Metro’s TAP problems – Bus Driver Training

Metro has received a lot of attention lately because of the implementation of their TAP – Transit Access Pass fare collection system. CityWatch published a pretty accurate list of TAP issues that frustrate transit users on a daily basis.  Metro’s in-house news team The Source published a rebuttal with a memo from David Sutton, Deputy Executive Officer, TAP.

Metro did provide some explanation and solutions to some of the issues, but certainly did not give anyone the impression TAP is going to get any better soon.  Those major issues aside, I think Metro has a bigger problem on hand that they don’t talk about.  Bus driver implementation of the TAP program.

I recently wrote about my experience trying to purchase a Day pass from a bus operator using the stored value on my TAP card, after all one of the reasons to go to a smart card system is to store money on it for ease of purchasing 1 trip fares or day/monthly passes.  2 drivers didn’t know how to add a day pass using the stored value on the TAP card or they said it couldn’t be done.  I understand 2 is a small sample size to judge a system with over 4,400 bus/rail operators but as a customer it only takes 1 bad experience to get frustrated with the failing system.

Most of the time my journey starts at a metro rail station where there are plenty of vending machines to quickly add a day pass to my TAP card using the stored value.  However when I do start a journey using the bus I expect the same level of service to add my day pass to the TAP card.  Yesterday I tried to do this one more time.  I boarded the 158 bus toward Chatsworth station and asked the driver if I could purchase a day pass using the stored value on my card.  He gave me a questioned look and said it was $5.00.  I said yes a day pass is $5.00 and I want to deduct it from my card.  He said if I had stored value just tap the card and the reader will deduct the fare.  I insisted I wanted a day pass and it required him to do something before I Tapped my card.  Again he was confused, so I surrendered yet again to the ignorance of the bus driver and tapped my card to pay a one way fare.

This was not only frustrating by embarrassing as I was showing a new bus rider how to use the system.  Certainly your first experience on the bus should not be met with confusion by the operator.  I sent a complaint to Metro customer service for a second time on this issue.  I am afraid each time I try to purchase a day pass from a bus operator I will be wasting my time and money complaining.

I did tweet a message to @metrolosangeles stating my issue (I errantly put the wrong bus number 165 instead of 158, but does it really matter) and they replied back with a message that they are working on a TAP sales training program for bus drivers for which I asked if TAP has been in use for over 3 years why are they now just implementing a training program?  Metro has spent a lot of money on the TAP system and still have not met the customer needs when it comes to executing it on a daily basis.  Lets hope Metro follows through and I won’t have to battle bus drivers and tell them how to do their job.

UPDATE 8/16/2013:

I just received a call from the metro customer service center.  They wanted to let me know that my complaint was being addressed and apologized for the inconvenience.  The agent also noted if you have a driver that does not know how to do it, to tell them to hit the day pass button and then you can tap your card and the $5.00 will be deducted and the day pass will be loaded.


Tags: ,

20 responses to “Metro’s TAP problems – Bus Driver Training”

  1. Warner says :

    Why am I not surprised that the blame is being placed on the operator. What I do find here is ignorance from a journelist who has not gotten his/her facts straight. Operators did not create nor implemented TAP. If you want to blame anybody, blame the ignorant creaters of TAP who implemented a system that was not well thought through, and rushed to the riding public leaving operators defenseless to the failures of TAP, and frustration of our riders.

    • The Dude Abides says :

      Like many aspects of being a bus operator collecting fares is one of them. Drivers get paid quite well and I don’t think it is beyond their scope of pushing a button on the fare collection system in order to add a TAP day pass. Certainly if you do not know how to do your job, you should ask management for better training so you can provide good service to the public that pays your salary.

    • Jeff says :

      I think this is a fake journalist who has a vendetta against Metro. Too many gramatical and spelling errors lol

      • The Dude Abides says :

        I have no vendetta against Metro. I am one of its biggest fans who like all users would like to see improvements in areas that are lacking quality service. I am not a journalist but a Metro user who has an opinion on the services offered by Metro. Grammar and spelling are certainly not my strong suit but seems to match your own spelling accomplishments.

  2. LAX Frequent Flyer says :

    In this day and age, I’m surprised why Metro doesn’t have a daily cap system like most transit agencies around the world that uses contactless card systems.

    Once you have a daily cap system, you wouldn’t need any of this confusion. Let’s say I have $20.00 cash value stored in my TAP card. I ride the bus or train. On my fourth bus or train ride for the day, it will only deduct $0.50 and caps off at the $5.00 daily rate. Any bus or trains I ride thereafter will not deduct any money as it’ll look to see that I already hit the daily cap. I started off the day with $20.00, it deducted $1.50 three times and $0.50 on the fourth ride and every ride thereafter is zero because it hit the daily rate of $5.00. At the end of the day, I have $15.00 remaining on the TAP card.

    It’s really simple as that. You don’t need to do confusing things like asking the bus driver to buy a day pass from stored cash value. All you need is a daily cap system in place and the net effect is the same thing.

    • The Dude Abides says :

      LAX –
      I agree 100%. Making the system do the work is a win for metro and it’s customers. Certainly I hope that will be a long term solution to the problem, but in the short term it is very frustrating trying to get a basic service fulfilled on the bus.

    • Angeleno says :

      I have often wondered why TAP does not do provide this basic service that I have used on most other transit systems. Was Metro too short-sighted to buy a TAP system that can do this, is Metro too ignorant to activate this feature in their TAP system or is Metro too avaricious to ensure I pay the least amount necessary on any given day?

