Home Asides Fare media liability expected to stay at $52 million

Fare media liability expected to stay at $52 million

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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John August 4, 2010 - 5:13 pm

Yeah it will probably shrink, but they’ll make up the difference from the $1 fees. At least that’s what the bean counters are probably telling them.

bob August 4, 2010 - 5:41 pm

As a (proud) cheapskate, I just can’t comprehend how people could let that much money go to waste.

Chicken Underwear August 4, 2010 - 9:53 pm

As a (prouder) cheapskate, I just can comprehend how many people leave MetroCards with 20 cents or 20 dollars just sitting on the little box that you test your MetroCard in.


bob August 5, 2010 - 12:32 am

I’ll refrain from getting into a spitting contest about who’s prouder of being cheaper.
Seriously though, while some cards will be lost, $50 million is quite a lot. A lot of people don’t seem to know you can refill the cards, and when they get close to expiration the machine will exchange them. My sister was surprised when I told her. This would be a good topic for some of those in station ads the MTA puts up. (Cynics will point out that would cost them revenue.)

Alon Levy August 4, 2010 - 10:11 pm

It’s an average of 3.5 cents per ride.

On the other hand… with the number of weekday users, it’s an average of about $20 per twice-daily user. Bleh.

JP August 4, 2010 - 8:49 pm

Keep refilling with even 20 dollar amounts and it will eventually zero out. Who’s putting $18.74 on a card anyway?

I’m miffed about the $1/ card fee since it will no doubt wear out before I lose it (and hey, don’t they have expiration dates too, even if it doesn’t?) and I’m out another buck. Just build the cost into the fare and be done with it. Nickel-and-dime strategies are annoying. Why don’t we just pay a little extra to sit down, to hear an announcement, or hey- how about a ‘hold the rail so you don’t fall while the train lurches’ fee while they’re at it? A look-out-the-window charge. A “horrible smell charge” since you contend they won’t be taking out garbage or cleaning as often either.

Too negative?

Andrew August 5, 2010 - 9:35 pm

I thought trade-ins wouldn’t be subject to the $1 fee.

Skip Skipson August 4, 2010 - 10:13 pm

This year, I started to stoop for discarded metrocards and about 10% of the time, there was a small value on the card. To date I have managed to collect $60. Money that would have went to the MTA, goes to pay off my student loans!

Part of the reason that people discard their cards is that the readers as of late just say “Please swipe again” Many times I would pick up a card that says “Please Swipe Again”, just to find that it did have value when I put that card into the Metrocard machine to ‘refill’ it.

Perhaps SAS should have ‘a leftover metrocard challenge’ to see who can combine the largest card. The combined cards could go to a charity or something.

ajedrez August 5, 2010 - 6:45 pm

I don’t seem to find a whole lot of MetroCards with money on them. However, when I go to the YMCA, they usually give me the MetroCard so I can use the transfer to get home, and the MetroCard usually has $0.20-$0.50 left on it.
By the way, I checked out Chicken Underwear’s website and what the blogger is saying makes sense. The MetroCards with the most value would be found away from subway stations since they are most likely dropped instead of discarded (if you are by a turnstile or MetroCard reader, and you don’t have enough money for a subway ride, you are probably going to discard it. However, if you are on a jogging path or some other place, chances are you dropped it)

Ted K. August 7, 2010 - 9:57 am

In the San Francisco Bay area there is a program called Tiny Tickets . This program funnels the nickels + dimes (more ? GREAT !) from sub-fare cards for the BART system to various charities. Is there something similar in the New York City area ?

NB – BART Refunds + Consolidations (+ bad link to Tiny Tickets)

Swiper453 October 30, 2010 - 3:59 pm

Hey Chicken underwear I know exact;y what box u r talking about I actually have a key thats opens up every box! I find card all the time wiith money on them and even unlimiteds that have plenty of time remainging.Just the other day I found a 30 – day unlmited “NOT YET USED”! Gave a guy a break and sold it for only $40. The regular price of a 30 day unlimited not yet used is $89 so he got the deal of a lifetime!Evey month I found 100’s of dollars worth of metrocards in these boxes. Of course I sell em for my own personal gain! : )

Skip Skipson March 4, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Sorry for the necropost…

2012 Fare media Liability: $82million

“Fare media liability was above both the estimate and the original budget due to an unanticipated increase in residual values on expired MetroCards, believed to be a short-term effect of the December 2010 fare increase.”

Will the dollar surcharge lower this ‘revenue’ stream in the next 3 years?


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