To curb crime, Metro requires fare cards at station exits

A new pilot program forces subway riders exiting the North Hollywood station to use a TAP card to exit, the latest attempt to make riders feel safer after a wave of violent crime.

While some passengers welcomed the strategy, others remained skeptical, with some jumping through turnstiles to avoid the new rules.

The TAP card is a rechargeable card for traveling on public transportation. Since most riders earn less than $50,000 a year, the agency has several programs to reduce the cost of the cards or provide them for free.

The 90-day program, launched this week, is designed to get people using TAP cards and stop passengers taking advantage of the system to take drugs or seek refuge, often boarding trains without paying. At the same time, cleaning is becoming more frequent, with more traffic crews and cars being swept so passengers don't loiter in their seats or pass out.

Subway passengers pass through the turnstiles.

People pass a Metro Transit Safety officer at the North Hollywood station on Wednesday.

(Wally Scully/Los Angeles Times)

“Our goal is not to collect more revenue, but to enforce the rules,” said Stephen Tu, deputy chief executive of Metro Station Experience. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has seen a 90% increase in fare-checking transactions since it was implemented on Tuesday, he said.

Passengers must click to enter and exit, but if they have already paid, they will not be charged an exit fee. Implementation begins on Monday.

Tu explained that this process encourages passengers who have not yet entered the fare gate to purchase a fare.
Those who don't pay may be fined $75.

Law enforcement says most people arrested through the system have not paid their fares. It is not uncommon for passengers to jump through turnstiles or use emergency doors to enter the system.

“It's about fare compliance and making sure the expectations of people coming into the system know that at some point in their journey they're going to be subject to a fare check,” Tu said.

About half of train stations have no ticket gates, but Tu said if the pilot goes well it could be implemented more widely so that passengers can still enter at stations without ticket gates but find that to exit they need to show their ID.

Around noon Wednesday, the station was packed with passengers and more than a dozen transit officials, Metro ambassadors, private security, Los Angeles Police Department officers, Metro employees and mental health outreach workers.

“There are more orders now. I hope this continues. “It's good because there are drinkers and drug addicts here. ”

While the station looked like it had just been cleaned, at the top of the long elevator that led to the street, a man huddled on the concrete and drew with his fingers on the square.

When the man was pointed out to Tu, he pointed out that the plaza is city property and said Metro was trying to do the best it could on its property. Last year, Tu helped bring classical music to the Westlake/MacArthur Park station to prevent crowds from lingering amid a series of killings and drug overdoses. He noted that there are several ambassadors at the subway G train station across the street, a bus-connecting route, designed to assist riders and help with outreach to the homeless.

“I would feel better if there was more security at night,” said Lucy Rivera, a 64-year-old hairstylist who took the evening train from Vermont and Santa Monica stations to the North Hollywood station. . She said she wore a mask because of the smell of urine. She often saw people coming in on drugs or drunk.

In recent years, Metro has invested resources in improving this system. But its massive nature makes it challenging, with more than 100 miles of railroad and more than 2,000 buses.

A couple talks to two uniformed police officers.

Martique Price was pulled over by Metro Transit Security and Los Angeles Police Department officers Wednesday after an argument at a North Hollywood Metro station over paying for a ride.

(Wally Scully/Los Angeles Times)

Metro is expected to consider building its own police force, but the agency is also looking at ways to rely more than just more officers, guards or ambassadors, including TAP testing and even facial recognition.

But it's unclear how effective this testing program will be. When a traffic officer stopped a couple on Wednesday, several people jumped out of the gate.

Brandon Price said he and his wife, Martique, were on their way to pick up their children from school when they were questioned after using their children's TAP cards. The card was issued by his children's school in South Los Angeles. Metro has been working to increase teen ridership by offering free TAP cards to students.

Price and his wife, who was recently homeless, said transit officials confiscated the card. Price purchased another card, but as they headed to the platform, an official said the pair would be barred from the train. They were not given a formal summons or anything in writing, but the injunction left them having to find transportation home for their children.

“It makes you feel slighted,” Price said. “We will be looking at alternative routes for at least the rest of the week.”

The attempt to enforce fares touches on difficult debates within Metro about fairness and the presence of enforcement. Social justice advocates argue that too much money is being spent on police and officers without visible improvements. They point out that black passengers — and thus prices — tend to be ticketed more often.

A man steps through the gate as uniformed police officers look on.

A man jumped a gate in front of Metro Transit Security and Los Angeles Police Department officers but was not stopped at a North Hollywood subway station Wednesday.

(Wally Scully/Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this month, Mayor Karen Bass ordered increased enforcement. At the same time, she reiterated her belief in a fare-free public transport system.

Tu says the latter is possible.

“One thing we learned from the Westlake/MacArthur Park improvements is the importance of integrating environmental design improvements (like Tap Out Pilot) with staffing,” he said in an email.

“This can be used in any system, including no-fare systems, like borrowing books from patrons for free using a library card.”

Other major transit systems across the country already use similar programs, including Bay Area Rapid Transit,
Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Atlanta Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who chairs the city's Public Safety Committee and whose northeast San Fernando Valley district plans to build a new light rail line in the next few years, said that should have happened by now.

“How can people respect a system when there are no rules?” she said. Other cities around the world have already adopted this approach.

“Our communities continue to struggle, but they are proudly paying the price for a system that refuses to reinvest in protecting them,” she said. “For me, this is a completely unacceptable failure.”

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