Home Fare Hikes A short sunset period for stockpiled MetroCards

A short sunset period for stockpiled MetroCards

by Benjamin Kabak

Don’t expect to build up that collection of unused MetroCards in anticipation of the looming fare hike, New York City Transit warned today. When the fares go up on December 30, straphangers will have only a few weeks to activate unused MetroCards, but those who count their days properly could still find enough time to buy an extra $89 30-day cards before the price spikes to $104.

The full grace period will run for nearly six weeks as riders who purchase unlimited ride cards will be able to get the full value out of their cards as long as they are activated — that is swiped — no later than January 10. Pay-per-ride cards will not be impacted, and so in the time-honored tradition of hoarding tokens, riders can still stock up on these cards before the bulk discount shrinks.

As far as sunset dates go, those are staggered. In other words, if you purchase one of the unlimited ride cards before the Dec. 30th hike and use it for the first time after January 10th, you will not get full credit for all of your travel. Instead, riders will have to mail the cards back for pro-rated refunds based upon the day you first use them. Unused cards will be refunded in full. The sunset dates — meaning the last day on which previously purchased cards will be valid for travel — are presented in the table below.

Days on Card Sunset Date
1 January 10
7 January 16
14 January 23
30 February 8

As a side note, two of the unlimited offerings — the 1-day Fun Pass and the 14-day card — will be eliminated entirely on December 30, and in the Daily News article about the sunset period, Gene Russianoff takes a shot at the Fun Pass. At $8.25, the price, like the rent, is “too damn high,” he says.

I respectfully disagree. Without the pay-per-ride bulk discount, the fun pass pays for itself on the fourth ride of the day. But since the discount currently kicks in at $8, we have to calculate that deal with a discount. With the 15 percent discount, the cost of a subway swipe is, in essence, $1.96, and so on the fifth swipe, the one-day Fun Pass pays for itself. For high-volume subway riders and tourists trying to get around town, it is — and always has been — a good deal.

The failure of the one-day card is more a problem of marketing than anything else. Because the MTA doesn’t publicize the break-even points for their unlimited ride cards, straphangers never knew on the fly when it made sense to buy a one-day card. My parents loved the one-day card from the get-go in 1999 when it used to cost $4, but today, most frequent subway riders have a long-term unlimited ride card. Thus, the Fun Pass will go the Great Unknown after December 31.

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Marsha November 10, 2010 - 12:12 pm

I don’t use Fun Passes as often as I used to because I don’t usually ride the subways five times in one day but when I know I will be riding five times I still get a thrill when buying and using a Fun Pass so it will be missed.

John November 10, 2010 - 12:28 pm

I’ll definitely miss the Fun Pass when I visit the city for one day. I don’t like having to guess how many rides I’ll use during the day, and I also don’t like having to stop to refill multiple times. Oh well.

PW November 10, 2010 - 3:35 pm

Are they still going to charge the $1 fee for a new card? The 30 day card purchasers get screwed.

Benjamin Kabak November 10, 2010 - 3:38 pm

Only if you buy the card from a MetroCard Vending Machine and only if it’s new. The 30-day cards will soon be refillable.

Andrew November 11, 2010 - 10:44 am

Won’t cards sold by station agents also be subject to the $1 fee?

Andrew November 11, 2010 - 10:48 am

I don’t often agree with Russianoff, but I do here. As I’ve said before, the rides that cost a lot to provide are the rush hour rides. If anything, fun pass users are less likely to ride during the AM rush than other riders, and their rush hour rides will probably be shorter than average. A break-even point of 5 rides is much too high.

I realize that fun passes have been particularly popular among scammers, but the answer to that is to increase the lockout period from 18 minutes so that scammers can’t use them anymore.


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