A crackdown begins Wednesday on freeloaders who don't pay to ride Metro trains in Los Angeles. Subway riders will need a plastic TAP card to get through locked turnstile gates. Previously, passengers traveling through Union Station could slip past the gates without paying.
But entrances leading to the Red and Purple lines will be latched this week. Commuters must buy a transit access pass - better known as a TAP card - to unlock them. It looks like a credit card and contains a smart chip.
"You tap it on the sensor which is right on the turnstile, and then it unlatches the gate and you walk through," explained Paul Gonzales who works with the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He said the agency has tested the gates over the past few months.
"We found in most cases that we're seeing fewer riders during the testing period but more revenue," adds Gonzales. "So what does that tell us? It tells us that there are a number of free riders - people who are not tapping their cards or not buying fares."
Metro expects to increase annual revenue by about $7 million with the new enforcement system. Officials report sales at ticket vending machines increased significantly during the testing phase with several thousand more commuters paying than before.
"You will literally be able to go from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, from Lancaster to Long Beach using the same fare card," said Gonzales. "You won't have to fumble in your pocket for change."
Metro officials plan to latch gates at all of its Red and Purple line stations within the next few months.
Light rail stations with gates on the Gold Line and on the Green Line will be latched by the end of this year - and on the Blue Line by early 2014. You can learn more about the Metro tap cards and how they work by going to taptogo.net.