A Peek at the TAP Regional Rollout, and the Future for TAP Automatic Transfers

(Note: Anyone wondering about Dana’s adventures on the Coast Starlight can find updates with pictures on Streetsblog LITE. – DN)

Last week a presentation was made to the municipal operators of Los Angeles County about the mobile validators to be rolled out in the next year and a half that will finally facilitate TAP being a truly regional smartcard across all the major providers. This will allow agencies without TAP enabled fareboxes to just add the validator and be TAP enabled. I am especially happy at the real time transaction aspect and auto calculated transfers.

And apparently Santa Monica Big Blue Bus will be dead last to come on board for TAP. Note in the document its entry on the page titled “NEW Upcoming Regional Partners” lacks detail on how many validators BBB needs, merely notes “Accept EZ Pass”.

Big Blue sometimes goes its own way. It is noteworthy among L.A. County operators for NOT accepting Metrolink fare media for transferring.

Meanwhile, I also sought an answer for a question that has been brought up by Streetsblog readers.

In the comments to my latest post on TAP Joe B asks “Does this mean we’ll get fare capping and automatic transfers?”

I queried David Sutton who oversees the TAP program for Metro and he has some illuminating information of the status of these two issues:

Regarding automatic transfers being in the works Sutton responded “Yes, we are waiting for the rest of the municipal operators to come on TAP first. Should be something we can do in a year and a half or so”.

In re capping he states:

We are watching this for now, right now only London is starting to roll this out, and their patrons have been using stored value versus passes for many years. As with any new fare policy (especially in multi-agency regions like ours) there are a lot of considerations. For instance, while this seems like only an “upside” to patrons, as they no longer have to worry about buying the correct pass ahead of use, there is also a “downside”.

Patrons would have to either put a large stored value amount, say the price of a monthly pass, $80 on their card and draw down from that or else they may not reach the cap. Otherwise they would have to constantly reload small increments meaning many more trips to the sales vendor or the TAP vending machines. Also, Patrons may be compelled to constantly need to check their balance to be sure they do not fall below a level and miss being able to pay for a ride. With the purchase of a 30-day pass, a Patron knows they can ride carefree for 30 days. It makes a lot of sense and something I’d like us to consider doing here. I think our TAP users are ready or will be ready for it soon. Capping would require some formal study and CEO and Board approval of course. One benefit is that it would greatly simplify our TVMs as they would only sell stored value. I like the term “best fares” better but the new term in the industry is “capping”.

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