Los Angeles transit reached a new milestone this week with the announcement from MTA that turnstiles would gradually be introduced into subways and light rail stations. Most large transit systems around the country use turnstiles and have for many years. According to a study conducted by the MTA, the Metro system loses about $5.5 to 6 million annually from gate crashers. LA Metro rail has operated on the honor system for 15 years with varying results. By the end of August, turnstile fare gates will have been installed at Normandie, Union Station, Westlake and Pershing Square. Metro staff will offer assistance to passengers as they get used to the gates. The gates will be set to "free spin" so patrons will have a chance to become familiar with the new system and Metro will get a chance to see if traffic flow is affected. The new gates are ADA approved and will allow for wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers.
Over the next 18 months, the Red and Green Line stations, where fare evaders are most prominent, are supposed to receive turnstiles at selected stations while the system proves itself. They may be installed on the new Linea de Oro (Gold Line Extension) as it is currently being built and installing them now would prevent retrofit costs in the future.
The new turnstiles are generating some controversy among riders. Is the expenditure of $30 million worth it? One rider says that anything that will help get the freeloading transients off the trains will be most welcome. Other riders say that putting the money into increased police presence would make the trains safer and still others believe we need the turnstiles and more police. As the system expands, the need to protect revenue and passengers will expand and the rail riders will undoubtedly see more of what New York and Washington DC have experienced for years.