Los Angeles Metro Transit System Plans to Support Apple Pay This Fall

The Los Angeles rail and bus transit system should allow iPhone-owning members of the public to use Apple Pay for fare payments before the year is out.


MacRumors can confirm that LA Metro, the transit agency that manages integration of the TAP card system in the Los Angeles Area, said it is working with Apple to support mobile payments for iPhones, with rollout scheduled for this fall. The information was obtained in a public information request under California law.

The support comes as part of a major update to the TAP system currently underway, which includes upgraded fare boxes across the transit system that will receive real-time data about fares purchased by the public online, a new TAP mobile app with TAP Wallet support to debut in late summer, and eventual support for Android phones with NFC, although the timeframe for the latter is unknown.

‌Apple Pay‌ support would enable commuters to hold a compatible iPhone or Apple Watch near a TAP card reader to pay their fare on buses and at turnstiles in subway stations throughout the TAP system.

The process is similar to using ‌Apple Pay‌ for in-store payments. Depending on the ‌iPhone‌, that means double-pressing the home button or side button, authenticating with Touch ID or Face ID, and holding the device near the card reader. ‌Apple Watch‌ payments are also activated by double-pressing the side button.

Los Angeles would join a handful of cities with transit systems that already support Apple Pay, including Chicago, Portland, and Salt Lake City in the United States, Beijing and Shanghai in China, and other global cities like London and Tokyo.

LA Metro's introduction of ‌Apple Pay‌ support is expected to increase public use of the transit system, which despite offering good accessibility, has seen its ridership figures wane in recent years.

A 2016 study by the University of Minnesota found the LA Metro to be the third most comprehensive system in the entire United States. However, in a metropolitan area of 13 million people, only about 360,000 people use rail on an average weekday, and just 855,000 ride the bus.

By contrast, in New York City, which has a population of around nine million, about five million people ride the subway on an average weekday.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay

Top Rated Comments

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19 months ago

NY still has the best subway system I've ever used.

I assume you've never visited a city outside the US...
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

No matter how often you use Apple Pay for the London tube and no matter how many rides you take on buses, tube, Overground etc, Transport for London only bills you once a month and works out for you, what the cheapest option is.

That's incorrect. Accounts are billed daily, at approx. 2AM in my experience.

You don't pay more than the daily and weekly fare caps for the given zones in which you have travelled. However, there is no monthly fare capping - so in some cases it can still be cheaper to buy monthly or annual passes if you're a frequent user.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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19 months ago
LA has a public transport system? Whaaat
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

You know what's easier? Grabbing a token out of your pocket and dropping it in a slot.

Oh, please. I lived in Toronto for a few years back when they still used tokens. It was a terrible system.

Bits of metal jangling around in your pocket? Easy to lose. Easy to forget. A total pain when you have to line up to buy more. Subject to fraud (TTC lost millions to counter-fits and had to change the design). Totally inflexible when it comes to discounted fares, off-peak fares, etc. Offers little useful data to the transit company to see what journeys their customers are making and when.

But there's no way paying with your phone is going to be faster than a card. Every time I've used Apple Pay it's been slower than taking a card out of my wallet and swiping it. And actual cash is even faster.

Nope. Sounds like you're doing it wrong.
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Now you can load your SUICA card into your Apple Pay wallet and make it the default payment method. This means that the phone does not have to be unlocked, authenticated, or awake in order to work. You literally tap the phone (in lock mode) and keep walking. It’s awesome!

Unfortunately, it sounds like this LA solution will still require authentication in order to function.

Yeah, that sounds pretty great, and I agree that an authentication-free approach would be even more convenient. But that would also have security implications, and doesn't it mean that the phone's RFID chip needs to be powered on all the time? Doesn't that affect battery life?

In London, it's become second nature to "pre-authenticate" Apple Pay using Face ID just before I approach the ticket gates (turnstiles). Actually very easy, and still much better than using a card.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

I assume you've never visited a city outside the US...

LA's system is actually REALLY nice. The trains are clean, the stations are attractive, I have no complaints using it.
The only problem is that LA geography kinda fights against it -- there aren't enough dense areas where everyone wants to go, or to put it differently there are too many non-dense areas where many people still want/need to go.
(Some of this is self-inflicted like the terrible LAX connectivity. Some of it is a**holes in surrounding transit systems who refuse to connect properly with LA Metro because they think they will lose riders --- apparently given their residents what they want is less important than maintaining their own separate transit empires...

But on the few occasions when I need to go into LA City proper, it's my transport of choice --- way less hassle than trying to fight downtown traffic and then park.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

NY still has the best subway system I've ever used. I moved to Philly two years ago from NY and the transit system here is horrendous. In NY, I could run into any subway station, not worry about what time the train is coming and just jump on the next one.

Go to Tokyo. Their transit system is much better than New York's and it has the added benefits of being extremely clean and safe. No dirty seats, no garbage everywhere, and no bums or crazy people causing a scene on the train. Some stops during rush hour can be sardine packed, but other than that, it was a joy to ride.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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