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L.A. Metro Payment Card Now Accepts Bike-Share Service

The bike rental app is the first in what is expected to be a wide range of new mobility services that will be available for transit card users across Los Angeles County.

Transit riders in Los Angeles can now move seamlessly onto Metro Bike Share, with more mobility options to come. Metro Bike Share is a new app-based bike rental system in downtown Los Angeles, the Port of L.A. and Venice. The program includes about 1,400 bikes positioned at 90 stations.

The bike-share is the first new mobility “program” to be supported by L.A. Metro’s revamped Transit Access Pass (TAP) card, now known as TAPforce. The card is an account-based platform that allows riders to move effortlessly from one transit system to another across Los Angeles County.

Officials at Metro have spent the last two years reworking the TAP system to support mobility systems outside of public transit. These could include ride-hailing services like Lyft, e-scooters like Bird or even reserving a parking space. Metro Bike Share, a partnership among L.A. Metro, the city and the Port of Los Angeles, represents the first new non-transit partner to fall under the TAP card umbrella.

“We soft-launched in October with one program, just to kind of test it out and make sure everything was working,” explained Robin O’Hara, executive officer at L.A. Metro and director of technical systems for the TAP program. “We’re in talks with about eight or nine different programs right now to come on board,” she added.

Next year, Metro will release its TAP mobile app, allowing riders to load their account and then pay for rides on buses, trains, bikes and more via their smartphone — all with one app.

“Eventually, trip-planning will be all in one place, so we have lots of plans for the system, going forward,” said O’Hara.

Some of those other programs or partnerships Metro wants to bring under the TAP card system could include electric vehicle charging, car-sharing, parking and more.

“We’ve been in talks with Lyft, and there’s a lot of interest in being able to do this,” said O’Hara.

The move to easily make multiple forms of transportation available to transit riders has been an aim of numerous transit agencies. A number of cities — Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and others — are actively involved in projects to introduce multimodal trip-planning and payment all with one app. Trip-planning apps like Moovit or Transit have also recently incorporated ride-hailing into the mix of mobility options offered to users. 

Merging private-sector companies within the tech structure of public-sector transit is not without its issues, however.

“One of the challenges that we see in the future is the need to be flexible. Because, obviously, public entities and private entities have to play together in the sandbox in order to make this all work,” said O’Hara.

Some of the issues revolve around sharing user location and other data, and who gets to control and manage that data. Companies like Uber and Lyft have been busy buying up other app-based transportation companies like bike- and scooter-shares, a transition that moves transportation network companies into “mobility management” platforms, said Adrian Pearmine, national director for smart vehicles and connected vehicles at DKS Associates, speaking during a webinar with Meeting of the Minds last month.

“On the one hand there’s a lot of benefit from the convenience standpoint of being able to remove barriers for people, and giving them all those options on a single platform,” said Pearmine. “But there’s some risk associated with this concept of who ends up being the mobility manager; who ends up owning that relationship with the customer and the citizen.”

“Partnerships are really going to be key here,” said Doug Arsenault, public affairs administrator for the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus, speaking during a webinar in October. “With the rise of things like scooter-share and bike-share and dockless aspects, there’s an ever-expanding opportunity to teach new users how to utilize this transit.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.