Op/Ed: Will Metro’s Turnstile Fetishism Damage the Expo Bikeway?

Anyone who reads my tweets as well as my posts and comments on this blog and elsewhere knows I am hardly a fan of the Los Angeles Metro’s Board of Directors decision to install turnstiles at its unmanned rail stations.  Needless to say, I pay attention to any developments on the issue, and while Damien might not have noticed this report on this week’s Metro Board of Directors’ Committee Meetings, I did.  Even if you don’t care one way or the other about the turnstiles, if you are interested in complete streets, you may want to pay ongoing attention to this.

Because this fetishism may end up ruining a newly created bikeway for cyclists in Los Angeles and Culver City.

In response to a request made in July last year by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and joined City of Santa Monica Councilmember (and current Mayor) Pam O’Connor and City of Glendale Council Member Ara Najarian, all three of whom currently sit on the Metro Board of Directors, Metro staff was directed on July 25, 2013  to come up with a report describing the feasibility of installing turnstiles and fare gates at all stations including those stations on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) network (Blue, Gold and Expo Lines)* which being by definition “Light”, had not been designed to accommodate fare-collection barriers.

This was done using the presumption, quoted from the Motion by Yaroslavsky, O’Connor and Najarian, (See Page 12) that:

As we’ve seen since we implemented gate latching in late June, the system is working smoothly and without incident.  Moreover, revenues are up and we are now able to obtain true ridership numbers, where people are going, and where people are coming from, etc.

That is an interesting presumption since the initial latching of turnstiles had only happened some 34 days prior, the entire Subway or “Heavy Rail” System (Red and Purple Lines) was not latched until eleven days later on  August 5th, 2013 and no conclusive data about revenues or ridership was yet available.

But since “the Emperor has a fine set of new clothes” and apparently we must order more to “take this issue head on”, so the report discussing the work that will have to be done to add turnstiles and at least one Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-compliant faregate plus the alarmed (?) emergency exits to every station and related fencing has been produced. (Each must be 60% accessible which means if the station has two entrances, then both must have the ADA-faregate).

Cycle-users will please take note the number of times the words “Lane Takes” and “incur” or “intrude” or “encroach” plus “lane” appears in the report.   (The “Find” tool found under the “Edit” menu on Acrobat Reader can be used for this purpose).

The key sentence, found on page 7 of the report, is:

Similarly, widening entrances at the following stations would encroach on traffic lanes: Jefferson/USC, Exposition Park/USC, Exposition/Vermont, Exposition/Western, and Exposition/Crenshaw.

Recall please that the streets that parallel Metro’s Light Rail Lines are, in the City of Los Angeles, controlled by the move-more-cars-fixated  Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT).  If Metro has to “incur”, “encroach” or “intrude” on the street right-of-way to do a “Lane Take” in order to install the fare-collection equipment, then let’s take a guess who will have priority over the remaining space?

After all, we’ve seen this before when other interests found bicycle lanes to be intrusive or unacceptable. Somehow even the “all-powerful bicycle lobby” never seems to be able stop it.

Am I being alarmist?  Hardly.

Come April, will be two years since the Expo Line opened and LADOT still won’t even allow for trains on this line to have signal priority at intersections.  Any one motorist with a working automobile gets prioritized at intersections, such as Flower and Adams or Exposition and Vermont, over a train of  three light rail cars, each costing $4million (based on the current Kinki Sharyo P3010 order), potentially carrying many hundreds of passengers.  And there is seemingly nothing Metro can do to get LADOT to fix this,  even though trains run on iron/steel tracks that have been able to transmit the approximate location of each train through a technique that predates the arrival of the transcontinental railroad to California, and even with Los Angeles having a history of very advanced traffic signal control which LADOT claims can accommodate train movements!

courtesy Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority via Flickr
courtesy Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority via Flickr

So when the five above-listed surface stations need their entrances widened, like the Exposition/Crenshaw station pictured left you can be certain that it will be motorists who will be prioritized for the space that remains afterwards.  Cycle-users will be lucky if even “Sharrows” remain in areas around these stations!

At aerial stations bikes will also lose, because more of the Metro-owned-and-controlled footprint under the platforms that may presently hold bike racks or bike lockers and could be used without local veto for a Metro-operated bikeshare will be taken for the new additional fare collection machinery (turnstiles, ADA-gates, emergency exits, “gate-help-phones” and fencing).

Streetsblog L.A. will continue to monitor this potential conversion of this hard-won bicycling corridor into a “Black-Diamond Trail” by the turnstile-industrial-complex, but we need regular users of the bikeway to be our eyes on the street for any indications of lane reconfigurations, takings and removals. Let us know if you see something via Twitter (@streetsblogla) or e-mail (tips@la.streetsblog.org).

