Transit Implements Control Tactics to Combat Fare Evasion

Posted on September 24, 2012 by Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor - Also by this author

Page 2 of 3

This fall, Los Angeles’ Metro will permanently lock the gates in its subway stations to prevent riders from skipping fare payments.
This fall, Los Angeles’ Metro will permanently lock the gates in its subway stations to prevent riders from skipping fare payments.
Locking fare gates
This fall, Los Angeles’ Metro will permanently lock the gates in its subway stations to prevent riders from skipping fare payments, Marc Littman, deputy executive officer, public relations, says. Only a few of the light rail stations will remain gated because of narrow platforms.

Metro will initially have passenger ambassadors on hand to assist people with using the TAP card, which will soon be the only way to pay their fare. All gates will be locked by winter 2013.

Metro held “demonstrations” last fall and winter, at about 10 stations each time, to see how people were paying their fares. Passenger ambassadors and law enforcement officers directed people to ticket vending machines (TVMs) and explained how to properly apply the TAP card to the fare card reader. Metro discovered that 59% to 75% of riders with TAP cards were not tapping, which meant fares weren’t deducted from their cards.

“If the gates are locked, you will have to tap,” Littman explains. “It’s a learning curve for everybody, but we’re getting there. People have to get used to doing it.”

However, in the most recent demonstration, Metro saw a significant increase in riders going straight to the TVMs, with transactions increasing from 18% to 22%.

Metro currently is in the process of converting the TVMs to TAP media only and is working with students and seniors to ensure that their discount passes are converted. Half of Metro’s riders are seniors, students, and Medicaid recipients, who often have special discount passes. The biggest challenge in this phase, Littman says, is connecting with multiple municipal bus operators who have different and incompatible fare media.

As part of the process, about a half dozen municipal bus operators have converted to TAP, including the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (L.A. DOT) and Metrolink.

“There are a lot of people [who use] Metrolink and transfer to the Metro system, particularly [at] Union Station, so we’re working with them to come up with TAP and enabled fare media,” Littman says.

However, that has taken some time, because there are 16 area bus operators, including Metrolink and Amtrak, that work with Metro as part of an integrated transit system.

Littman says that once the gates are locked the convenience of the TAP fare card will be more apparent, because riders won’t have to figure out which fare media to use, making it easier to ride multiple carriers, such as Metrolink and Metro, in one trip. Another convenience is if a customer loses their card, they get the fare value returned to them online.

However, locking the gates brings on other expenses, Littman points out, primarily monitoring them so they can be unlocked in case of an emergency.

When Metro started in 1990 with 4.4 miles of the Blue Line, the agency made the decision not to put in fare gates, but installed the infrastructure at the subway stations so they could add them later. Now, Littman says, Metro has close to 100 miles of track and is adding more lines. “We’ve gotten to the point [where we’re] too big to just go with the honor system,” he says.

Closing the system
Faced with an aging fare collection system, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) implemented a new system in 2005 and made adjustments to help reduce fare evasion similar to Metro, including becoming a “closed system” — requiring riders to tap their cards for entry and exit — and increasing the height of the gates.

More recently, last year MARTA adjusted its gate speed as well, Davis Allen, assistant GM, finance, at MARTA, says.

One caveat was that MARTA’s wide fare gates initially did not require a customer to tap to exit. This allowed for its regional transit partners to fully transition to its Breeze fare media. As of October 2011, the gates require customers to tap to exit. Breeze media is used for exit and entry, and allows MARTA to better align exit and entry numbers to help determine ridership and fare evasion rates.

As a result of the change, MARTA experienced a clear reduction in fare evasion, Allen says. The evasion rate for Fiscal Year 2005 was 4.1% and 1.8% for Fiscal Year 2012.

“If nothing had been done to upgrade the fare collection system, the estimated loss for weekday rail fare evasion would have been $2.4 million,” he adds. “The measures have saved MARTA approximately $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2012.”

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