An out-of-service bus leaves the Big Blue Bus yard on Monday. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

The Big Blue Bus is retooling its workshops for seniors that want to apply for discounted TAP cards.

Meetings will now be held monthly, as opposed to weekly, and new measures have been put in place to guarantee participants receive their cards in a timely manner.

TAP cards are similar to a credit card and are used by many local agencies to pay transit fares. The cards can store cash or digital versions of traditional bus/train passes. Users touch the card against a specialized reader on train stations or busses and the system automatically deducts the appropriate fare.

Seniors pay 75 cents for a one way trip during peak hours and 35 cents during non-peak hours. A Senior Day Pass is available for $2.50 and a Senior 30-day pass is $20.

According to Metro, seniors 62 years or older qualify for a Senior TAP Card. There is no charge for the card itself, but the application must include a full-face photo and a valid identification showing proof of age such as a California ID, California Drivers License, passport, or a birth certificate accompanied by any photo ID. Applications are usually available online, at a Metro Customer Service center. Metro said seniors can also mail copies of the required documentation and a full-face photo to the TAP Reduced Fare Office, One Gateway Plaza, Mail Stop: 99-PL-4, Los Angeles, CA 90012-2952.

Santa Monica’s transit agency, the Big Blue Bus, began offering local in-person workshops to explain the TAP cards and provide seniors with a local option for submitting the application.

“We helped seniors sign up, we took applications, we brought a portable scanner, we had people fill out applications and helped take photos,” said Suja Lowenthal, DPD Planning & Community Engagement Manager. “We printed it out, affixed the photo and sent it to the tap office. We give people a temporary reduced fare TAP card they could use while the application was being processed. It was a courtesy service and there was huge appreciation because there’s no Metro office here.”

For the past few months, BBB organized the events weekly at their 4th Street retail center but Lowenthal said they will now be held monthly at the Ken Edwards Center to allow for a more comfortable experience.

During the weekly events, Lowenthal said 30-60 seniors participated per week. It can take up to 12 weeks to get the permeant card from Metro and while most participants have received their cards in an appropriate time frame, she said applicants from one specific date might need to reapply.

Applications gathered on May 19 of this year were lost and those seniors are being encouraged to participate in one of the upcoming monthly events to reapply.

“We have assured all applicants who have needed to reapply that we will contact the TAP Reduced Fare Office, to have the processing of their application expedited,” she said. “Expediting the application will allow the applicant to receive their permanent Senior TAP Card within 7-10 business days. It’s important to note that the TAP Reduced Fare Office states that ‘Senior TAP cards will be mailed to eligible applicants within 20 business days, after verification has been completed.’ However, we’ve informed applicants that the end-to-end application process will take 12 weeks or less. This is mostly to accommodate for any delays from the TAP Reduced Fare Office with application verification or the mailing of permanent cards.”

The temporary TAP cards issued to seniors waiting for a permeant card will eventually expire and individuals who need to reapply will receive a new temporary card to hold them over until the permanent replacement arrives.

The schedule for the monthly meetings has not been finalized, but anyone interested in the program can call (310) 451-5444 for more information.

BY MATTHEW HALL

editor@www.smdp.com

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...