Published : Monday, January 29, 2018 | 3:05 PM
You still have a little less than two years to use your metal tokens to ride mass transit, as The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is eliminating them by the end of 2019, Metro officials estimate. By that time, the agency will stop making the gold-colored metal tokens and stop accepting them as well.
The plan is set to be approved by Metro’s board in March as the organization will attempt to switch token enthusiasts to TAP card users., according to an LA Daily News report.
Metro spokesman Rick Jager told the LA Daily News that the agency has already given away 55,000 free TAP cards and plans on distributing 1 million starting in May.
Currently, tokens are still available at vendors such as liquor stores, city halls, and Metro stores countywide. A bag of ten tokens costs $17.50, with each worth about a $1.75. They used to sell at a discount, but, according to Dave Sutton, executive director of Finance at Metro, they no longer are. Without it, token sales have dropped by 24 percent, from 17.9 million in the fiscal year 2012-2013 to 13.1 million in 2016-2017.
While some are worried that people will not want to switch from old school token technology to cards, Robin O’Hara, Metro deputy executive officer for TAP, told the Daily News riders will miss out if they don’t—they do not receive free transfers within the Metro system as do TAP users. Seniors, the disabled and students are also given discounts when loading TAP cards, which tokens do not afford them, she said.
To get and load a TAP card, a rider does not need a credit or debit card, O’Hara said. Metro distributes subsidized TAP cards and (until late 2019) tokens to 500 or more health and wellness centers, shelters, and community based/social service agencies. The county library system also began selling TAP cards in January 2016 and customers can even reload them at certain branches.
Jager told the LA Daily News that Metro will increase the rate of replacing tokens with TAP cards at all county facilities starting in mid-March.
At a public hearing last week, a concerned group of patrons voiced their opposition in front of Metro’s Finance Audit Committee, which included opinions against raising the price of a TAP card from $1 at a vending machine to $2. TAP cards are currently priced at $2 when they are paid for by phone, at service centers, and online. O’Hara said the agency wants to charge $2 per card across the board going forward. Metro estimates the increase to $2 at vending machines will result in $3.7 million in additional revenue for the agency.
The organization also plans to scrap Metro bus day passes, saying adding cash to a TAP card is more efficient and using it incorporates transfers, the cost of which is not prohibitive because one TAP card lasts 10 years. The cards are free for seniors, the disabled, and students.