Purchase New Card
As it turned out, there was a group of three other passengers after him who all TAPped and got the same screen.
Could this be?
It may or may not be...
Which is kind of odd, since the ticket vending machine, after TAPping to get the TAP Card Status, indicated that it expired on June 30, while the taptogo.net webiste, where he has his TAP card registered online, said that his card doesn't expire until early September 2012.
Of concern to The Militant was the fact that his expired TAP card still had about $7.50 in stored value. Could he transfer that balance to a new card, or is it gone forever?
The Militant called Metro's Customer Service number and tried to find out for himself. His terse response:
"Sir, we don't handle TAP card issues. You would have to call 866-TAPTOGO."
Alrighty then. So he called the other number and got someone who sounded much more satisfied with their job. She told The Militant that he could go to a Metro Customer Service Center, buy a new TAP card for $2, and have his $7.50 stored value transferred from the old card to the new card (it would take up to four days to transfer though...). It is not gone forever in to the ether of space and time.
Later that day, The Militant happened to be in close proximity to the Metro Customer Service Center at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall, so he merrily walked in with his TAP card and asked to have the old balance transferred to a new card.
"Umm, sir," the woman in the window said in her 'I Hate This Job' monotone Customer Service voice. "We cannot do this right now. You need to call TAP and have them send us a fax confirming that they have transferred the balance to your new card."
Whoa, hold it there. FAX?!?! WTF?!?!
Isn't the high-tech, 21st-century RFID-laden TAP card on the cutting edge of fare media technology? Why does one have to send a fax?!? WHO SENDS FAXES IN 2012?!?!
The fact that it was already 5 p.m. and the TAP center had already closed for the day didn't help things much.
The Militant asked Customer Service Drone Lady if he could just buy the TAP card for $2 and have the funds transferred later. She told him, "We can only sell you the card with a pass or stored value."
(The Militant only had $2 cash on him...)
"Can the balance be transferred online?" The Militant innocently asked.
"No," she replied.
Both The Militant and Customer Service Drone Lady briefly stared at each other with a, "I can't believe you're such a f'ing idiot" look on their faces.
The Militant told her, "The Militant had no idea this was so complicated."
"The Mill what?" Customer Service Drone Lady asked.
"Never mind," said The Militant, on his way out the door.
The next day, The Militant called up the TAP customer service line, where people sound much more happier and much more willing to help you out, and reiterated his dilemma.
The Militant had no idea this was so simple.
He asked the happy TAP lady if she worked for Metro.
"No, this is a call center, we work for TAP..."
Hmm, there is no such company as "TAP," but Militant research points to a San Diego-based company called Cubic Transportation Systems, which manufactures and operates similar contactless fare card systems around the world.
But The Militant was able to replace his TAP card after all.
The Militant took one for the team. Just to make things painfully simple, to avoid this mess, this is all you have to do when your card is within a couple months of expiring, in three easy steps:
1) Let the pass period expire or the stored value go down to $0.
2) Buy a new damn TAP card.
3) There is no Step 3!
Curious, The Militant compared his old TAP card (circa 2008; top) and his new one (circa 2012; bottom):
The older TAP card has a slightly more teal tint, whereas the older one has that "Expo Line" shade of light blue goin' on.
On the back, the differences are more pronounced; the older card has a bigger "TAP" logo and single column rules and regulations table. The new one has a smaller logo and a two-column table, with additional bullet points.
(Dude, was that being transit geek right there or WHAT?!)
So why do the cards expire in the first place? The Militant had a conversation with a fellow transit-using, technologically-literate Operative, who told him that the TAP cards have an RFID chip embedded near the edge of the card. Being a hardware device, the chip has to become obsolete over time so that the TAP system's software can eventually be upgraded with new features. So, it's assumed that with each generation of TAP cards, they embed a newer version of the RFID chip.
The Militant won't have to worry about updating his TAP card until July 2015 (according to the TAP card status feature at the station ticket machines)...or is that June 2016 (according to the taptogo.net website)?