By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
The middle option would have called for the erection of 275 gates along the Red and Purple lines and strategic locations along the Green, Blue and Gold lines for a cost of $31 million, requiring about 84 percent of rail users to pass through a gate.
Option 3 was a radical and expensive departure. It called for the gating of nearly every subway and light-rail station in L.A., regardless of how ill-suited some stations are, which would affect 98 percent of riders.
The MTA chose Version 2.89 Option 3 minus 15 gates here and there. And ever since making that decision two weeks ago, the MTA has been straining to justify what its really up to.
In November, MTA executive Jane Matsumoto criticized Option 3. This gating option would be the costliest alternative and not necessarily the most effective based on the TMD Evasion Study results, she wrote, referring to the MTAs own data on fare evasion. It would mean considerably more equipment, even at stations and on lines that have low evasion rates, and may have nominal impact to fare recovery.
Bizarrely, Matsumoto now tells the Weekly that the Booz Allen Hamilton study is no longer applicable, just four months later, noting that it didnt include 35 gates set to be installed on the Gold Line. You cant hold a feasibility study to the same level [of detail] as a contract order, she says.
She insists the gating project scheduled to be completed by Cubic within 24 months will pay for itself within the fourth year of operation. Most of the savings, if they do materialize, will not be from halting scofflaws. They will come from firing 90 roving fare inspectors who check for passenger tickets intermittently.
As the Weekly reported last year, the reason Los Angeles is losing its honor-system subway while other cities tout theirs is so that the MTA can make transit riders use ID cards that act like credit cards. The MTA has poured $80 million into a Total Access Pass system, in which it hopes to utilize smart cards that can follow the movement of riders in the system. For that, MTA must have gates.
Inadvertently shedding light on all this, an aide to MTA board member Yvonne Burke, Mike Bohlke, says, You have a lot of credit companies interested in our riders, a lot of people who are transit-dependent, dont have credit cards. ... There are a whole array of dividends we can achieve, if riders are induced to use credit cards.
Matsumoto gives conflicting reasons: Metro wants to control uncontrolled chaos her words. Metro wants to keep the homeless out. Metro wants to protect us from terrorism.
Yet the homeless are not a major problem on the rail lines. And the pricey new gating system doesnt include terror-fighting tools like explosive-materials scanners or finance the steep cost of training and employing workers to use these new technologies.
I think the security argument is the way you get money these days, says Richard Katz, the MTA boards lone vote against the contract.
KATZ IS EITHER A STUBBORN FOOL or the smartest guy in the room. He believes the agencys long history of bad assumptions is repeating itself. Hes unconvinced that the tiny percentage of riders who dont pay fares ever will. They could merely disappear.
I can count the number of times on one hand that MTA has been right about construction costs, operating costs that doesnt even include technological costs, he says. Any more money spent should go to Sheriffs [deputies] more eyes and ears on the platforms.
Katz might be alone on the MTA board, but he has company in many big cities around the world, where open rail systems like L.A.s are popular and the low percentage of scofflaws are considered a small price to pay.
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