Many of you may be aware of Fare-gate (some say "faregate-gate"), the upcoming installation of faregates LA County Metro lines, which, combined with the recent mandate of TAP cards for all bus day pass customers, has led to many technological headaches and a PR disaster for Metro. (See this post at The Bus Bench for an example.)
I figured that all of this, while certainly unpleasant for the Los Angelenos, wouldn't affect us suburbanites because, when we do go into LA on transit, we use Metrolink. Metrolink tickets are, of course, valid for full fare on LA county transit operators (except Santa Monica for no good reason), and I assumed that Metro would follow the same pattern that most agencies with faregates use (including SF Muni and BART). They have a station agent booth stationed at the faregates, and customers with passes that must be visually inspected simply flash their pass at the station agent, who allows them through. I've done it many, many times in the Bay Area, and it works fine.
Apparently, LA has to be different. When the faregates are installed and implemented, in Q1 2010, all customers will either have to pay with cash or use a TAP card at all Metro stations. No visual inspection. No exceptions. This throws a monkey wrench into the works for Metrolink riders.
Oh, and there's another thing. Apparently, EZ Pass transit providers have decided that, instead of paying the ~40% reimbursement rate that Metrolink had been paying them for allowing ticketholders passage, they'd now have to come up with the full fare for every customer. This 60% increase in the reimbursement rate for transfer passengers led Metrolink to propose cutting transfer privileges for one-way and round-trip riders, and charging a 30% co-pay to 10-trip and monthly ticketholders for an EZ transit pass, which would correspondingly be loaded onto a TAP card.
One of those proposals survived the board meeting last month. One-way and round-trip tickets will no longer be valid for transfers to LA county bus operators in the near future. (Implementation date unknown at this time.) Oh, and fares are going up 3% in July.
Furthermore, passengers who wish to use Metro buses and (especially) trains come next January will have to load their Metrolink pass or 10-tripper onto a TAP card, at no additional cost but some additional hassle, and a $5 TAP card fee.
That said, passengers who wish to purchase a day pass in LA (even now) will need to have TAP cards, and since Metrolink tickets will no longer be valid for connecting transit in LA, it might be a prudent step to purchase one in the near future, for those once or twice a year trips into the city.
And I don't think I need to mention that Metrolink trips to LA just got a fare bit more expensive.