A Week With TAP

I have been using the new Metro TAP card for a week now.  For the most part, I like it.  But, as with anything new and untested, I already have a list of areas that could use some improvement.

It isn’t always clear or convenient to TAP in when transferring from one line to the next.  At first, I figured it didn’t matter because I had paid for the entire week.  But I soon discovered by reading other people’s blogs about the whole system that the Metro can fine a rider for evasion of paying the fare if they fail to TAP in during a leg of their journey.  There’s a massive disconnect for me there.  How am I evading paying a fare when I’ve paid for the entire week?  It makes no sense.

The next bit of frustration I experienced was when I tried to register my TAP card so I could refill it via the internet.  I had already set up an account on a previous date.  But when I went to register my card, I couldn’t get it to work with that account.  Further, it seems that only monthly pass refills are available online.  As a fully jacked in participant of the digital world who relies upon the internet to function in many ways, being able to do such transactions would be ideal.  Yes, I understand that we can do it at any Metro station or the stores where the TAP cards are purchased but being able to fill my card on a Sunday night before a crazy week is far more convenient.

I think the TAP card has potential.  I still like it better than having tons of little pieces of paper filling my purse and pockets every week.

Overall, I’m starting to understand how illogical the entire Metro system is after listening to my New York City boyfriend talk about his experience in Gotham.  There is simply no way to cheat on fares without putting in some serious effort.  Everything is laid out in a practical, obvious fashion.  But many things in Los Angeles suffer from flash and style over substance.  It’s just how we do things here.  Unfortunately, in the case of public transportation, it doesn’t serve us well.

9 Replies to “A Week With TAP”

  1. Great post, and I had to admit in LA I am a total mass transit ‘tard. “TAP” is that an all inclusive transit pass you buy for the month? I know when we go to London they have their “Oyster” that gets you on to everything and we pick up the week version. Of course unlike here you have to run your card through every time and it tracks your useage.

    I agree being able to pick one up online would be nice. Our last trip to the UK we bought our transit passes bought online and mailed to us. I don’t see why we can’t have some sort of system set here.

    The problem with mass transit in LA is that at this point it is all mis-matched and nothing smooth about it. What little rail we have doesn’t go anywhere I usually need to be and if it comes close it involves a few transfers which are just a pain and cause huge time delays. We need to fix the transfer problem by having more express lines crossing the region.

    Sadly, the Gold Line is about as useful as tits on a bull moose. I’ve used it once to get into Pas and that was because it would be easier than hassling with traffic in for the Doo Day Parade. The fares for a family are counterproductive. For the 5 of us it cost more than parking. If the transit folks really want to increase ridership they need to make it family friendly like they do with the Tube in London.

  2. If you have a valid pass they won’t cite you if you don’t tap the pass when transferring. The idea behind tapping at every transfer is to collect ridership statistics that they can use for resource allocation. If you are paranoid about big brother just buy a pass with cash; they don’t ask for your personal information.

    Every time the fare inspectors stop people to check tickets they don’t read the TAP, they just want to see it. They have no way of knowing if you tapped it, or if it even has any value on it. If you stick to just the trains, you could even probably get by riding with a TAP that has no value on it. (I am not recommending that, it’s just an observation).

    Keep in mind that the TAP system is not yet fully implemented. When it is you will be able to buy all passes online, and even keep a balance for occasional riding. I agree that they could do a better job of explaining it to the public, but come on, it’s really not that hard to figure out. New York had a lot of glitches when they converted from tokens to MetroCards too. Given some time and the completion of the latest rail lines, a lot more people will be using the system and the bugs will get worked out.

  3. “If you are paranoid about big brother just buy a pass with cash; they don’t ask for your personal information.” Bert

    For day passes they are changing it so you have to use a tap.

    Also if you want a student, senior or disabled discount you will also be required to purchase a tap and give your info.

    So it’s like the people at the bottom economically are being told that their right to privacy isn’t as valuable as people who have the means to pay cash.

    Browne

  4. Browne: “So it’s like the people at the bottom economically are being told that their right to privacy isn’t as valuable as people who have the means to pay cash.” The people at the bottom are paying cash because they don’t have credit cards. Just an observation.

  5. Frazgo, Bert said that “if people will paranoid about their info they could pay in cash” and my response was, “well what about people who are students, disabled and seniors?” The TAP card is required of them and their info is requried in order to get the discounts.

    Do you understand why I brought up my cash statement? It was a response to another comment, but thanks for adding your input, because yes in a general conversation people who pay cash and don’t have access to credit are generally less economically advantaged.

  6. It is the intention of the Metro for the officers who check for fares paid to eventually be carrying little card readers. For now, they cannot tell.

    I’m not sure what the statistics are on fare evasion but every single time I’ve been on a trip where officers have boarded to check I have seen them issue at least one ticket for not having proof of fare paid. That seems rather substantial to me when extrapolated into a full day of activity, including those people not caught in the act.

    I do think, though, that there is some overkill going on with the whole enforcing fares. Sunday of last week when I arrived at the North Hollywood Station to get to a meeting there were police in what appeared to be some sort of battle gear and accompanied by German Shepherds. It was not a pleasant start to my morning nor did I feel it was appropriate.

    As to the issue of monthly or weekly riders being fined for not tapping in, that is apparently spelled out on the information brochure for TAP according to Angelenic (http://www.angelenic.com/271/metro-to-introduce-tap-passes-on-january-25th/). I have not been able to find this brochure yet but I haven’t had the time to go digging just yet.

    As I said, I am all for this type of system eventually working. I’d like it even better if I could get it on my phone or something so my entire life could be easily run from one device but I’ll wait for that along with my flying car.

  7. Metro claims that they lose 5.5 million dollars owing to fare evasion (a claim that is disputed by a former Metro executive who says it is more like 2.5) yet they spend 27 million dollars on towing cars off the freeway, for free.

    You want to see some insane enforcement, get on the Blue Line.

    When I lived in Hollywood and took the Red Line I never saw the Sheriffs. Now taking the Blue Line regularly to South LA I get checked every freakin’ day. And if I don’t get my pass out fast enough they start urging me to pull out my ID and get off the train, like I’m some criminal. I’m disorganized, but get off the train because I can’t find my ticket in twenty seconds.

    And certain stops at the Blue Line are one way in and out only, so you have during morning rush hour Sheriffs stopping people checking for tickets which the vast majority of people have, making people late for connecting trains (in the case of the Blue Line and Green Line Rosa Parks Station) and missing busses.

    Now on the day that a visually impaired (blind) man fell in between the cars on the Blue Line at the Del Amo Stop and got ran over by the train (everyone on the train heard him screaming as the train crushed his body) do you know what the Sheriff where doing, because they were there? Checking people’s fares.

    I mean really METRO is a bunch of liars. This TAP bs is about getting funding from Homeland Security, its about hooking up Cubic, the little bit of money they are going to get from an upping of the game on fare evasion is nothing compared to the kind of money this is really about.

    This has nothing to do with fare evasion.

    Browne

  8. Part of the confusion/ frustration with the TAP card may stem from the fact that:

    1) the MTA doesn’t have fare gates
    2) the MTA doesn’t have a distance-based or a zone-based fare system

    Tokyo’s Metro, which has the absolutely-awesome SUICA card, has both of these features. not having to study a subway map to figure out how much to pay is a huge improvement over the old fare system, and waving a card at fare gates and having them magically open is just cool.

    also, there isn’t a subway, bus, commuter train, private train or high-speed train in the Tokyo area that doesn’t accept SUICA. If Metrolink, Santa Monica, Torrance, Gardena, Long Beach or even Amtrak would accept TAP as a form of payment, the TAP would be twice as useful as it is now.

    of course, this is an unfair comparison because Tokyo’s transit is nothing like L.A. but if L.A. is ever to become anything like Japan, then its fare system has to evolve along with its transit.

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