and is fast approaching victory lane. Kudos and plaudits from all quarters are raining down on David Sutton who laist recently dubbed “the guy at Metro in charge of TAP operations.” Sutton built on the yeomen effort mounted by Matt Raymond (until recently Metro’s Chief Communications Officer) who first was handed the unenviable task of fixing TAP after the TAPucrats who labored ten years and spent millions in creating TAP mishandled it in such egregious fashion that one feels as if Raymond was one day handed a broom and told to tidy up the mess left behind by the elephant herd that TAP had become. We now have an actual date for the gate latching that feels real (June 2013) AND promised expansion that will fulfill the long promised potential of the technology (from 9 agencies to 24) in the next 12 months. Who’d have thunk it?

This all of course thanks to the last piece of the puzzle recently falling into place with a solution being found for the vexing problem of how to give Metrolink riders the ability to get through locked Red/Purple Line station gates.

The report being presented at the Metro Board Executive Management Committee meeting today is mostly full of administrative tidying up about staffing and consultants but does have some juicy details worthy of excerpting:

In response to the Board adopted motion to latch Metro Rail station gates, Metro has developed a plan to begin latching in June 2013. In order to meet this deadline, preparation must be done before June 2013 to ensure that access to rail stations for all existing customers is maintained. Closed Caption Television (CCTV) cameras and telephones located by the gates are being installed. Patrons requiring assistance will be able to utilize these telephones to gain assistance from personnel located at the Rail Operations Control (ROC) through a live voice connection. ROC personnel must be trained to address all the different patron issues (i.e. gating and TAP card issues) . Gate Latching tests are currently underway, with testing of the Wilshire/Normandie, Wilshire/Western, and North Hollywood stations already completed. The results of these station tests show that the CCTV cameras and telephones have been successful in assisting customers through the gates.

TAP is expanding to include fifteen (15) additional transit operators in the next twelve months. These include: Metrolink, Torrance, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Burbank, Redondo Beach, La Mirada, County of Los Angeles, LAWA, Monterey Park, Glendale, Santa Fe Springs, Palos Verdes, Pasadena, and Whittier. TAP is nearly tripling in size, expanding from nine (9) operators to twenty-four (24) operators, to include TAP equipment in over 500 more buses throughout the region bringing us closer to providing a truly universal fare system for our customers.

Good news isn’t as exciting as bad news but as a rider I am happy that we have at last arrived at the long promised (but often hard to believe it would ever happen) happy ending!

  • ikegawataro

    wow – this is great news. I wonder how they were able to get all of those other operators on board?!

  • Eric B

    With the expansion to all these different transit agencies, are they any closer to having transfers automatically calculated? It is maddening to have to ask for a paper transfer and TAP twice on the first bus when the technology should be capable of getting it right like every other regionally integrated fare card.

    Also, when will Metro figure out fare-capping so that casual users don’t need to worry about calculating day passes?

    I’m excited about this regional compatibility, but I don’t see us getting to a truly smart, integrated fare system even with this latest progress.

  • Alex Vickers

    Closing the turnstiles is still going to be a complete nightmare… was held up for 5 minutes the other day trying to get through the turnstiles and almost missed my train. It’s difficult to deal with the huge rush of an entire train of people unloading and the stations weren’t designed to deal with two way traffic. Union Station is going to be a complete C.F

  • Chris

    IIRC, operators like BBB avoiding adopting TAP because actual payment was screwed up. The system was set up to deposit payments into the account of the agency that originally issued the TAP card, not the agency that was TAPped on. They probably finally worked out a rational fare payment system.

  • ubrayj02

    What great news! Now everybody can be forced to pretend that they are high frequency transit users travelling solo.

  • Joe B

    I would strongly encourage you to reword the title of this post. The term “final solution” is primarily used to refer to the Holocaust.

