How and where to buy a Metro TAP card ahead of time

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Big transit-accesible events like any Rams game at the Coliseum or last month’s Women’s March in Downtown have drawn huge crowds to Metro, but often these crowds are made up of occasional rather than seasoned Metro riders. As was the case with the Women’s March, this meant there were hours-long lines of people waiting just to buy a TAP card, the “ticket” required to ride the rails.

This weekend, there’s the potential for more long lines: The Source says this Saturday and Monday, Metro will ramp up service for demonstrations in DTLA—the Immigrants Make America Great march on Saturday and Monday’s Not My President’s Day Rally.

Those planning to attend should strongly consider buying and pre-loading a TAP card ahead of time to avoid long waits for the ticket machines. Below, we’ve got tips on how to do that. Also consider keeping these line-busting details on file for baseball/basketball/football/hockey/protest/soccer season in LA.


Pre-buy a TAP card at a Metro rail station

One or two days ahead of your trip, hit up a TVM (ticket vending machine) at any rail station, at any stop on the Orange Line busway, or at the El Monte station. The machines accept cash, debit, and credit cards.

Tip

If you are in a hurry and paying with a card, choose the “credit” option; not having to input your pin number and wait for it to process could mean the difference between making and missing an arriving train.

The card costs $1 and can be pre-loaded with money, like a gift card. There’s no need to use the balance immediately. Riders planning to make two one-way trips on Saturday should load $3.50 onto the card, as a one-way trip costs $1.75.

Metro prepared a helpful slideshow demonstrating which buttons to push on the machines to preload cash onto your card here (under “stored value”). The slideshow will definitely help if it’s your first or even second time at the machine.

Union Station has a Metro Customer Center in its East Portal, over by the fish tank.
Metro Los Angeles

Go to a Metro Customer Center

If you’re aren’t near a ticket vending machine, go to a Metro Customer Center. Metro has a handy map here.

Customer centers have real live Metro workers to help with TAP needs, but because they are like an office, they have office hours. The center at Union Station, for instance, is open 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.—and is closed Saturdays or Sundays.

Visit a TAP vendor

Metro says there are about 400 TAP vendors throughout the county. These non-Metro spots to buy TAP cards range from local liquor stores and pharmacies to supermarkets (select Jons and Ralph’s).

Ever seen the train station this crowded? #WomensMarch #WomenMarchLA

A post shared by @lbtintin on Jan 21, 2017 at 4:39pm PST

But call the location first to check up on details. At the Koreatown Ralph’s on Western and Wilshire, there is a service window where riders can reload their TAP cards, but it’s only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., a Ralphs employee told Curbed.

Go online

TAP cards can also be purchased online or by phone (866-827-8646), but this is only for the serious plan-ahead types, as cards ordered this way take seven to 10 business days to arrive.

TAP cards may also be reloaded over the phone and online, but there’s a delay of anywhere from 45 minutes to 48 hours before that money is available to be used on buses and rail, according to the TAP website.

Money is available instantly when loaded onto a TAP card via a ticketing machine or an in-person appearance at a customer service center or TAP vendor.

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