The free ride ended for patrons of the Metro Red and Purple subway lines Wednesday when gates were latched at Union Station, requiring riders to have train fare loaded on a TAP card.
The Metro train system has been operating primarily on the honor system. Riders of the subway and light rail lines are required to have a TAP — or Transit Access Pass — card loaded with the appropriate fare, but there have been no latched gates for passengers to pass through.
With gates being latched Wednesday, riders who board the Red and Purple line trains at Union Station will have to “tap” the cards at the gate to gain access to the subways.
Riders could face fines of up to $250 if they’re caught on a train without proof of fare payment.
A host of local officials, including County Supervisor and Metro board Chairman Mike Antonovich, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Metro CEO Art Leahy, took part in a news conference at Union Station to spread word of the change.
Gates at the 15 other Red and Purple line stations will be latched over the course of the summer. Gates at Gold, Green and Blue line stations could be latched beginning in the fall, according to Metro.
Eventually, 41 of Metro’s 81 rail stations will have latched gates. Some light rail station are too small to accommodate latching gates, so fare inspectors and sheriff’s deputies will still be on patrol to ensure riders are paying their way, according to the transit agency.
Metro officials said latching the gates will reduce fare evasion to the tune of $6 million to $9 million a year. They also hope the move will encourage people to purchase TAP cards, which cost $1 and can be reloaded. Train fares are $1.50 for a single ride, or $5 for a day pass. Monthly and weekly passes are also available.
TAP cards can also be used for fare on Montebello, Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Gardena, Norwalk and Foothill Transit systems. Metro officials said 15 more transit agencies – including in Long Beach and Santa Monica – will begin accepting TAP cards over the next year.