    • Dan says :

      Yes, yes, yes!!! I moved to LA two weeks ago (carless) and was stunned to discover that the Metro system (despite all the fanfare surrounding TAP) doesn’t seem to have transfers. This is annoying, but at least the idea of a day pass can offset some of the cost. But sometimes I don’t know how much I might travel at the beginning of the day, and so I have to guess about whether it’s worth it to add a day pass–with the possibility that I’ll only end up riding twice and so wasting two dollars. A daily cap is a simple change used by sane transit systems all over.

      They either need to add free transfers (where connections to buses or trains along a single trip are free–other places I’ve lived limit it to within 90 minutes or two hours of the start of the trip) or they need a daily cap.

    • Yeah Right says :

      Where’s the Facebook like button?

      Automatic capping sounds like the best solution there is compared to wasting money in training bus drivers that we all know is going to do jack.

  3. Ken W. says :

    The Dude Abides

    +1 for me for LAX’s idea.

    I sure hope this isn’t Metro’s long term solution because “training” is a total waste of money. You can already see from a mile away the bus drivers are going to forget how to do this the moment they’re done with their “training.”

    Daily cap system makes more sense.

    People don’t want to talk with bus drivers and bus drivers do not want to talk with passengers. Neither the bus drivers do not want to fumble around buttons on how to do this nor do passengers want to a system where they have to hope bus drivers know how to do this all the while holding up everyone in line and making all the passengers on the bus irritated because the bus isn’t moving.

    It’s should be as simple as TAP in and let the system figure everything out automatically.

    The less human involvement, the better. If there is absolutely no human involvement it’ll be ideal for all. People are already stressed out as it is already riding the bus, Metro doesn’t need to make things worse.

  4. parenthood21 says :

    My daughter had a problem purchasing a Day Pass on a Metro Bus. The TAP reader on the bus said her new K-12 Student TAP card was invalid. The bus driver was very helpful and issued her a paper punched ticket for the day.

    Afterward, I thought her Student TAP card was defective. At the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station I checked the balance/status of her TAP Card at a Metro Vending Machine. The TAP card was ok and I understood the TAP reader or the bus driver had difficulty.

    It is encouraging to hear that Metro is implementing a TAP training program for bus drivers. I am pulling for Metro and hope the TAP system succeeds.
    My concern is for the young students, seniors, disabled and non-English speakers who may have issues with the TAP system but do not have the time or advocacy skills to complain when TAP does not work for them.

  5. John Y. says :

    I had a similar experience on the Silver Line from El Monte Station. I had purchased day passes on two separate occasions from drivers with no problem using the money on my TAP pass, but then one day the bus driver told me I couldn’t. I explained to her that I’ve been able to in the past, but she refused to let me by and was adamant that the stored value in a TAP pass can’t be used to purchase a day pass. Anyway, I ended up just paying for the one-way fare ($2.45), then buying a $5 day pass at the Civic Center/Grand Park station. In the future, I’ll use the TAP machine at El Monte Station lest I get another untrained bus driver. A week later, the same driver refused an elderly gentleman’s request to buy a day pass. Hopefully this driver training program will work.

  6. Erik G. says :

    It is even worse than this because it is apparent that it is not only Metro driver training but all systems that are using TAP or connect to Metro stations with turnstiles.

  7. Alicia says :

    Man, I was frustrated about the same thing almost two years ago! The driver looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I had money stored on my card. He was nice about it, but no one had informed him about the new system, much less how to handle it. When I contacted Metro, they told me to talk to TAP, and TAP told me to talk to Metro. I can’t believe they’re still having problems with something that should be so simple!

  8. Henry Fung (@calwatch) says :

    In order to avoid this convoluted issue, yet still get the transit benefit at work, I buy and still use TOKENS in order to purchase a day pass (you can drop three tokens and fifty cents and it registers as $5). What I’ve been doing lately, now that El Monte Station has TAP machines (which only took, oh, five years) is load day passes on the TAP card there. You can pre load up to eight day passes at a time, and it will register as a day pass on first TAP.

    Of course, you may not want a day pass for that day, but since the pass is already on the card it will activate the day pass whether you like it or not. So I end up carrying two separate TAP cards – one with a day pass and a small amount of stored value for the occasional express trips, and one with stored value only, for use on municipal operators. They have different designs on them which is how I am able to tell the difference. This is a real stupid kludge but one forced on us by the TAPucrats.

  9. Yeah Right says :

    Uh-huh, suuuure, training will solve this problem. NOT!

    They’ve had years of getting this done and only now Metro decides more training is needed? Then what were the past years of these problems at fault for? Lack of training?

    Gimme a break. Lack of training, more training, will not change anything.

  10. Getting There In Style says :

    Hooray – the sytem is working!
    After years of battling the TAP system, I thank my lucky stars that I have a car. For all of you that are confused by the fact that the TAP system doesn’t work, I suggest that you assume, incorrectly, that METRO wants people to use public transportation. Isn’t it obvious by now that they don’t? Willy-the-Shakes said it centuries ago: The RTD by any other name would stink as much.

  11. Henry Fung (@calwatch) says :

    Too bad the person running this blog has lost interest, but here’s the memo issued to drivers as to how to purchase a day pass on TAP – also how to purchase transfers using stored value as well (although confusingly they still come in paper form):

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles - August 16, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: