Learning to TAP


This will only be of interest to transit geeks, but I got a TAP card (Transit Access Pass) on the Gold Line Sept. 28 from Pasadena, because paper tickets have been eliminated throughout the L.A. system.

I needed to buy a day pass and it was the usual $6, except that $1 of that charge was to buy the card — in other words, a day pass will be $5 next time, when I “reload” the card. The TAP card was purchased out of a machine similar to the old paper-ticket machine, making the transaction simple. You tap the card against a sensor before going through turnstiles or when boarding a bus.

Metrolink is still selling paper tickets and those tickets still allow free transfers throughout the system (buses, subways, light rail). Thus, L.A.-area turnstiles have not been locked yet because Metrolink riders wouldn’t be able to get through with a paper ticket.

The MTA’s Rick Jager told me the gates are expected to be locked by early December and that his agency is “still working with Metrolink to try to finalize a solution to ensure Metrolink riders will still have access through those gates once we lock them.”

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  • Ted Melendez

    Don’t lose it, coming from a well seasoned card loser: cvs, riteaid, wal-mart, stater brothers. 😀

    [I’ll be careful. — DA]

  • Andy

    Metrolink won’t sign onto the TAP card cause metrolink runs through 5 different counties. While at Ciclavia this weekend, scores of people were queuing to buy tickets at the cumbersome vending machines of the metrolink vs. just tapping, jumping on, and then tapping out at their destination.

    Personally I think MTA was shortsighted in developing and implementing TAP. Again, citing the Hong Kong model, their version of the tap, the Octopus, which has been in use since 1995, is used at buses (regardless of agency), vending machines, trains, boats, trams, light rail, parking meters, parking lots, convenience stores, super markets, retailers, some restaurants, etc etc.. the list goes on.

    The card can be refilled anonymously with cash and value checked at any metro station, 7-11 convenience store, super market, Circle K. If one wants it linked to a bank account, they have to set that up online.

    Not only have transit agencies signed on, other non transit businesses have signed on cause it’s a faster to tap to pay for a purchase than it is have your cashier doll out change or have to authorize and sign a credit card. Parking lots and meters are now unmanned and do not require attendants or personnel to collect change.

    I feel that if more agencies and businesses and services sign onto TAP, then consumer acceptance and the likelihood of someone who doesn’t ride metro will realize that TAP can get you onto the metro and then ride it.

    BTW, I was at Disney Hong Kong and I wanted to buy one of those commemorative souvenir coins where you insert a penny and 2 quarters and they flatten a coin and stamp the disney logo for you. The machine wouldn’t take cash, but it did take Octopus card.

    [Andy, good points about the five counties (that hadn’t occurred to me) and about similar service overseas. A friend also advised me about a similar card, in Chicago I think, where riders can link it to a bank or credit account to refill it automatically. A second friend says unused credit on the TAP will vanish after a certain point and said, “lame.” — DA]

  • Andy

    Another stupid thing about the Metrolink vending machine is that it doesn’t know how to calculate the lowest fare. Dropping my friend off at the Cucamonga station, she was about to pay $10.50 for a one-way ticket to LAUS, when I abruptly stopped her and advised her to buy a $10 weekend pass, saving her 50 cents.

    I don’t see why there isn’t a cashless way to tap onto the metrolink to have them automatically calculate fares. Just imagine how much easier enforcement for those sheriffs and conductors will be. They go train to train, wake you up when you’re sleeping, to look at a little tickets about 3-4 feet away from their face.

    In theory with locked gates, all ppl on the train are paid, and only spot enforcement with scanners are needed.

    Metrolink vending machines suck a$$.

    [They can’t lock gates at Metrolink stations, at least not without a huge investment to close them off. One positive thing about Metrolink vending machines, they recently put the weekend pass on the first screen. Before you had to know to push “special ticket options” to find it. — DA]