The Metropolitan Transit Authority latched subway entry gates at downtown Los Angeles' Union Station Wednesday, part of a plan to prevent fare evaders from breezing through the gates and using the transit system without paying.
Metro: Latching Schedule
The latched gates require riders to use plastic TAP (Transit Access Pass) cards to enter the boarding area at Union Station. Commuters tap the cards on a turnstile and -- if the card is loaded with enough money for the fare -- the gate opens and allows the rider to pass.
Previously, an honor system was used -- and abused. Metro officials told NBC4 they are losing an estimated $2 million per year because of fare evaders.
A June 2012 NBC4 I-Team report showed video from the Hollywood and Highland Metro station on which several commuters could be seen walking through the unlatched turnstiles without paying. But as of Wednesday, if commuters don't pay, the latched turnstiles won't open.
"I don't ride free, so nobody else should," said transit rider Darren Barnes, who was at Union Station Wednesday morning.
Turnstiles on Metro's Red and Purple lines out of Union Station will be latched Wednesday. Turnstiles at other stations on those lines will be latched by the end of summer.
Click here for the complete latching schedule.
Local news from across Southern California
Inspectors and deputies will continue to staff stations, on the lookout for anyone trying to find another method of boarding without paying, according to Metro officials.
TAP cards can be purchased from Metro vending machines for $1. The same card can be used multiple times, as along as it's loaded with fare money. TAP cards can be loaded with fare money at Metro Customer Centers, vending machines and online.
Metro began phasing out its paper ticket fare system last year. During a test run last year when Metro temporarily locked turnstiles, sales at ticket vending machines increased 22 percent, according to the transit agency.
Note: The I-Team will have a follow-up to its previous report on the NBC4 News at 8 p.m.
View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.
More Southern California Stories: