Los Angeles has also decided to install turnstiles on the Red Line - and at many light rail stations:
An End to the Free Ride on Trains in Los Angeles
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
December 3, 2007
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 — It may be hard to fathom for subway riders in cities like New York, Chicago and Boston, but the transit system in Los Angeles has no turnstiles, gates or other barriers where tickets are collected or checked.
Under a proudly distinct honor system intended to buck East Coast practices and reduce operating costs, riders buy their tickets, get on the train and present them to a sheriff’s deputy or civilian inspector — if any happen to ask.
But after 14 years of trust, Los Angeles is preparing to join those cities where slipping past, under and over transit turnstiles and gates is an art form.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted last week to take the first step toward installing 275 ticket gates on the entire 17.4-mile subway and at many light-rail stations.
The move came after a study given to the board in October found that some 5 percent of people who rode the subway, light rail and a new rapid bus line on weekdays did so without paying the fare, $1.25 one way or $5 for a daily pass. As a result, the report said, the authority lost about $5.5 million in revenue annually.
Fare-collecting gates, which could cost $30 million to install and $1 million a year to maintain, would yield an extra $6.77 million in recovered fares and other savings, according to the report. The board voted 11 to 1 on Thursday to have staff members write a plan for installing the gates, with final approval expected in January.
Some saw the move as another sign of the shifting ecology of Los Angeles.
“Unfortunately, as L.A. gets to be more urban, it has these breakdowns of trust that happen in big cities,” said Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles resident and author of “The City: A Global History.” “It’s the flip side of all the good things.”
At the Wilshire/Vermont station Friday, with a steady stream of people walking past vending machines and under a sign reading “Ticket required beyond this point,” riders who have looked suspiciously at their brethren applauded the move.
“We all should know and respect the law,” said Maria Cervantes, 43, a dressmaker buying a ticket at the station. “I see a lot of people just walk on, and I don’t think it is because they have the day or month pass.”
But other riders were skeptical, saying they had watched inspectors walk the trains checking tickets without catching many people.
“I would like to know if the money gained is really more than the money they are going to spend,” said Jacob Holloway, 24, a graphic designer with a monthly pass.
The board member who voted against the proposal, Richard Katz, shared the sentiment.
Mr. Katz, a former member of the California Assembly, said he feared that the turnstiles would impede evacuations in emergencies. He said he also doubted that the struggling agency could afford the cost, which he predicted would escalate and wipe out potential savings. The agency’s $3 billion budget is expected to have a $75 million deficit next year.
“Dollars are very tight,” Mr. Katz said.
But agency planners said that the gates would eventually pay for themselves and that something needed to be done to control scofflaws on the rapidly expanding system. The gates could also improve security and be used for smart cards, passes with computer chips in them that would make it more practical to charge distance-based fares and give riders more options to pay beforehand.
“We have grown substantially,” said Jane Matsumoto, a executive with the transportation authority who is working on the gate proposal. “But trying to enforce the numbers of riders over the large geography is difficult.”
Ms. Matsumoto said it would take about 18 months to phase in the gates.
The train system started in 1990 with a 22-mile light rail line from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles. It added the Red Line subway in the 1990s, as well as several other light rail lines that now total some 90 miles. About 7.4 million people used the rail lines last month.
The American Public Transportation Association said the Los Angeles subway was the only one in the country that did not have a gated pay system, though other cities with newer and smaller light rail systems relied on the honor system to encourage ridership and to save on the cost of turnstiles and related expenses.