As with any transportation business, the MTA enjoys a small but significant revenue stream from unused pre-paid fares. For instance, if I were to buy a $25 pay-per-ride MetroCard and use only $20 of it before it gets lost to the sands of time, the MTA would enjoy a $5 profit from my card. Last year, when the MTA announced $53 million in fare media liability, I explored the whys of it. That budget item had jumped by 12.5 percent, and I speculated that New Yorkers simply don’t want to take the time to do the math involved with the MetroCard bonus system.
Over the next year, the Daily News reports today, the MTA again expects nearly $52 million to fill their coffers from unused MetroCards. The News notes that this amount is the same as 23 million rides at the base fare, but I have to wonder if it will truly be that high. If the MTA is charging $1 per new MetroCard, will straphangers be more inclined to zero their cards over their lifespans? Or will people simply refill with no regard to the discount or an uneven balance? Plenty of people will still buy cards and forget about them, but if the MTA is requiring us all to watch our MetroCards’ bottom lines, the fare media liability total could shrink a bit.