Proposed 2018 Metro TAP Changes Are Effectively A Minor Fare Hike

Metro is proposing several changes to TAP card payment in 2018 - including eliminating tokens and increasing TAP card cost to $2
Metro is proposing several changes to TAP card payment in 2018 - including eliminating tokens and increasing TAP card cost to $2

Last week the Metro board of directors Finance, Budget and Audit Committee took a step toward approving modifications to TAP fare payment that would result in a relatively minor fare increase.

The TAP changes proposal goes by the somewhat opaque description of “Transfer on 2nd Boarding.”

In June 2015, the Metro board approved a regional interagency transfer (IAT) policy (staff report) that proposed shifting interagency transfers from paper to electronic TAP cards. Inter-agency transfers include, for example, transferring from the Metro Gold Line train to a Foothill Transit bus.

In 2015, Metro analysis found that shifting transfers from cash to electronic media would have an adverse impact on low-income riders. To address this, Metro approved “a comprehensive Marketing and Outreach campaign including dissemination of up to 1 million TAP cards to customers.”

Since 2015, Metro has been developing software changes to support all-electronic interagency transfers.

The transfer on second boarding policy proposal (staff report) before the Metro board includes four changes to fare payment:

  • Eliminate paper interagency transfers: Interagency transfers remain available, but only when fare is paid via TAP card. Interagency transfers will be available for 2.5 hours after initial boarding; today’s 2-hour window for Metro transfers will remain unchanged.
  • Eliminate day passes: Instead of day passes, riders would pay for subsequent same-day rides with TAP stored value, which could be added at vending machines and on buses. Clarification: per Metro, the day pass elimination only applies to day passes purchased on buses. Day passes will be available to purchase at ticket machines, retail vendors, online, and by phone.
  • Eliminate tokens: Per the Metro staff report, TAP cards have “caused Metro tokens to become obsolete” and further tokens are “expensive to count, handle, secure and maintain.” Tokens would be phased out over 13 months, starting with an initial two-month notification campaign, after which token sales would end, followed by at least a year for riders to use up existing tokens. Existing programs that provide tokens to low-income riders (Immediate Needs Program, Rider Relief Program) would replace tokens with TAP cards.
  • Charge $2 for TAP cards systemwide: TAP cards are currently $1 at vending machines and on buses, and $2 elsewhere (online, by phone, at a Metro Customer Center, etc.) Vending machine sales account for nearly three-quarters of all TAP sales, according to Metro spokesperson Rick Jager, who said vending machine sales were 72 percent for July through October 2017. Based on current sales volumes, the price hike on cards would result in an annual increase of nearly $3.7 million in TAP sales revenue: $3,600,648 from vending machine sales, and $51,756 from sales on buses. Senior, disabled, and student TAP passes are currently free and will remain so.

Overall, Metro anticipates that these changes would reduce the use of cash and increase TAP use, thereby speeding up boardings. In addition to benefiting riders, this faster boarding would allow Metro to operate more efficiently, reducing agency costs somewhat.

According to 2016 customer surveys, about 72 percent of Metro riders already currently have and use their own TAP card. Early on, TAP cards expired after three years; they now expire in ten years. Though the cost of a TAP card would double for new purchases, current TAP holders would not be affected for several years, and, in Metro’s words, “the cost of the card, amortized over ten years, is quite low.”

Next week, the full Metro board is expected to approve sending the TAP proposal to a required public hearing on January 17, 2018. After that hearing, the board would vote on approving the changes. If approved by the board, the changes are expected to be implemented in Spring 2018.

Readers – what do you think? Will the TAP changes affect you? How do you think they will impact ridership and rider convenience? Any readers out there still using Metro tokens? Add your comments below – and plan to attend the January 17 hearing.

Corrections (in italics) made per information received from Metro 11/22 noon.

  • Sean

    The only problem with this is, unless you live near a rail line or the orange line where do you buy and reload these TAP cards. You can call or go online but the fare doesn’t actually hit your TAP card for 24 hours.

  • P.

    There are vendors all over the county who can reload your tap card and the fare will be immediately available. Also reloading on buses works too. it is only online and over the phone reloading where there may be a delay.

    https://www.taptogo.net/TAPLocator2

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    I hope they expand plans to include 7-11s as vendor sites. I recall them only being included along Wilshire Blvd and Vermont Av- bc of the future all-door boarding plan for their Rapid lines.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    I don’t really understand the logic of them killing the day pass. I’m guessing it’s costing them more to keep it than to have.

