Millions Down the Tubes? - NBC Southern California

Millions Down the Tubes?



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    MTA defends money spent on new security system.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority bought a new security system – it cost $154 million. 

    The problem?  It’s not fully operational.  At least, not yet.

    The system uses locking turnstiles and electronic payment cards to ensure customers are really paying for their trip.  It’s similar to systems used around the world.  Hundreds of the new turnstiles have already been installed at local stations.

    The key – customers need to use an electronic payment card, called TAP (short for Transit Access Pass).  But – not everyone has the electronic payment card.  A recent survey shows more than 30 percent of customers don’t have them.

    If the locking turnstiles are turned on, then customers paying with cash would be locked out.

    "At this point, the best thing they could do would be to totally abandon the program, chock it up to a bad idea and just stop throwing more money at it," Tom Rubin, a veteran transit consultant and former chief financial officer for Metro's predecessor agency, told the Daily News.

    The MTA disagrees.

    "Critics are already pouncing…even though we only finished installing the gates a month ago," MTA spokesman Marc Littman tells NBCLA.

    He admits they’re working through several obstacles.  Among them: ticket vending machines still don’t sell the electronic cards and they’re still trying to get municipal bus operators on board with the program.

    "For years, we’ve used the honor system, but it’s not working as well," says Littman.  The MTA estimates it loses $5.6 million a year because of people skipping fares.

    Expect to see a small step forward within a couple months: the gates won’t lock, but instead a light will flash.  If a passenger doesn’t have the TAP card, a flashing light will alert a civilian inspector that a passenger is using an alternate form of payment.  Anyone caught trying to get a free ride faces a $250 fine.

    When will the locking turnstiles be fully operational?  Littman says that could take another year or two.