*The Green Line, while using Siemens-built P2000 cars from Metro’s LRT fleet, is outfitted to run automatically (and could operate driverless) , is presently an entirely grade-separated line and is thus more correctly defined as “Light Rapid Transit Metro“ or “Pre-Metro

  • What part isn’t serious? In order to install turnstiles at the existing light rail stations, space will be needed. At the surface light rail stations, the report states that space will be taken from the adjacent roads. This will, based on recent experience, result in the bicycle lanes being eliminated where they pass by the newly enlarged stations. This may also result in bicycle facilities being removed or deprioritized at the aerial stations.

  • I know Damien cares about readability. He has tweaked some of my pieces when they were a little too wonky. I’ve tried to keep in mind a simple rule I heard someone state years ago: assume intelligence, don’t assume knowledge. Information and perspectives I think are the goal of the entire team (staff or pro bono). Expository writing, like any activity, improves with practice.

  • Andy Chow

    Cops by their very own presence helps fight and prevent crimes. If somehow there are fewer of them out there because there’s no other regular functions (like checking fares), then they’re less effective in fighting and preventing crimes.

    Also, without the function of checking fares, law/fare enforcement officers will need to have other reasons to approach a passenger and may even encourage them to profile passengers. The good part about proof of payment is that there’s no profiling if they have to check everybody, rather than targeting some folks (can be age and/or race based) because they seem to be more likely to jump the turnstiles.

    As for the supermarket example, the best theft deterrence measure is to put the products inside a locked case, and that supermarkets do not do it for every product (only some products like cognacs). The cheapest products are often placed outside the market. Supermarkets know that people steal from them everyday but they have figured out to keep them at an acceptable level.

    Fare evasion won’t go away by just putting fare gates (especially if they’re not supervised by anyone at the station). All it does is to let the fare evaders know that they likely won’t be confronted once they jumped the turnstiles.

  • Sprague

    You are mistaken. Scores of European cities rely on the honor system for their entire transit networks (bus, streetcar, rail, subway, etc.) and San Francisco now does, too (with the exception of BART and other inter-county services). Service is now faster in San Francisco as a result (due to all door boarding) – this point is likely irrelevant to LA’s discussion.

  • Sprague

    A significant advantage of transit systems using the honor system instead of faregates is that there is easier access. For example, subway stations in New York City may have only one entrance/exit so as to better supervise access, but a comparable station in Vienna would have at least two entrances (one at each end of the platform). This is a real advantage for riders since many then have a shorter and quicker walk to and from the station.

  • Given that the Subway (Red/Purple) will likely be a one-off line and the rest of the system will likely be built as LRT (apart from the Purple Line Extension), so as to have the option of including cheaper surface stations, then no. The example of the hoops that had to be jumped through by Metrolink in order to maintain the free transfer (each of their tickets now cost 36 cents to produce) should have been enough to quash it.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Can you elaborate a little on your argument that Metro’s light rail and heavy rail lines should have different gate policies? Is it really a light rail vs. heavy rail issue to you or are you instead referring to at-grade stations vs. above/below-grade stations? (Because I can understand the latter argument.)

  • Alex Brideau III

    I just edited my post because I worded it confusingly. What I meant to express was that when I am checked, the fare checkers do it about 30%-40% of the time, (or a bit more) not that I’m checked 30%-40% of the time. Oops.

  • The operators. One per car, like Boston does. The ATU would love it!

  • I’d really like to see the turnstiles ripped out everywhere. The real, actual fare-evasion (not created by contractor Xerox or by confusion in using TAP) isn’t great enough to justify them financially.
    The above report (on page 3) references the 48% increase of use of the Stand-Alone Validators when positioned in a gate-like layout. Use them and you avoid all the hoop that Metrolink and the Municipal operators have to go through to issue turnstile-opening fare media.

  • Alex Brideau III


  • Alex Brideau III

    I understand your general preference for no turnstiles, but I was wondering about your light rail vs. heavy rail comparison when it comes to appropriateness of turnstiles. Some of your earlier comments implied that heavy and light rail should be treated differently when it comes to the installation of turnstiles.

  • The entire concept behind “Light Rail” is one of lowering costs. Therefore the idea of using turnstiles to check fares at a Light Rail station adds, as the report above shows, significant cost to the the design, construction and land needed to be acquired for each station, raising it so that it becomes potentially prohibitively expensive, or at the very least a design nightmare. See, for example, the trouble of having TVMs on the other side of a busy street from the USC/Expo station.

  • No shame in admitting guilt

    Yeah right. Like you REALLY REALLY CARE ABOUT this.

    Get real. You’re just a freeloader who wants everyone else to pick up the tab for your ride because you think that’s the way it should be.

    Just give up man. Everyone took the chance on riding for free one way or the other in the past 20 years Metro was running things in the honor system. Just say you did it too. There’s no shame in admitting guilt.

    Or were you really dumb enough to actually pay for your rides and are just angry that you weren’t too smart enough to cheat the system like the rest?

  • Alex Brideau III

    Understood. Not sure I agree 100%, but thanks for clarifying.

  • ubrayj02

    I really hate the comments you’ve left in this post. Why do you shill so hard for fare gates?

  • I care when funds that could have been spent on improving service, could have been spent on hiring locals during the worst economic times since the 1920’s were instead spent on construction done by outside contractors (who can be “journeymen” from anywhere due to federal regs) and sent to a company based in another county. All for turnstiles that are not preventing fare-evasion, based on my daily experiences.

  • ubrayj02

    Wait, the evil gubmint and the turnstile industrial complex did conspire to install these gates – which cost more than the money earned through increased rates in fare collection.

    You don’t need to watch the X-Files to know that this took place. The TAP card program has everything to do with creating Metro jobs and spending programs using federal money. It has nothing important to add to the security nor fare collection rates of Metro.

    I can’t wait to see what the TAP card money we all loan to Metro at 0% interest is being leveraged to buy these days.

  • ubrayj02

    Yeah, anyone who thinks TAP cards and fare gates that eliminate bike lanes are a bad idea is just a lousy freeloader! Yeah! That makes sense.

  • Proudly Liberal

    Uh-huh sure. :rollseyes:

    Listen, you know why you conservatives keep losing to Democrats to the younger generation? Because your tin-conspiracy theories and your love for ALL PRAISE JEBUSSSS and God Hates Fags signs are really, backward today.

    You can keep yourself living in the 18th century where you wither away into the dust where people remember you like the crazies of the past like the KKK or the anti-womens voting league or slave owning plantation owners, or come join everyone in the 21st century.

  • Proudly Liberal


    No one gives a flying fuck about your vain attempt to somehow put this together with “economic strains” or “job creation.”

    No really, you are just a freeloader and you hate gates because now you can’t ride for free.

    Don’t give me BS. I know you did it. We all did it. And you don’t like it because now free rides are no more. That’s really the fundamental cause of this.

    If you really cared, why don’t you go picket and create a lobby group to get rid of the gates instead of being a slacktivist like writing articles like these.

    Sorry pal, but the majority of Angelenos disagrees with your opinion and the voices of the people said that Metro needs to fix the fare evasion problem by installing gates. They don’t want police officers all over the place, they want gates. Like the ones the have in New York and London and Tokyo.

    If you really cared about job creation, why don’t I hear stuff like “let’s bring turnstile and gate manufacturing here to Los Angeles?” You don’t mention that. Instead you just say “let’s get rid of gates” which do nothing to create jobs.

  • ubrayj02

    How on earth have you brought the phony politics of national parties into this discussion?! Nobody cares about Republicans and Democrats when it comes to local transportation issues. Those are distinctions that are beyond meaningless – they are counter productive.

    Have you said anything of substance to refute what I’ve said? I don’t understand how opposing TAP gates that will prevent bike lanes = “I hate the gays”.

  • PC

    May I suggest at this point that the brainwashed-by-Fox-News and brainwashed-by-MSNBC drones who have recently joined this comment thread call a temporary truce, just long enough to go find some other forum in which to discuss their kindergarten-level politics? Nobody else cares. Both your parties suck. I don’t know how or why any of you landed here, but please go land somewhere else. Forever. Thanks.

  • Sorry to burst your impressions of me, but I have always paid.

    As for constructing the gates here, that’s going to be difficult since they are partially funded by federal money and so have to be open to bid by any company with a presence in the USA, and thanks to Cubic’s legal maneuverings that ends up being Cubic since they have the defacto monopoly now on fare collection in the USA:

  • Alex Brideau III

    “We all did it,” huh?

    Well, along with Erik, chalk me up as another person who has always paid to ride. In fact, so far the only person on here who admits to fare dodging is you. Just because you freeloaded when there were no gates doesn’t mean we all did.

  • Loved the honor system

    Hey, just wanted to say thanks for subsidizing my rides. Thanks to you retards who believed in the honor system and were dumb enuff to actually pay for something that you could’ve gotten away so easily, you guys saved me hundreds of dollars worth of rides that you dumbasses paid for me. LOLOLOLOLOLOL.

  • Loved the honor system

    Thanks for subsidizing my rides FOOL!!!! HAHAHAHAAHHAAHAHAHA.

    Man, you guys crack me up. I sure loved the honor system cuz dumbasses like you paid for my rides while you guys were too STUPID to actually pay for them!

    Tell me, dumb fuck, how does it make you feel that you were wasting money by being so goody-goody and honest, when hundreds and thousands of people like mwa were getting away with it scot free?



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