  • jfruh

    Has anyone else had problems reloading cash onto TAP cards on buses? I’ve tried it a couple times and the bus drivers always make a face and say the machine isn’t working or something similar and just wave me aboard. It’s gotten to the point where I just make a trek to a Metro Rail station to do it rather than try to mess around on the bus.

  • Joe Linton

    I’d feel better about these changes if it meant a ~$4M increase in the bus operations budget… but it seems like the rail-building program is going to devour any savings here… and efficiencies are just going to mean Metro can spend a little less on bus service. Then a few months down the road, Metro will worry why ridership is down. I hope this won’t be the case, but I fear it will.

  • Mehmet Berker

    Yeah—that has never worked for me either. I’ve just been waved on the bus.

  • Peter Castillo

    What would be best if LA Metro would have auto reload on TAP cards like most major transit systems as makes no sense that I have to go online or use a fare machine to add value when this can be automatically done.

  • Matt

    Huh? This relates to operational costs not construction costs which are completely separate. Also, operational costs rise every year. Bus drivers and mechanics get paid higher salaries, worker’s comp goes up, pension costs rise, health care costs go up. How do you think these costs get paid? Tax revenues only go up so much each year.

  • P.

    Though there is a slight fare increase with the upping of the price of the TAP Cards, there’s a HUGE fare decrease if they make Metro to Muni transfers seamless for those who transfer. I use the Culver CityBus #4 at La Cienega/Jefferson station. Frequently people will get off the train and pay cash for the fare on the bus, though they can get the transfer for 1/2 price. Going the other way, Muni to Metro fare from Culver CityBus is only 40¢ Compared to the Metro base fare of $1.75, its a bargain. If people are not using the transfer because they don’t know about it or it’s too much of a pain in the neck to load each transfer onto a TAP card, making the process seamless, will be a big discount for those who use it.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    They do have autoload- it’s just people have to call the TAP office and set it up. In my experience last year, I wasn’t put on hold for more than 3 minutes and it went about fairly quickly. Still, I wonder when or if they already have an online way of doing this.

  • Jose Alberto Hermosillo

    Fares should round it. NO MORE COINS. $2.00 each way. Seniors, students, children and vets $1.00 ALL THE TIME. All day fare should go down to $5.00 WE CAN DO IT!!! It’s smart. Let’s motivate people to use public transportation all day. #Metro authorities should make things easy. IT’S NOT A BIG SCIENCE

  • Shawn

    I’ve never tried to reload on a bus. I use my phone and it takes a few minutes but as others have said, then it doesn’t work until the next day unless you tap at a tvm. But I do see people paying per ride all the time on buses. Every day I see that. They tap, put in $1.75, and then tap again.

  • Joe Linton

    I was wrong – article updated. Metro is proposing still having the day pass, but just not selling it onboard buses. (To echo you, I don’t really understand the logic – still.)

  • P.

    Though there is a slight fare increase with the upping of the price of the TAP Cards, there’s a HUGE fare decrease if they make Metro to Muni transfers seamless for those who transfer. I use the Culver CityBus #4 at La Cienega/Jefferson station. Frequently people will get off the train and pay cash for the fare on the bus, though they can get the transfer for 1/2 price. Going the other way, Muni to Metro fare from Culver CityBus is only 40¢ Compared to the Metro base fare of $1.75, its a bargain. If people are not using the transfer because they don’t know about it or it’s too much of a pain in the neck to load each transfer onto a TAP card, making the process seamless, becomes a big discount for those who need it.

  • Roger

    You can’t reload stored value on a bus. The only thing you can load on a bus is a day pass. The purpose was to limit the amount of transactions and dwell time. Think of how many times people are fumbling to get their tap cards out or change.

    If you ever loaded stored value on the bus is because you were lucky enough to get one of the “very few” operators that know how to override the OCU. I wouldn’t expect this change.

  • Richard Sequeira

    Keep the fares at $1.75. Transit isn’t difficult, it is the people who find excuses to not use it or the same people who bring ideas about transit, but never use our Metro Rail and Bus system.

  • Richard Sequeira

    I would also like a Tap2Go app for Android and iOS. It would be quick and easy to load fares.

  • Alex Brideau III

    $2 seems a bit steep to ask for a TAP card that only lasts a few years before a replacement must be purchased. I wonder what other cities with Cubic-based systems charge.

  • Richard

    They need to stop accepting cash on major routes. Rapid buses should be TAP card only.

  • senorroboto

    It lasts 10 years now, not 3 like when it first came out.

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