Tagged: New York City Transit

Thirty-Day Unlimited Metrocard: One For the Price of Two

With each subway and bus fare increase the MTA board has approved over the years, I wondered how long it would take before the fare would have doubled since I moved to New York in 2001. I no longer have to wonder. The price of a 30-Day Unlimited Metrocard in April 2019 will be double what it was in 2001.

In 2001, the base fare was $1.50 and the 30-Day Unlimited Metrocard cost $63. Below is then-New York governor George Pataki introducing Metrocard in 1997, which allowed riders to buy unlimited passes.

Gov. George Pataki holds the Metrocard, a transit fare card, during a press conference Monday, Dec. 8, 1997, in New York, to announce the unlimited-use for $63 a month or $17 a week. The flat-fee cards would effectively reduce the $1.50 one-way fare for riders who take round trips on buses or subways every day, but not for people who use transit only to get to and from work. (AP Photo/Ed Bailey)

Is it me or does he look somewhat disappointed? As if he’s thinking, yup, that’s the best we can do. But it’s going to make it so much easier to raise fares.

In 2001, one could buy a one-day unlimited pass, called the “Fun Pass,” for $4. I used to buy one on days when I was planning to ride a lot of trains, busses, or a mix of both. I really do miss the Fun Pass.

Last week, the MTA Board voted to raise fares effective on April 21, 2019. While the base fare will remain at $2.75, the price of the thirty-day unlimited Metrocard will rise to $127. That means that the price of the unlimited thirty-day card has doubled since I arrived as a bright-eyed, optimistic graduate student with a full head of coal black hair.

Clearly, a lot has changed since 2001.

Incidentally, the last time I bought a thirty-day unlimited card—colloquially known as a “monthly”—was in April 2002. It was then that I started regularly riding a bike to get around and paying-per-ride to occasionally ride the subway or the bus.

One of my first rides in New York was around the west side of Manhattan on an unseasonably warm day in February 2002. I had parked my bike is on W 187th Street in Washington Heights.

As I mentioned earlier, the base fare remains at $2.75. Until it reaches $3.00, it won’t yet be double what it was when Metrocard was introduced in 1997. Perhaps, it will have doubled by the time the MTA introduces the OMNY payment system over the next few years.

Someone Bought Me a Subway Ride

As is common with a twenty-year old fare payment system, I was having trouble with my Metrocard. As I tried to enter the West 4th Street subway station, I kept getting a Please Swipe Again error message. I also had quite the yoke with me: a rolling cart carrying three silk screens, a box of eighty American Apparel t-shirts, and all the ink and supplies to print those shirts.

NYC Transit Metrocard Vending Machine's "AMBIOS System Configuration" screen.

The Metrocard system was state of the art in 1997.

At first, I tried to use the service gate so I could roll through to the other side. For the uninitiated, you are supposed to get the attention of the token booth attendant, swipe your card, turn the turnstile, and then open the service gate and proceed. But since my card would not swipe, I couldn’t demonstrate that I had paid my fare.

After a few attempts to swipe my card, the booth attendant started helping someone else. Having lost her attention, I then started to lift my heavy rolling cart over the turnstile so I could just swipe my card and enter like everyone else. But my cart got stuck in the turnstile. As I struggled trying to push the cart to the other side, a young lady appeared and pulled my cart through. Then she waited with my stuff on the other side to keep it from getting stolen. However, I couldn’t pass fare control section because my Metrocard still wouldn’t work.

Please Swipe Again

After seeing me struggling to pay my fare, she handed me her Metrocard and said, “here, use mine.” I swiped, and I saw that $2.50 came off her card, leaving her a $11.00 balance. She not only helped me with my heavy load, she also bought me a subway ride.

I thanked her, and then she went on her way.

In this week’s episode of Back to Work, a productivity podcast I enjoy, Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann describe the following as “Newton’s Fifth Law of Politeness.” Around 0:26:20, Mann explains:

There are those rare instances where you see somebody being unnecessarily kind to a stranger without expecting anything in return. And it changes your day….

Has this ever happened to you? You go to the drive-thru, and you pull up to pay, and [the cashier says,] the person in front paid for you.

Yesterday, it did. The next time I am at a coffee shop, I’m buying the person behind me a cup.

Nemo is Taking the 7 Train

Because of the impending snow storm, which some are calling "Nemo," the MTA has some good news for those of us who are impacted by the shutdown of weekend 7 train service.

With weather forecasts calling for significant snowfall beginning Friday evening, all planned subway service changes this weekend are cancelled.

This would be great news, except that there won’t be any 7 train service between Queens and Manhattan.

7 service operates in two sections:
1. Between Flushing-Main St and Queensboro Plaza
2. Between Queensboro Plaza and Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av

It’s probably too cold to go anywhere this weekend anyway.

Update: It turns out that because of the storm, all service changes on the 7 train are cancelled and that we would have service between Queens and Manhattan after all.

MTA Weighs Eliminating Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard Discount

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said Wednesday the authority will consider eliminating the 7% discount riders receive for buying pay-per-ride MetroCards when fares go up next March.

As a pretty regular bike commuter, I only buy the pay-per-ride. If they still offered a one-day (or three-day) unlimited card, I would get those for days when I need to run a good number of errands.

When I first moved to New York in 2001, the bonus on the pay-per-ride was equivalent to 20%. You bought five rides at $1.50 each, you were credited with a free ride. That was a pretty good discount. I would often spend $15 to get the two rides. Ahh, the good ole days.

Currently, the stated discount is currently 7%, but it’s actually much worse than the old days. First, you have to spend at least $10 to get the discount, much more than the halcyon days of the early Bloomberg era. Second, in order to get a free ride, you have to spend $35.75. That amount, without the discount will buy you 15.89 rides. With the 7% bonus, you get a $2.50 added to your card, bringing up your Metrocard to $38.25 or 17 full-fare rides. I wonder how many New Yorkers know about the $35.75 magic number.

I imagine that many people abandon cards with small, random amounts on them because it’s too hard to figure out how much you need to add to your card to get a full number of rides. Thankfully, there’s a bonus calculator on the web and an app for the iPhone, but I doubt these get widespread usage.

(via MTA Weighs Eliminating Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard Discount – Metropolis – WSJ.)