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LA Metro Rolls Out New Touchless TAP App — For Now, Only For Apple Devices

A passenger refills a TAP card at the Metro Red Line Station at Union during rush hour on March 23, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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A new way for Metro riders to get from point A to B with touchless fares rolled out today.

The Tap LA app lets riders swipe their smartphones or smart watches on Metro buses and rail stations for contactless payment — which also serves as an added barrier to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

An important caveat: the Tap LA app is only available for iPhone and Apple watch. An Android app is in the works.

If you do have a compatible device, the new system makes loading your Tap card much easier. Nadine Lee, Metro's chief of staff, told us once you've loaded the app with money it's like having a ticketing machine in the palm of your hand:

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"All you have to do to board the bus or train is to put the device near the tap reader. Your fair will be promptly validated. There's no need to unlock it or to even wake the device."

Your remaining balance appears on the screen in real time. The app also has a regional trip planner.

The new app is being released the same week L.A. Metro launched an ambitious new initiative to study how to eliminate passenger fares on the transit system.

A task force got started on September 1, with the goal of having recommendations in place so Metro could go fare-free at the start of 2021.

Why now? Metro CEO Phillip Washington said the pandemic is having on outsized impact on communities of color and low-income residents, who make up the majority of Metro’s ridership.

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The agency is also hoping to get people back on the system, which lost roughly 70% of its ridership when local stay-at-home orders were enacted. Right now, Metro service levels are at about 80% of what they were before the pandemic and ridership has ticked up to about 50% as the recovery process continues.

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