    That aside, I fail to see how gate locking will do anything other than inconvenience and discourage riders, all for a marginal revenue increase. I wish Metro would concentrate on fixing the multitude of problems with TAP. At a minimum, fare capping and automatic transfers need to be implemented: the system, not the user, should calculate the cheapest fare for a particular journey. And an expiring TAP card should cost the user at most $1 and a minute or so of time. (Do you still have to find an open customer service center to retrieve a balance left on an expired TAP card?)

    Once they have moved TAP into the 21st century, THEN Metro can consider user-unfriendly solutions like gate queueing — not before.

  • Dennis Hindman

    My experience has been that I select the buttons to add value to my TAP card at the subway ticket machine. I then pass the TAP card over this machines magnetic reader several times and pull out the dollar bills from pocket or wallet, then as I am starting to feed the first dollar bill in I hear a ding-ding noise emitted from the machine and the screen tells me that the selection is about to expire. I invariably have to attempt this procedure at least twice before it works (the second or third attempt works because I get faster). Its like being on a game show where the contestant is put under severe time constraints to complete a task to try and make sure very few people can make it all the way to the finish. After the bills are accepted, I then have to make that magic rub of the TAP card over the magnetic reader again to load the card with the amount. Then I go to the turnstile where I have to do the TAP card over the magnetic reader thing again.

  • Anonymous

    Yet somehow New York, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, Barcelona, etc all manage.

  • Erik Griswold

    And somehow Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague, Copenhagen Oslo, Hamburg, Munich, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Dusseldorf, Helsinki, Budapest, Salt Lake City…all cities with both local electric rail transit and commuter trains, get along fine without turnstiles or faregates.

  • Erik Griswold

    Only 20 years after Metrocard debuted.

  • Erik Griswold

    NB: Vancouver does not have faregates presently. They are about to try to transition to RFID card *and* faregates at their automated Mini-Metro (“SkyTrain”) station s only, at the same time. I hope at least one person from Translink has studies the T.A.P. program.


  • Erik Griswold

    I hope you will e-mail your experiences to LA Metro and Metrolink!

  • I am just reporting that after many years the fundamental problems finally are being solved. Please be assured I have been and continue to be a vocal critic of gating.

  • I agree the configuration we inherited from the TAPucrats is sub-par. I remember when we were promised fair fare which is what is now known as fare capping. Sutton I think knows of these problems but design flaws make solutions difficult. Yes, this should have NOT been rocket science given how many cities have smartcards way better than TAP but the protecting of turf overwhelmed truth or we ended up with a sows ear despite all the lies that it was a silk purse (still being told until astonishingly recently). Griswold knows what I am talking about. He has been the laser-like critic of this sorry mess. And I have one friend who still notes we had Metrocard and just because it was “old” technology the great minds went with custom design and never availed themselves of the knowledge peers could have shared. And we know what the result has been.

  • The munis (Torrance, Long Beach, Santa Monica) basically said “Fix the damn thing than we may be willing to join it”. I think their willingness to now join is a sign that Metro is no longer shrouded in denial and really making a good-faith effort to repair past mistakes. the community group I am an officer of actually visited the TAP lab recently and were impressed by it and Sutton’s attitude.

  • Erik Griswold

    Metrocard could have been the basis for a clearing house (just as PugetPass was in Seattle), or even a unified fare system (see The Source’s recent post on Berlin) where operator did not matter.

    But alas, no.

  • Erik Griswold

    I think it behooves us all to take another look at the original agenda report on gating and the Booz Allen retort to Richard Stanger’s letter:


    Stanger’s letter is transcribed (Five(!) Years Ago(!?!)) by Damien here: http://la.streetsblog.org/2008/01/24/turnstile-plan-delayed/#comment-175436113

  • Erik Griswold

    The user interface on the Ticket Vending Machines (Metro will be calling them “T.A.P. Vending Machines”) is about to be changed and improved.

  • Erik Griswold

    Key paragraph regarding future stations and whether the Purple line will even make it to Century City:

    “A proof-of-payment system having no fare gates does not require a mezzanine level.

