in Fun & Random

New York MTA’s New MetroCard Fare: Sneaky & Questionable

This post is a bit off topic for me, but I felt compelled to call out the following MetroCard trick by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Why aren’t more people speaking out?

Until a few months ago, riders would receive a $2 bonus for every $10 spent on New York pay-per-ride MetroCards. Because each ride on the subway cost $2, there was simple math in understanding how many rides you had remaining: divide the total value on your card by 2. Importantly, every time you swiped your card for a ride, the turnstile reader would indicate how much credit remained on your MetroCard.

However, new pricing recently went into effect. Says the MTA Web site:

Put $7 or more on your card and receive a 15 percent bonus. For example, a $20 purchase gives you $23 on your card. 11 trips for the price of 10, with $1 balance. Refill your card to use the balance.

We can argue the fare hike was unjustified — and I believe it was. However, the real problem is the $1 balance. When you swipe a MetroCard with a $1 balance at a turnstile, the reader (which otherwise reports your credit balance) says “insufficient fare.” All the sudden, there’s a lot of MetroCards out there with a $1 balance that won’t get you anywhere, and I’m sure thousands of unsuspecting riders mistakenly presume “insufficient fare” to mean $0 credit — and then throw out that MetroCard. Thinking back, I’ve already done this at least three times. Assuming you can keep track of the $1 balance, the MTA says you can refill your card to use it. But that’s a problem for people (like me) who regularly receive new MetroCards as part of any numerous mail-order programs or combination regional-rail-subway ticket packages. But can’t a subway station attendant transfer a $1 credit to another MetroCard? Yes, presuming a) they know how to do it, b) there’s one open and c) you have time to wait in a line.

In the end, this new fare hike will result in a significant number of $1 credits going unused. I’m sure it will total in the millions by the end of 2008.

  • http://www.stemato.com Stephen Tompkins

    I am not surprised they did this it seems about right.

    Also, you forgot what ambassadors of good will the subway attendant is and how they will be happy to transfer the balance. As long as you don’t wake them for one of the many naps they seem to take whilst working.

  • http://www.stemato.com Stephen Tompkins

    I am not surprised they did this it seems about right.

    Also, you forgot what ambassadors of good will the subway attendant is and how they will be happy to transfer the balance. As long as you don’t wake them for one of the many naps they seem to take whilst working.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com Max Kalehoff

    Thanks for the comment, Stephen. You’re right. I forgot to mention subway-attendant napping as one of the barriers to having credit transferred from one MetroCard to another. Cheers.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com Max Kalehoff

    Thanks for the comment, Stephen. You’re right. I forgot to mention subway-attendant napping as one of the barriers to having credit transferred from one MetroCard to another. Cheers.

  • steve

    In the movie office space disgruntled employees write a get rich quick program that syphons off fractions of a cent from every transaction.
    Is this any different?
    How many millions of dollars will mta make in all those useless balances which are fractions of the fare.
    We are a sorry bunch of suckers.

  • steve

    In the movie office space disgruntled employees write a get rich quick program that syphons off fractions of a cent from every transaction.
    Is this any different?
    How many millions of dollars will mta make in all those useless balances which are fractions of the fare.
    We are a sorry bunch of suckers.

  • chargr

    the attendant i spoke to today was sleeping with his eyes open. He didn’t even know how to assist me with reporting a problem with the card. what a knucklehead. MTA you should be receiving a self address envelope to you guys with the details of my issue. FIX IT

  • chargr

    the attendant i spoke to today was sleeping with his eyes open. He didn’t even know how to assist me with reporting a problem with the card. what a knucklehead. MTA you should be receiving a self address envelope to you guys with the details of my issue. FIX IT

  • Chucho

    I'm not friend of the transit system, but remember one very important thing about the money in question:

    The money in question is a BONUS/PERK provided by the MTA and is NOT your personal hard earned cash. As such, the MTA reserves the right to, so to speak, keep it. But there's really nothing to keep. This was really an expense to them. As such, they did this so, technically, they don't lose revenue on free rides and they can earn the little bit of money they would have lost from those people who don't know any better or are too bothered to go through their hurdles to get it.

    V.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    Chucho,
    You're wrong. It's not expense to them, it's a pricing game, and it's an
    expense to us. The MTA is a public agency, not a private business, and
    should be held to higher standards of accountability.
    Max

  • Rick

    I recently refilled my Metrocard, and it deleted the previous balance and DID NOT give me the full amount of the balance purchased. I had abour $47 left, and added $36 (plus the 15%) and now my card reads 36.50.

    Metrocard says this is impossible and cannot happen.

  • Josh

    How about the balance of your metro card mysteriously decreasing while the card is in your pocket. This has happened to me twice already where I made sure I had enough fare on the card for round trip travel for my wife and myself. When we swipe our card on our initial trip, it indicates we have plenty of money for the return. When we go to return, somehow the balance is less than one fare. Coincidence? I think not.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    I believe it.

  • AK

    That's my problem also, now I have stacked 3 metrocards with $1.

  • AK

    That's my problem also, now I have stacked 3 metrocards with $1.

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  • Mscompaq2002

    THE FARE hike is outrageous THe dirt on the TRAINS and urine smell.not to mention the RATS are HORRIBle the crowd on the bus is UNREAL the bus comes late and bus drivers continueously put CHILDREN off the bus they do this all the time how about when the card doesnt work why do we have to mail it in why not just exchange it at a booth oh a booth that has a person cause now MTA took most of them away also how about a list that lets people know which station has a booth attendants and do our bus drivers get full pay for not driving the bus I think its called a layover ok they drive and can’t drive cont for 8 hours straight but why do they get a 4 hours break with full pay why not half the pay IF im not physical at my job I DON’T get PAID they do how about a report of money paid to bus drivers and hours caculated for the whole year of money spent for drivers that was home at their house or shooping or whatever they do getting paid to stay home is crazy then they come back and do overtime and get paid time in a half CLEAN UP your act MTA come and ride the trains and buses and see for yourself what goes on have more checkers to report cleanliness and how professional your drivers are

  • Chan

    More than two years later and the problem still is not fixed. I had a $1.50 balance left on on my Metrocard today. Couldn’t use it on the bus. I went to check the balance at the Metrocard reader and it reads $0.00, Insufficient Fare. I’m hoping that $1.50 is still on the card..