The Metrolink rail system in Southern California is offering commuters a "smart" paper ticket as part of the transit access pass, or TAP, smart card system operating on Los Angeles buses and trains since 2007.

L.A. Metro and Metrolink announced the addition of the chip-based paper ticket for Metrolink on June 19, establishing a system in which Metrolink commuters will tap a paper ticket on card readers at the rail line terminals before boarding. Metrolink, which serves counties east and south of Los Angeles, joins the TAP system that Cubic Transportation Systems of San Diego designed for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The contactless paper ticket for Metrolink has an embedded chip and antenna for contactless communication, says Matt Newsome, vice president and regional director of the West Coast region for Cubic Transportation Systems.

"Because Metrolink's existing ticket vending machines would have needed a major upgrade to accept a physical TAP smart card, the TAP-enabled paper ticket provided a viable option," Newsome says.
By joining the TAP system, Metrolink patrons will join the regional system that uses Cubic's technology to record and process fares, and for the TAP-enabled paper ticket holder to load funds from payment cards or cash in the same manner as with a physical TAP card.

L.A. Metro offers commuters the option to register the TAP card or ticket so it is recognized in the company's database.

"If the card is lost or stolen, any value remaining on the card will be transferred to a new replacement card," Newsome says.
In the future, Cubic plans to provide other services to TAP users, including the ability to download prepaid transit benefits offered by participating employers.

Riders using a TAP card or TAP ticket will have access to the city's Metro Rail as well as the Metrolink commuter rail network that serves Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Access Services and L.A. Metro also offer a TAP/Visa card that utilizes both the contactless chip and the mag-stripe. The card is used by ADA paratransit customers who are unable to ride fixed-route buses and trains, Newsome says.
In the future, Cubic plans to provide the technology to allow the TAP card to accept discounts, promotions and loyalty rewards. In addition, the company is testing TAP use through smartphones and is in discussion with customers around the world to adopt Near Field Communication technology that would allow tap-and-go entry, Newsome says.

The addition of Metrolink into the TAP system makes the Southern California and Los Angeles transportation systems one of Cubic's largest projects to date, as well as "one of the largest regional smart-card operations in the United States," Newsome says.

Correction:  An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the source of the announcement, which came from L.A. Metro and Metrolink. The story has also been revised to include Access Services and L.A. Metro as the entities offering the TAP/Visa card.

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