    If fare gates were not required, the entire station box could be raised 30-feet in future stations at a cost savings of at least 33%. This is not a trivial amount: stations account for 50% of the cost of a mile of subway all costs included (one station/mile), or $200 million each. Saving $67 million over 10 stations is almost $700 million!”

    Fact: Turnstiles may very well doom the ability of the Purple Line to be extended as far as promised. It certainly will limit the numbers of entrances (headhouses) at each station.

  • Erik Griswold

    Given that the turnstiles are not about revenue collection but are all about control and surveillance, and have been pushed on Metro by self-serving “let me sell you a seminar” paranoid security types working overtime with defense contractors (Google “Security-Industrial Complex”), I think the allusion to past German government policies is actually very appropriate.

  • LAWA? Does this mean Flyaway will actually use TAP?

  • Erik Griswold

    Looking at some old Streetblog posts about the turnstile debacle, here’s one from 2007:

    “Despite the high cost of $10 million needed to install the new turnstiles,…”


    Well, the additional money couldn’t have been used for anything better, right?


  • ubrayj02

    Let me guess – we’ll have to use the TVM to browse the internet and find a small link on a Temporarily Out of Service web site to load value from our Metro-approved debit card, wait 2 to 3 business days until we receive a confirmation email, then log in and be able to load value onto our card, mailed to our home address only. Then it’s just TAP and go!

    It would be cheaper to pay people to stay at stations day and night and simply sell a god damned ticket. In fact, I think I am going to buy TAP cards, load a fare on them and hang out at stations and sell them at a $.10 markup using a SquareUp card reader and a change belt. The inconvenience of TAP is not going to be solved with a better TVM interface. The whole scheme is a ridiculous farce.

    Paper tickets need to be become an option again.

  • Erik Griswold

    But that issue has nothing to do with turnstiles. Indeed, distance based fares on an RFID card do not need turnstiles.

  • Erik Griswold

    Pages 22 through 30 (31 thru 39 of 103 pages on the PDF) of the Booz Allen report should explain what the turnstile fetish is all about:


  • PC

    “Good news isn’t as exciting as bad news…”

    I had to really scour this article to find the actual good news (to save others the trouble: it’s way toward the end of the piece, and it’s about some muni systems joining TAP).

    And yes, for crying out loud, Dana, please Google “Wannsee Conference” and then ask yourself whether “Final Solution” is really the best way to word the title of the article.

  • Brianmojo

    “Closed Circuit Television” not “Close Caption Television.” Not your guys’ fault, but still.

  • Guest

    In my opinion, the TAP rollout was awful. I’m a senior citizen residing in Santa Barbara who is frequently in Los Angeles. I showed up one Saturday to board the metro and there were no instructions on what to do and to take advantage of a senior fare, I now need to go through some unexplained procedure to get a TAP card for senior citizens. As I stood at the fare booth, there was nothing to explain anything. I looked around and found nothing and as an out-of-towner was totally clueless what TAP meant. On the other hand, I better not dare get on a train without a TAP card. One night a few weeks later, when I was returning to my car from the music center there were six (6) — yes SIX uniformed sheriffs who asked me to show my TAP card. Not sure why it required six uniformed sheriffs. Maybe because I was wearing a blazer with slacks (I had been at the opera) that made me such a suspicious looking character. I guess there’s a lot of emphasis on enforcement but nothing on how to use the system.

    Maybe this metro system isn’t set up for out of town people.

  • Tom Anderson

    By the way, CCTV stands for closed-circuit television. What’s up with that error on the report?


TAP is being fixed, but the turnstile debacle will not go away

Union Station. Photo: Jim91773/Flickr You might have noticed there has recently been much media attention centered on the problems of Metro’s TAP system and the gating of some of the Metro Rail stations. It all started when reporter Troy Anderson at the Daily News stumbled across this long festering situation that has been the object […]