Starting Thursday, paper tickets will no longer be sold at Expo Line stations. Instead, passengers will only be able to purchase reusable Transit Access Pass cards in order to ride the line.
Ticket vending machines will no longer sell paper tickets and passengers will instead purchase TAP cards for a one-time $1 fee. These plastic payment cards allow Metro users to buy and electronically load Metro passes, participating transit line passes and cash directly to their card.
Exclusive use of TAP cards is part of Metro’s transition to include locked turnstiles in all subway and rail stations.
Come November, Metro Rail will also begin the process of locking turnstiles, including those at the Expo Line stations near USC. Tapping a TAP card on a turnstile will simultaneously unlock the gate and charge the train’s fare.
The process started last winter, Metro spokesperson Anna Chen said. After conducting a 10-week gate locking test along the Red Line, Metro slowly began converting all ticket vending machines to TAP card machines, a process that will be completed by early next month. Pending approval from its board of directors, Metro will begin to incorporate the locked turnstiles starting in November.
“If all goes as scheduled, this should be completed by May of next year,” Chen said.
Many stations currently use unlocked turnstiles that allow passengers to enter without tapping their TAP card. Though the fine for fare evasion is up to $250, Chen said this has not stopped some users from taking advantage of the unguarded system.
“Fare evasion is definitely something we want to discourage,” Chen said. “For a $1.50 flat rate, our fares are the lowest in the nation. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t pay the fare.”
Chen believes Los Angeles is finally catching up to other big cities by locking turnstiles.
“This is something that should have happened a while ago,” Chen said. “If you take the subway in New York or Chicago, the gates are locked. It should be that way here in Los Angeles.”
The first station set to feature locked turnstiles is the Wilshire/Normandie Station on the Purple Line. Depending on the response, Metro hopes to continue locking the remaining stations until they are all secure. The stations will continue to be unguarded, but Metro staff will be available to assist new TAP users.
The Expo Line stations near USC are not currently equipped with turnstiles but now feature the new TAP system. Anisha Veer, a junior majoring in business administration, thinks the TAP card makes using Metro more convenient.
“It makes it easier for people to travel on the Metro,” Veer said. “The TAP card is great for me because I’m a frequent Metro user and this way I don’t have to wait in line to get a ticket. I use it for the Expo Line, but I can use it for other lines as well.”
Other students, like freshman communication major Matt Cheung, see even more potential in the card.
“In Hong Kong, they have a similar card called the Octopus that is used for the metro, buses, airport shuttles and [convenience] stores,” Cheung said. “One thing I think TAP could work on is integration with privatized companies like Zipcar and Prime Time Shuttle, which would make things a lot easier.”
Regardless of the potential drawbacks some see in the new system, others said the Metro is a useful took for students.
“The Metro [system] is something all students should learn how to use, especially in a big city like Los Angeles, not just for a matter of convenience, but as a safety precaution as well,” said Isabel Lemon, a sophomore majoring in theater. “I know which line I need to take to get back to USC from wherever I am.”
Looking forward, an investment in a TAP card could be a smart choice for USC students, especially those without cars. For students, Metro offers a college/vocational TAP card. The card, priced at $36, allows unlimited rides for 30 days, including on the Expo Line, which goes between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City.
“I really hope the line from Culver City to Santa Monica finishes soon,” Veer said. “Then USC students can get to Santa Monica in 30 minutes.”
Starting next month, Metro stations will only accept TAP cards.